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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/6/10

Judging The George Donnelly Case

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Finally, a legal travesty is over. It all started on May 11, 2010 with three activists handing out Fully Informed Jury Association literature in front of the federal courthouse in Allentown, PA. It ended on September 1, 2010 with George Donnelly being sentenced to time served and paying a $525.00 fine. All of his property was returned though the video he took of the incident was deleted from his camera.

George, while filming the outreach event, was originally arrested and charged with felony assault on a female Court Security Officer (CSO) which, according to witnesses, he didn't do. This charge carries an eight year sentence. The conditions of his release after two days in federal custody included house arrest, wearing an ankle bracelet, turning in his passport, and his firearms. By the time of his initial appearance hearing on June 22, 2010 the charges had been reduced to misdemeanor simple assault and two Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) violations . (Legally, CFRs are somewhat equivalent to parking tickets.) In the end George was forced to "voluntarily" agree to a plea bargain in which he plead guilty to a CFR concerning disobeying a federal law enforcement officer on federal property. All other charges were dropped.

This was a travesty on many levels. The three activists were merely exercising their right to inform juries that they can judge the law as well as the facts of a case. This is commonly known as jury nullification and is a clearly established legal principle. A jury may find a defendant not guilty even though the law has been broken for whatever reason, including not agreeing that what the defendant did should be illegal. Naturally, the government doesn't like this fact and apparently doesn't like the information about it getting out.

During the trial several strange things were claimed. One of the oddest would have to be the government asserting that the CSOs saw George filming so they went out to investigate. Once out, they claim, he had an unknown object he was hiding in his hands held between his legs. The contradiction there needs no further comment. (It is my understanding that George did later place the camera against his body to prevent the CSOs from taking it from him.)

Continuing, George's attorney, Paul Hetznecker, stated that they were acceding to "modification of the facts" to arrive at the agreed upon version of the event. Which brings up the question, why do the facts need to be modified in court proceedings? The naà ve may think that courts seek the truth, experience teaches us the opposite.

Ignored during this whole process was the fact that the government's story kept changing. There were two complaints filed with differing sworn statements made by the same CSO, Enrique Trevino. Both alleged that George assaulted a CSO. The final "agreed to" version of the incident makes no mention of any assault. In a rational court these facts alone would have gotten the case dismissed. After all, the prosecution presented no evidence. They deleted George's video of the incident and even though there are surveillance cameras outside the courthouse they presented none of their own.

Later in the proceedings, the judge, Henry S. Perkin, cited the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK as a justification for the CSOs aggression. Saying that the right of the employees and visitors in the federal courthouse in Allentown, PA to be safe trumps the right to free speech. It may have been a slip of the tongue, but the judge said "The system is not sensitive to your rights". Thanks for clearing that up, judge.

On a lighter note, Jim Babb, who was present in front of the courthouse when George was arrested, confronted Trevino after the trial calling him a liar. This lead to threats of arrest for harassment and got us all evicted from the fourth floor, where the courtroom is located.

We regrouped in the lobby to wait for George who was in a conference with his lawyer. As we waited our friend Trevino walked by. Jim began loudly speaking about the immorality of their lies and actions, questioning whether they had consciences, and asking how can they sleep at night. Trevino sarcastically answered "very comfortably".

After a while George appeared with his lawyer and the two of them accompanied by Jim Babb and myself went into the back room to recover his, George's, stolen property. Raw footage of the taking out of the guns can be seen here.

George left immediately after the trial to attend to family matters. The rest of us went to a nearby restaurant to eat, drink, and go over the events of the day:

An observation about the whole affair. The people involved in the federal legal system may truly believe themselves to be standing up for what's right. To be defending themselves, and therefore us, from evildoers. This is pure rationalization on their part. The system serves itself and those that are part of it at the expense of the rest of the world. They are driven by fear to create a situation in which they rule only by force and lies. They, not some foreign fanatics, are the true enemies of liberty.

Some insightful protester modified a sign outside the courthouse to better reflect their priorities. Your became our:
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Darren Wolfe is the former Eastern Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. He presently blogs as the International Libertarian His articles have also appeared in, (more...)

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