DC Transit Officer Aids ISIS

Material Support to ISIS

A DC Metro Transit police officer charged with providing material support to ISIS made a five minute appearance before a magistrate in Alexandria yesterday where he asked for a lawyer. Another hearing is scheduled for today at 2:00 p.m.

According to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney, Nicholas Young first came to their attention in 2010 when an acquaintance of his, Zachary Chesser, was arrested trying to board a flight to Uganda to join al-Shabab. The FBI watched Young for years, setting up meetings with undercover agents. One meeting, at a restaurant, included Amine el-Khalifi who was later charged with attempting to bomb the U.S. Capitol.

Agents finally moved in and arrested Young yesterday morning after he sent $245 worth of gift-card codes to what he thought was ISIS, but was in fact an FBI sting operation.

In the courtroom Young, with long hair and bearded, did not look like a typical transit police officer. He may have been undercover, though the blue striped slacks he wore appeared to be from a uniform. Of course, with U.S. Marshals (pictured on the right) sporting mohawks, who knows?

Sketch: Alexandria Courthouse

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SCOTUS Ends With A Bang, Not A Whimper

It’s been a strange Supreme Court term, like a meal that doesn’t satisfy. With only eight members on the bench after Justice Scalia’s death the odds were good that the last blockbuster opinion of the term would fall to a tie.

But, once again, Justice Kennedy was the fulcrum that allowed the Court to do some heavy lifting. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the lie was exposed that Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations were enacted to protect women’s health.

That left the dissenters arguing only on  procedural grounds that Whole Woman’s Health had lost an earlier round and should never have got another bite of the apple.

Oh, and there was also the unanimous opinion in McDonnell v. United States. It’s perfectly okay now, through gifts and cash, to purchase access to politicians, even if it stinks.

 

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Marilyn Mosby’s Bad Day

Goodson Trial: Verdict

This was the big one, and the State couldn’t prove it. Three of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddy Gray last April have gone to trial and so far not one conviction on any charge. Might Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby have overreached?

Goodson Trial: Verdict

Everyone knew that the charge of “depraved heart” murder would not stick, but not guilty on all counts? Judge Barry Williams, who is presiding over all of the Freddie Gray cases, sent a clear message, the State had no case.

If it was a bad day for Marilyn Mosby, it was a very good day for officer Caesar Goodson.

Goodson Trial: Verdict

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Goodson Closing Arguments

Goodson Trial

My sketches from yesterday’s closing arguments in the trial of Baltimore Police officer Caesar Goodson. He drove the van in which Freddie Gray suffered injuries that led to his death last April and the ensuing riots the day of his funeral.

Judge Barry Williams will announce the verdict on Thursday morning.

Goodson Trial

Goodson Trial

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The Make Or Break Freddie Gray Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

After one mistrial and one acquittal a lot is riding on the prosecution of the van driver facing the most serious charge in the death of Freddie Gray. During opening statements Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow promised to show that Freddie Gray had been given a “rough ride” in the police van without the benefit of a seatbelt result in the spinal injury that caused his death.

I missed most of the trial last week but from what I’ve read, especially the judge’s remarks during motions, a conviction on the charge of depraved heart murder seems a stretch. We’ll know soon enough. I’ll be there to sketch closing arguments Monday morning.

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray: Goodson Trial

 

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Guccifer In Alexandria

I don’t get down to the U.S. District court in Alexandria much anymore. It used to be a regular trek during the early days of the Bush administration’s war on terror. But this morning I was back at the Albert V. Bryan courthouse to sketch a Romanian email hacker whose nom de guerre is Guccifer (Gucci + Lucifer).

Marcel Lehel Lazar pleaded guilty to two counts related to his breaking into the email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and members of former President Bush’s family. He also claims to have hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server – “It was like an open orchid on the Internet. There were hundreds of folders.”- but has not produced any proof of that.

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First Freddie Gray Verdict Not Guilty

Not a good day for the Baltimore State’s Attorney. The first verdict in the trials of police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray found officer Edward Nero innocent of all charges. That outcome seemed likely from day one in this unusual trial where a police officer faced criminal charges for the kind of arrest that is usually defended by city prosecutors.

The trial of officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray sustained the injuries that killed him, will be a different story. That trial begins June 6.

Here are the rest of my sketches from the first day of the trial.

 

 

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Monday’s Undecisions

The big news of course on Monday was the Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion in Zubik v. Burwell (and other consolidated cases) that decided nothing but encouraged the two sides to reach a compromise.

The other case left hanging is Spokeo v. Robins. In a 6-2 opinion the Court asked the Ninth Circuit to take another look at the “concreteness” of the harm to Thomas Robins when Spokeo.com posted inaccurate information about him.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Opinion: Ocasio v. United States

An interesting case, and not just because I live in Baltimore.

Majestic Auto Repair was paying up to $300 for each damaged vehicle Baltimore police would steer their way from the scene of an accident. By the time the FBI broke up the deal some sixty officers were involved.

One of the officers, Samuel Ocasio, was tried and convicted on three counts of extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit. He appealed the conspiracy conviction on the grounds that in order to conspire to obtain property “from another,” conspirators must agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy. Since the conspiracy was between Ocasio and the owners of Majestic Auto Repair who were paying the bribes out of their own pockets, and not “from another”, there was no conspiracy.

The Court didn’t buy it. Justice Alito delivered the 5-3 opinion, sketched above. For an in-depth explanation of the opinion go here.

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Hastert Sentencing

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday on one count of “structuring” bank withdrawals to which he had pleaded guilty last year. But of course it wasn’t at all about a financial technicality. Hastert was confronted in the courtroom with testimony from one of his victims, and from the sister of another victim now deceased. The hearing lasted about two hours, with Judge Thomas M. Durkin taking the last forty-five minutes to explain his sentence of fifteen months, far more than prosecutors recommended.

Hastert, who sat in a wheelchair through most of the hearing, was helped to a walker and apologized from the podium. “The thing I want to do today is say I’m sorry to those I hurt and misled,” he said, “I want to apologize to the boys I mistreated when I was their coach. What I did was wrong and I regret it.”

Judge Durkin then asked Hastert if he had in fact sexually abused his victims. After some hesitation Hastert answered, “Yes” to sexually abusing victim B. For two other victims he said he couldn’t remember, and that it was “a different situation,” but didn’t dispute the accusations.

“The defendant is a serial child molester,” said Judge Durkin. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”

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