Category: Criminal law

Antifa Member Who Took Axe to Senate Office Given Probation and his Axe Back

 

We have been discussing the continued incarceration of many individuals for their participation in the Jan. 6th riot.  Despite claims that the riot was an insurrection, the vast majority of defendants have been given relatively minor charges. Nevertheless, the Justice Department has insisted on holding many without bail and some have received longer sentences, like Jacob Chansley (aka “QAnon Shaman”) who was given a 41-month sentence for “obstructing a federal proceeding.”

Thomas “Tas” Alexander Starks, 31, of Lisbon, N.D., faced a strikingly different approach by the Justice Department. The self-avowed Antifa member took an axe to the office of Sen. John Hoeven’s in Fargo on Dec. 21, 2020. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested 10–16 months in prison but he was only sentenced to probation and fined $2,784 for restitution . . . he then reportedly mocked the FBI for returning his axe.  Others declared him a hero and Democratic politicians pitched in for his legal defense. Continue reading “Antifa Member Who Took Axe to Senate Office Given Probation and his Axe Back”

Georgia Defendants Convicted in the Ahmaud Arbery Case

With their conviction in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, three defendants (Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.) are now looking at life in prison. The trial was a testament to two key elements in the criminal justice system: the integrity of the American jury and the power of videotape evidence . Continue reading “Georgia Defendants Convicted in the Ahmaud Arbery Case”

Now That Rittenhouse is Acquitted, Can Officer Kelly Have His Job Back?

Norfolk Police Department

The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse produced a number of immediate changes beyond the custodial status of the 18-year-old himself. GoFundMe lifted its ban on people contributing to his defense . . . after his defense was over and the verdict was in. Some media outlets finally reported on evidence that supported his self-defense claims and one critic called for “revisiting” the clearly biased reporting in the case. However, there is one person whose status has not changed: Norfolk Police Officer William Kelly who was fired for simply donating to the Rittenhouse defense fund and writing a supportive note as a private citizen. He made the comment and donation anonymously. The only thing more shocking than Kelly’s loss of his job is that Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer and Police Chief Larry Boone have retained theirs. Continue reading “Now That Rittenhouse is Acquitted, Can Officer Kelly Have His Job Back?”

Unrequited Rage: The Demand for Mob Justice in the Rittenhouse Trial

Below is my column in The Hill on the aftermath of Rittenhouse verdict and how the jury functioned as design to rule on the evidence and the law rather than public passions. Many have called for self-defense laws to be curtailed in light of the verdict. We can certainly have that debate. However, this jury was tasked with applying these facts to existing law. They did not have the luxury of reframing the legal standard to achieve their own concept of justice.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Unrequited Rage: The Demand for Mob Justice in the Rittenhouse Trial”

Verdict First, Funds Second: GoFundMe’s Red Queen Policy on Rittenhouse

GoFundMe appears to have lifted its ban on fundraising for Kyle Rittenhouse . . . after he was acquitted.  Of course, those funds were most needed to put on a defense and many demanded that the site cut off access to fundraising. The site yielded to the pressure and refused to allow people who believed Rittenhouse to be innocent from donating on its site. GoFundMe has been repeatedly criticized for political bias and conservative sites have objected that the site continued to allow fundraising for Black Lives Matter protesters accused of rioting. The company appears to have embraced a Red Queen policy from Alice in Wonderland: This “sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

Continue reading “Verdict First, Funds Second: GoFundMe’s Red Queen Policy on Rittenhouse”

Rittenhouse Revisited: How Media Misinformation Can Fuel Social Unrest

Below is my column in USA Today on the Rittenhouse trial and the role of media coverage in fueling anger in such cases by misrepresenting or ignoring key evidence. After the verdict, a riot was declared in Portland and protests erupted around the country.  Fortunately, there was not the type of arson and destruction seen in Kenosha last year. While the media often denounces “misinformation” or “disinformation” (and even supports censorship in some cases), it rarely acknowledges its own distortions from the Russian collusion scandal to the Hunter Biden laptop controversy to the Lafayette Park incident. Indeed, after the verdict, many of these same figures doubled down in denouncing the decision without acknowledging the evidence supporting the reasonable doubt of these jurors.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Rittenhouse Revisited: How Media Misinformation Can Fuel Social Unrest”

Arbery Trial Judge Delivers Massive Blow to the Defense on the Eve of Closing Statements

In the Georgia trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Judge Timothy Walmsley delivered a haymaker to the defense on the very eve of closing statements.  The court ruled that Georgia’s prior citizen’s arrest law is only applicable if a person sees a felony committed and acts without delay. The ruling could be “outcome determinative” in the case by stripping away the core defense that these men were chasing a person suspected of a series of crimes over the last year. Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan are likely to make this ruling the heart of any appeal if they are convicted. Continue reading “Arbery Trial Judge Delivers Massive Blow to the Defense on the Eve of Closing Statements”

Rittenhouse 2.0: Threats of New Litigation Fly in the Aftermath of Rittenhouse Verdict

In the aftermath of the Rittenhouse verdict, figures on both sides of the case threatened new filings and investigations. It seems likely that the case will move into a new stage of litigation, particularly civil litigation. However, advocates on both sides may be overstating the basis for a Rittenhouse 2.0.  These lawsuits can come with risks and considerable costs. That is why Voltaire once lamented “I was never ruined but twice: once when I lost a lawsuit, and once when I won one.” Continue reading “Rittenhouse 2.0: Threats of New Litigation Fly in the Aftermath of Rittenhouse Verdict”

“Jump Kick Man” Identified In Rittenhouse Case . . . After Closing Arguments

Throughout the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, one of the alleged “victims” was known only as “jump kick man” and identified only by his action and his pants. It now turns out that the prosecutors knew not only who he was but where he was before the trial. The question is whether the defense was informed that “jump kick man” was actually Maurice Freeland, 39. Continue reading ““Jump Kick Man” Identified In Rittenhouse Case . . . After Closing Arguments”

“I Think Like a Criminal”: Pennsylvania Lawyer Brings New Meaning To Truth in Advertising

YouTube screenshot

The one thing that Daniel Muessig cannot be accused of is false advertising. The Pennsylvania attorney became something of a sensation after his 3½-minute video featured his tag line “Trust me, I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal.” That was more true than many assumed. Muessig has now pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to distribute hundreds of pounds of marijuana in April and May 2019.

Continue reading ““I Think Like a Criminal”: Pennsylvania Lawyer Brings New Meaning To Truth in Advertising”

Rittenhouse and the Perils of Weighing Public Opinion Over Evidence In Prosecutions

The Rittenhouse case is now with the jury. Below is my column in The Hill on the Rittenhouse trial and how the case follows a troubling pattern in high-profile cases where prosecutors rush charges and overcharge cases. This is a textbook case of the perils of weighing public opinion before the evidence in such cases.

Here is the column:

Continue reading “Rittenhouse and the Perils of Weighing Public Opinion Over Evidence In Prosecutions”

Facebook and Politifact Under Fire for Fact Check on Rittenhouse Gun Charge

Court Dismisses Sixth Count Against Rittenhouse

The case against Kyle Rittenhouse just got a little smaller. I recently wrote a column stating that the sixth count appeared to be based on a factually and legally inapplicable provision of Wisconsin law.  I could not understand how the judge could allow the count to go to jury. Indeed, I am mystified how the prosecutors could have secured the count on the basis of the provision.  This is the loss of the least serious charge, but prosecutors lost more than just a misdemeanor conviction in the decision. Continue reading “Court Dismisses Sixth Count Against Rittenhouse”

Rittenhouse Goes To Jury After Case Collapses in Court

Below is my column in USA Today on the collapse of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial due to a series of prosecutorial blunders. What is worrisome is the highly slanted coverage over the last year, particularly during the trial itself. Many in the media have not focused on the countervailing facts in the case.

Today the jury will get the case following closing arguments and jury instructions. One issue to watch is how Judge Bruce Schroeder handles the gun count, which is based on what I believe is a flawed legal interpretation by the prosecution.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Rittenhouse Goes To Jury After Case Collapses in Court”

Pittsburgh Lawyer Charged After Dropping Pants In Protest in Courthouse

There are times when it is a good thing justice is blind.  Attorney Jeffrey Pollock, 59, was reportedly put out when a metal detector repeatedly set off an alarm at a Pittsburgh courthouse. After being told to remove garments, Pollock eventually dropped his pants in protest. He was then arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. However, there is an interesting question on the key terms underlying such a charge against Pollock. Continue reading “Pittsburgh Lawyer Charged After Dropping Pants In Protest in Courthouse”

Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks