Bathroom graffiti inspires juror in J20 trial to “Google jury nullification.”

protest

Katie Aguilera

On Thursday, May 31, 2018, a juror sent a note to Judge Kimberley Knowles in a Washington D.C. superior court room informing Knowles that she had googled jury nullification after seeing the words “Google jury nullification” written in a bathroom stall at the courthouse.  She googled it, read about it, told the other jurors about it and then informed the judge of her actions.

This trial is the second of many planned for protesters arrested on January 20, 2017 during protests in Washington D.C. in which police officers were injured, windows were broken, and a limousine was destroyed.  Four defendants who allegedly participated in property damage that occurred during the Inauguration Day protests are currently on trial.  They are Michael Basillas, Seth Cadman, Anthony Felice, and Cathseigh Webber.

Six defendants faced felony charges in November 2017 but the jury in that trial acquitted them of all charges December 21, 2017.  In that trial, the prosecution made no effort to prove that the six defendants were guilty of any of the property damage, stating instead that “though there is no evidence the defendants caused any of the damage directly, the government considers the entire group of protesters to be responsible.”

The admission by the juror of googling jury nullification in this current trial comes after several major developments involving all the related cases, which are frequently referred to as the J20 cases.  On May 23, 2018, Chief Judge Robert Morin ruled “that the US Attorney had illegally withheld evidence from protester defendants.”  In what constitutes a Brady violation, the judge agreed with the defense that the prosecution had withheld potentially exculpatory evidence, specifically the fact that a highly questionable video created by Project Veritas and used as evidence against all the accused protesters was heavily edited.

The prosecution had previously declared that there was only very limited editing to hide the identity of the person filming the video and the identity of an undercover officer attending the meeting the video filmed.  However, it was later revealed that there was significant editing to the video, with several important parts having been removed.

According to a motion for sanctions and dismissal filed by the defense in a related trial scheduled to begin June 4, 2018, a portion of video that was edited out actually showed an undercover officer stating, “I was talking with one of the organizers from the IWW [Industrial Workers of the World] and I don’t think they know anything about any of the upper echelon stuff.”  The defense argues the following in that motion:

“This is exculpatory evidence to the defense. The government plans to argue that Mr. Petrohilos and everyone else at that meeting were intending to plan a violent protest. What better exculpatory evidence for the Defense than the words from the person sent to capture a nefarious meeting stating right after the meeting, ‘I don’t think they know anything’. This evidence is clearly exculpatory and but for the Court compelling its production, Defense would have never received it.”

Such Brady violations could arguably be considered cause for a mistrial for these cases but Judge Knowles has opted not to do so in this trial.  Numerous other cases have been dismissed and felony charges against some defendants have been dropped after Judge Morin’s ruling.

On May 31, 2018, Chief Judge Morin also ruled “that the US Attorney had misled him by not admitting the existence of 69 additional pieces of evidence provided by the far-right “entrapment” group Project Veritas” according to Unicorn Riot, an independent website that has covered these cases extensively.

And then came the admission of the bathroom graffiti inspired google search the day before the case went into jury deliberation.  Neither the defense or the prosecution protested this development and the judge proceeded with the scheduled deliberation.  Jury deliberation is expected to continue on Monday, June 4, 2018.

These trials present an interesting opportunity to exercise the right of jury nullification.  As Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post senior justice reporter, tweeted on May 31, 2018: “Jury nullification would be particularly powerful in this trial, as government alleges that three of the defendants engaged in some form of destruction. Unlike first case, jurors might want to convict on misdemeanors but not make them felons or expose them to lengthy sentences.”

This is a good reminder that jury nullification has been used in the past to acquit people charged for protest and dissent.  I wrote back in 2016 that “in today’s highly charged climate of political activism against war, police brutality, etcetera, combined with the prevalence of mandatory minimum sentences and increasingly over-reaching laws, the importance of knowing and understanding the right of US jurors to practice jury nullification cannot be understated.  It is critical that US citizens remember that the United States was founded on the principle of government that serves the people. A jury of peers, fully apprised of their rights and responsibilities as jurors, is one of the greatest protections of that principle.”

The importance of these cases should not be ignored.  As I wrote on December 8, 2017, regarding the first J20 trial, “this idea of collective liability is what makes this trial so important, and all Americans should be paying attention.  The mere act of charging so many, with the possibility of such severe punishment, threatens to stifle legitimate protest and first amendment activity.  If exercising one’s right to peacefully protest comes with the risk of felony charges for the criminal behavior of others, many will opt to stay home.”

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Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

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Protest On Trial: Six defendants arrested during Disrupt J20 protests on Inauguration Day fighting felony charges in court

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Katie Aguilera

On November 20, 2017, trial began in Washington DC superior court for six defendants arrested during the protests that took place on Inauguration Day.  More than 200 people were arrested that day after a small number of protesters clashed with police, smashed windows, and committed other acts of property destruction.  Six police were injured, and an estimated $100,000.00 in damage resulted from the violence.

The six now on trial are the first of over 200 arrested on Inauguration day who have all been charged with felonies.  Those charges include conspiracy to riot, engaging in a riot, inciting a riot, and multiple property damage charges, and come with a maximum ten-year prison sentence for each count.  Some have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and some have had the charges dropped.  But nearly 200 people still face felony convictions, and possible 60-year sentences, if found guilty.

The prosecution in this first trial has made it clear they don’t intend to prove that any of the six defendants personally caused any property damage or injury, but rather that all who face charges are guilty because they are all collectively responsible for the actions of a few.  US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in her opening statement, “though there is no evidence the defendants caused any of the damage directly, the government considers the entire group of protesters to be responsible.”

 “The prosecution is pursuing a somewhat unusual strategy: Rather than trying to prove that any of individual defendant was personally guilty of destruction, prosecutors are arguing that all demonstrators present that day were aware and supportive of the violent intentions of the others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, in her comments, has repeatedly referred to the ‘black bloc tactics’ of the protesters as part of a message that everyone participating in the protest came with either the intention to commit violence or the knowledge that violence was part of the plan.”

Ashraf Khalil, Associated Press November 21, 2017

The government is arguing that all of the defendants conspired to cause the violence and rioting, regardless of whether they participated in any advance planning.  They argue that the defendants intended for the property destruction and violence to occur even if they didn’t cause damage themselves.  They argue that by continuing to move together down the street as some in their midst engaged in criminal behavior, everyone arrested became responsible for the resulting damage.

This idea of collective liability is what makes this trial so important, and all Americans should be paying attention.  The mere act of charging so many, with the possibility of such severe punishment, threatens to stifle legitimate protest and first amendment activity.  If exercising one’s right to peacefully protest comes with the risk of felony charges for the criminal behavior of others, many will opt to stay home.  If these six are convicted, it sets a very dangerous precedent.

Kris Hermes, an organizer of a support group for the defendants called Defend J20, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “what the government is saying to us is, dissent is not an acceptable form of expression in this country, and if you choose to go out on the street and express yourself, then you risk being arrested and seriously prosecuted.”

Eoin Higgins wrote in an October 25, 2017 article for the Intercept, “by charging everyone together with conspiracy counts, the government seems intent on making an example of the J20 protesters.”  He also writes, “that the government’s case does not differentiate between actors and bystanders could be an indication of future clampdowns on protest.”

There are other very important aspects of this case, such as the tactics used during the arrests, the arrests of journalists covering the protests, the methods of evidence gathering employed in the months after the arrests, etc.  But the very fact that these defendants face these charges when there is no evidence they personally caused any damage should have us all very concerned.  Any threat to an individual’s first amendment right is a threat to all of our first amendment rights.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

A History Lesson (Part Three) The Bonus Army

Katie Aguilera

They’re better off, I can hear whoever sent them say, explaining to himself. What good were they? You can’t account for accidents or acts of God. They were well-fed, well- ‘loused, well-treated and, let us suppose, now they are well dead. But I would like to make whoever sent them there carry just one out through the mangroves, or turn one over that lay in the sun along the fill, or tie five together so they won’t float out, or smell that smell you thought you’d never smell again, with luck. But now you know there isn’t any luck when rich bastards make a war. The lack of luck goes on until all who take part in it are gone.

Ernest Hemingway, Who Murdered the Vets? September 7, 1935

On July 28, 1932, the United States Army was ordered to oust thousands of US Army World War I veterans from the streets of Washington D.C.  Three tanks, 200 mounted cavalry with sabers drawn, and 300 infantrymen with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets, proceeded through the city, driving everyone from the streets.  They launched tear gas grenades at the crowds, and ignited fires in the makeshift camps the veterans and family members had erected over the previous months.  Different accounts of the event allege that at least one, possibly two babies died from tear gas inhalation during the attack, though the official investigation would later deny those claims.  Area hospitals were reportedly filled with injured people.

It was a violent attack largely condemned by Americans across the nation in the days that followed.  But it is a story that is mostly unknown to Americans today, 85 years later.

After World War I ended, many veterans returning to the states found it difficult to find employment.  The jobs they held before serving in the military were now filled by people earning higher wages than they had.  Veterans’ groups began to lobby Congress for what was then called “adjusted compensation.”  This push for additional compensation was derided by many as an effort to obtain bonuses the veterans didn’t deserve, and the veterans were often derogatorily labeled “bonus seekers.”

In 1922, Congress did consider a measure to provide additional compensation, but President Warren Harding vetoed the bill.  The veterans’ groups continued their efforts, and in 1924, Congress passed what was popularly known as the Soldier’s Bonus Act.  President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the bill, reportedly stating “patriotism which is bought and paid for is not patriotism.”  However, his veto was overridden, and the veterans were awarded bonuses.

According to this US history website, “Adjusted compensation was to be paid at the rate of $1.25 per day for time spent in foreign service and at the rate of $1 per day for domestic service.  The sum earned by veterans was not to be paid in cash, but was to be used to create a 20-year endowment; in the short term, participants were entitled to borrow up to 22.5 percent of the value of the fund.”

After the crash of 1929, and the resulting collapse of the US economy, many veterans found themselves destitute and they pushed to have the bonuses paid out immediately.  In 1932, Texas Representative, Wright Patman, introduced a bill into the US House of Representatives that would do just that.

Walter W. Waters, a former Idaho and Oregon National Guardsman, took notice of this bill and decided something should be done to bring more attention to it.  Waters was born in Burns, Oregon, and had served both in the Idaho National Guard in 1910 and the Oregon National Guard with which he went to fight in France in 1917.  He was living in Portland, Oregon when Patman’s bill was introduced, and Waters organized a march on Washington D.C. in support of the bill.  250 to 300 men from Portland joined him, and with a banner declaring “Portland Bonus March—On to Washington,” they set off in May of 1932.

The media took notice, and Waters’ group, calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, was given positive coverage in newspapers and radio broadcasts across the nation.  They were popularly referred to as the “Bonus Army” and gained wide support from the public, and sympathetic authorities.  Many more veterans traveled to Washington D.C. to join in, often riding the rails to get there.  Railroad men refused to turn the illegal passengers in, and supporters donated money and food to the veterans.

The Bonus Army veterans began arriving in Washington D.C. on May 25, 1932.  Most reports state the group was as large as 20,000 men.  They began establishing camps around the city. The largest camp, by the Anacostia River, was named Camp Marks.  Veterans and family members erected shelters from scrap material, and the camp was organized like a city with named streets.  They set up a post office, a library, and their own newspaper.  Waters was strict, and the camp didn’t allow drinking, begging, weapons or fighting.  Anti-government, radical talk and Communists were also forbidden.

In spite of this strict rule, however, communists did enter the camps to argue their cause.  According to this article on Waters and the Bonus Army, the veterans “seized the communists, held trials, and sentenced them to fifteen lashes.  More than two hundred communists were expelled from Bonus Army camps.”  This article states, “rumors about communist revolutionaries soon spread throughout the city, and deeply affected the highest levels of government.  At the Justice Department, J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation labored to find evidence that the Bonus Army had communist roots, evidence that never existed.”  This would later be used as justification for the July 28 attack on the camps.

On June 15, 1932, the US House passed the bill sponsored by Representative Patman, to pay $2.4 billion in bonuses to veterans immediately.  It passed with a margin of 211 to 176 one day after Tennessee Congressman Edward Eslick dropped dead from a heart attack while giving a speech in favor of the bill in Congress.  The bill went before the Senate on June 17, 1932, and as many as 8,000 veterans waited at the Capitol Building for the decision.  The city police had succeeded in keeping another 10,000 veterans from entering the city by raising the Anacostia drawbridge.

It wasn’t until 9:30 that evening that the decision was announced.  The bill was defeated by a vote of 62 to 18.

In the days that followed, some of the Bonus Army veterans left the city, but many stayed, vowing to continue the protest until the bonuses were paid.  Numerous politicians, President Herbert Hoover included, grew increasingly concerned that the protests would become violent.  According to this article, “depression had settled in, the government had been fearful of the possibility of an armed insurrection against Washington.  Even before the arrival of the Bonus Army, the army had developed a plan to defend the city with tanks, machine guns, and poison gas.”  President Hoover ordered the police to evict the protestors, and on July 28, 1932, the police attempted just that.

A violent clash erupted.  One veteran was killed and three policemen were injured.  The police chief, Major Glassford, determined that the police could no longer control the situation and agreed to assistance from federal troops.  Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur ordered the army to put its plan into action, and the US Army hit the streets in force.

General MacArthur held a press conference that night and stated, “had the President not acted today, had he permitted this thing to go on for twenty-four hours more, he would have been faced with a grave situation which would have caused a real battle.  Had he let it go on another week, I believe the institutions of our Government would have been severely threatened.”

President Hoover said, “a challenge to the authority of the United States Government has been met, swiftly and firmly.  After months of patient indulgence, the Government met over lawlessness as it always must be met if the cherished processes of self-government are to be preserved.  We cannot tolerate the abuse of Constitutional rights by those who would destroy all government, no matter who they may be.  Government cannot be coerced by mob rule.”

He would order an investigation into the events by the justice department, which ultimately concluded that, “the prompt use of the military to outnumber and overawe the disturbers prevented a calamity.”  The investigation report, submitted by Attorney General William D. Mitchell, concluded by stating, “The right to peaceably petition Congress for redress of alleged grievances does not include assemblage of disorderly thousands at the seat of the government for purposes of coercion.”

While the investigation report conceded that the Bonus Army protestors were law abiding and peaceful up until the Senate vote, it focused much attention on the numbers of protestors who had not served in the military during World War I, those that had criminal records, and those that were communists, radicals, and anti-government.  It also downplayed the actions of the police and the federal troops, and the number of injuries.  The public’s negative opinion of the attack on the Bonus Army wouldn’t change however, and the event certainly didn’t help President Hoover in his re-election bid which he lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt months later.

World War I veterans continued to lobby Congress for the bonuses in the years that followed, returning to Washington D.C. annually.  The number of transient veterans in the city was increasingly viewed as a problem and many veterans were sent to rehabilitation camps in the Florida Keys.  These were work camps for road construction projects, a way to provide jobs for the men.  Unfortunately, hundreds of the veterans were killed by the September 2, 1935 ‘Labor Day Hurricane’ when the camps were not evacuated before the storm.  Their deaths prompted Ernest Hemingway to pen his 1935 piece, Who Murdered the Vets?  Investigations into whether the deaths were the result of negligence were conducted.  One such investigation concluded that there had been negligence, but the report of that investigation was suppressed for decades.

It wouldn’t be until four years after the Bonus Army protest of 1932 and several months after the deaths in Florida that the veterans were finally successful.  3.2 million veterans were paid the bonuses in 1936.

 

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Five Myths Of The Malheur Refuge Occupation

 

By Clint Siegner

Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, sat in her office January 20th and drafted a letter to the US Attorney General and the Director of the FBI.  She wrote negotiations with the “radicals” occupying the Malheur Refuge have failed and insisted on a “swift resolution to this matter.”  Harney County Judge Steve Grasty made similar demands as the protest at the refuge continued.  On January 26th, they got what they asked for.

Authorities, including the FBI, ambushed and arrested Ammon Bundy along with a number of other protesters on their way to a public meeting in neighboring Grant County.  They shot LaVoy Finicum dead.  Witnesses say he was not holding a weapon.

Awful.  Judge Grasty and Governor Brown were certainly aware of what might happen should the FBI decide negotiations have failed.  Few have forgotten the stand-offs at Waco and Ruby Ridge and that “swift” federal action often means people die.  In many cases, indiscriminately.

It’s ironic, but the behavior of the local judge and the State Governor goes a long way to make the refuge protesters’ case for them.  Blind devotion to federal authority is terribly dangerous to lives and liberty.

The protest in Harney County will certainly not be the last when it comes to federal overreach.  Here is hoping people find reason next time, before demanding dangerous federal intervention.

To that end, it is time to dispel a few myths about what is going on.

Myth #1:  The armed people at the Refuge were threatening violence.

You wouldn’t know it by watching TV news, or reading Governor Brown’s hysteric letter, but the Malheur Refuge wasn’t an armed compound full of violent people.  To find that, you needed to drive by the airport in Burns, OR, where federal agents staged behind fences and a flood-lit perimeter, with military vehicles, equipment, and weapons.

Yes, the occupants at the Refuge were armed and they reserved the right to defend themselves.  The difference between them and any other citizen claiming their 2nd amendment right, is that they did so from inside public, and previously unoccupied, federal buildings.

They got very little credit for doing virtually everything possible to minimize threats and interruptions to the local community.  They could scarcely have chosen a more remote location and they moved in when they knew not a soul was around.

The facility was operated more like an open house than a compound.  Locals could, and did, pour in there to see what the stand-off was all about.  Many were sympathetic enough to bring food and supplies with them.  The protesters invited anyone who wanted to show up and have an honest conversation.

For Oregonians, the much larger threat is their high officials writing letters and urging the feds to “swift” action.

Myth #2:  Only nutty, right wing militias from outside would stoop to such tactics.

The system is broken.  Petitioning Congress, where the vast majority of representatives cater to entirely different interests, or using the court system where unaccountable federal judges define the limits (if any) of federal power, is not working.  So people should expect more unconventional means when it comes to protest.

Governor Brown and Judge Grasty must know the protest in Harney County included a number of State and local residents.  There were plenty of community people sympathetic enough with the protest to bring food and supplies, as mentioned above.  The storeroom literally overflowed, and locally grown beef was kept frozen in a snow bank outside for lack of freezer space.

If they had visited the refuge, they would have found people there ready to talk calmly, rationally and intelligently about the issues.  Tragically they felt there had been too much talking already.  Now one of the most calm and rational leaders in the group is dead.

Federal supremacists like to marginalize anyone advocating for local control as radical and dangerous.  They want you to believe these people are motivated by crazy ideology and sprang out of nowhere.

They don’t talk much about history.  These issues on display in Harney County have been simmering for decades.  The Sagebrush Rebellion made headlines in the 1970’s and 80’s.  There is an entire movement of smart folks stretching all the way back to the nation’s founding who question the legitimacy of federal control over public lands.

Given just how economically devastating the BLM and Forest Service management has been for rural communities all over Oregon, Brown and Grasty should be asking some questions too.

Myth #3:  Anyone opposed to Federal control of lands hates conservation.

Governor Brown and Judge Grasty share the same irrational philosophy forwarded by many of the prominent national conservation organizations: the best way to protect public lands is to put unelected bureaucrats headquartered thousands of miles away in charge.  That position is hard to fathom.  So many conservatives see the value in “buying local” when it comes to food, services, you name it.  Local is great, except when it comes to government?

It is a bit reminiscent of war.  The propaganda department is busy dehumanizing the enemy.  Branding ranchers and loggers as if they are all foolish and blinded by greed.  And local citizens as if they are too inept to stand up to them and govern responsibly.

The truth is there are wise people who care for the environment living right there in Harney County.  Included among them are cattle ranchers and forestry professionals.  Many of these folks simply believe management decision making would be better if it was done much closer to home.

Myth #4:  Ranchers just want a free ride.

It would be far more accurate to say ranchers want fair, not free.  Many western ranches have a federal grazing permit attached to them.  This permit has economic value, similar to medallions that taxicab operators buy in order to run their business.  Most of the time ranchers acquire the permit when they buy a ranch, though they can buy and sell them independently as well.  The permit’s value is significant.  The point is, cattlemen pay big money up front for access to the grass.

On top of that, they pay grazing fees annually.  Some argue the fees are unfairly set way below the market rate to rent private pasture.  But these people don’t account for ranchers providing their own veterinary services, maintaining fences and water systems, delivering salt and other feed supplements and moving their own cattle from place to place.  Together with the large up-front cost of purchasing the grazing rights, these are key differences versus renting private pasture.

In any event, practically no rancher is complaining about the dollars involved.

They object to paying federal agencies who have a long history of treating them like tenant farmers and disrespecting legitimate property rights.  Most support the idea of paying fees locally, and getting more accountable range management in return.

Myth #5:  The Federal Government’s prerogative to own and manage the majority of lands in Oregon is beyond question.

Now we get to the very crux of the matter.  Everyone raised in the US is taught federal laws are supreme.  What’s more, we learn the US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on whether or not a law is constitutional.  When nine (or fewer) judges, that practically no one has ever met, issue a ruling the matter is settled once and for all.  Those arguing for state and local control of lands had their day in court.  They lost.  Case closed.

Not so fast.  What we were all taught is nonsense.  No surprise given school curriculums are largely designed by the federal agencies.  In fact, the States (capital S) are sovereign.  The Federal Government, including the nine almost wholly unaccountable justices serving on the high court, are not the supreme authority.  State governments have the power-make that the sacred duty-to nullify unconstitutional laws and defend the liberty of citizens.

The kicker is that Governor Brown herself already acknowledged this truth in another context.  She signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana last summer, in complete disregard of federal laws.  She didn’t send a letter to Washington begging for federal storm troopers to batter the doors in at pot dispensaries.  To the contrary, she determined Oregon’s authority trumps federal dictates and acted accordingly.

What a “radical.”  May she and Judge Grasty find that spirit of independence before calling on the FBI to crush the next protest.

 

About the Author

Clint Siegner-Profile

Clint Siegner is a Director at Money Metals Exchange, an national precious metals dealer specializing in bullion coins, rounds and bars located in Eagle, Idaho.  He is passionate about personal liberty, limited government, and honest money and writes regularly on those subjects.

 

Re-published on seekingredress with the author’s permission