White House Fence Jumper In Court

Omar Gonzalez, the first fence jumper who managed to enter the front door of the White House after sprinting 70 yards across the lawn without being stopped by the Secret Service, appeared before a Federal magistrate yesterday. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, sporting a goatee and what little bit of hair he had pulled back into a small knot, Gonzalez appeared alert and to understand what was happening.

The government prosecutor informed the court that Mr. Gonzalez is facing charges in Virginia for possession of a sawed-off shotgun and eluding police after a 20-mile car chase. Also found in the Ford Bronco Gonzalez was driving when he was arrested July 19 were two sniper rifles, an assault rifle, a bolt-action rifle, another shotgun and five handguns along with ammo and a map of the DC area with a circle drawn around the masonic temple in Alexandria and a line drawn from it to the White House. The only weapon illegal in Virginia was the sawed-off !

 

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McDonnell Closing Arguments

Grateful for not having to go down to Richmond to sketch the trial of former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, I had a pleasant summer paying little attention to the news accounts. The prosecution on charges that the couple accepted gifts and loans from a vitamin magnate in exchange for favors seemed a little thin, and despite the unusual defense that the McDonnells could not have conspired because their marriage was on the rocks the story did not hold my attention.

But then Thursday evening, wouldn’t you know it, I got the call to jump in at the last minute, so I set the alarm for 4:00 and made the three hour drive to Richmond early yesterday morning.

It was a full day, but really not bad.

The prosecutor’s argument to the jury – Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harbach, mislabeled on my sketch above – was pretty convincing; at least to me, who knows nothing. For over two and a half hours he laid out in detail the quids and the quos. I don’t think the bad-marriage defense was even addressed; speaking of which, pictured on the right in my sketch above is Father Wayne Ball with whom Bob McDonnell has been bunking in the rectory.

Of course once the defense lawyers had made their arguments I was back to questioning the government’s case. As Bob McDonnell’s lawyer, Hank Asbill told the jury, “there was no quo, and there was no plan.” I’ll buy that.

I missed much of the prosecution’s rebuttal because I had to leave the courthouse to scan and upload my last sketches. I probably would have been swayed back to the government’s side, but at the end of the day I’d have to say that it looks like a fifty-fifty crapshoot going to the jury.

On Tuesday Judge James R. Spencer will charge the jury and deliberations will begin.

 

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Abu Khattala Meets His Trial Judge

Abu Khattala

“From here on out you are stuck with me,” US District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper told Ahmed Abu Khattala. The Benghazi suspect has previously twice appeared in court but this was his first time before the trial judge  At the conclusion of the very brief status hearing – which didn’t reveal much beyond that the judge’s wife used to work for the DOJ – Judge Cooper set the next hearing date in September. It’s likely we’ll see Khattala before then as a grand jury is expected to bring additional charges.

You may wonder how I got in so much detail of the courtroom in the short time, maybe 15 minutes that the hearing lasted. Most of it, on the left side, was sketched during an hour-long hearing in a civil case that preceded Khattala’s. I did the background, the court  reporter and the judge, leaving only the lawyers and defendant to do once the actual hearing got under way. Some have been critical of this approach, saying the drawing should be done entirely as the events unfold. I don’t agree. I’m telling a nonfiction story about what I have witnessed, and I need to use certain tools to edit, compress, and highlight so that my story/drawing is readable. I even went further and pulled Khattala from the background to the foreground. Is that wrong?

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Benghazi Suspect Back In Court

Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspect in the attack on the american embassy in Benghazi, was back in a Washington courtroom for a detention hearing. I failed to notice it last time but Khattala appears to have a zebibah, or prayer bump, on his forehead. Zacarias Moussaoui developed one about halfway through his trial; I wonder if he still has it, and if it’s any larger after eight years in solitary.

There was some trouble setting up the audio for the translator so we had a little more time to observe Khattala as they tried to get his earphones working.

As expected the government asked that Khatalla be held without bail, and his lawyer, Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson said Mr. Khattala had no objection for now.

Khattala will be back in court next Tuesday.

 

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Alito’s Day, But Ginsburg Has The Last Word

There was a long line and demonstrators, both pro-choice and pro-life (though no pro or anti-union for the Harris case that I could see) outside the Supreme Court this morning on the last decision day of the term.

Inside the courtroom the press was there in full force; retired Justice Stevens was seated on the opposite side in the VIP section; the section for members of the bar never quite filled up, but there were plenty of spectators.

The bleached faux-hawk in the public section caught my attention. I was told these visitors are teachers attending the Supreme Court Summer Institute.

Justice Alito had both opinions for the last day, Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn. He started with Harris in which the Court ruled that “partial public employees” such as homecare  workers paid under Medicaid that do not belong to the union representing public employees do not have to pay a fee to the union to support collective bargaining.

Alito’s second opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, drew the most attention. The decision gives for-profit family owned corporations the same rights as persons under The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which prohibits “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion . . ” Two family owned Christian businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities appealed under RFRA because they objected to the requirement under Obamacare that cover the costs of certain contraceptives for their employees.

Justice Ginsburg dissented. “The court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers,” she wrote. “For-profit corporations do not fit that bill.”

 

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

Benghazi Terror Suspect Appears in US Court

“He looks like Moses” said the US marshal as he looked at the sketch I was working on. He did indeed look pretty wild as he was escorted into a DC courtroom looking perplexed. Two weeks ago he was seized on the Libyan coast and brought here aboard a U.S. warship.

“I never knew Santa Claus was a terrorist”, someone tweeted in response to my Twitter post of the above sketch.

Khattala will be back in court on Wednesday for a detention hearing. I wonder if the flak-vested heavily armed US marshals will again be out in full force around the courthouse?

 

 

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Two “Faux-nanimous” Supreme Court Decisions

Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate magazine, coined the term “faux-nanimous” for the kind of unanimous decisions the Supreme Court delivered today where concurring opinions read more like dissents. Read her article, you’ll like it. And I’ll just go ahead and post my pictures.

UPDATE: Another great article on the “faux-nanimous” opinions, this time from professor Garret Epps for The Atlantic

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

Four Down, Four To Go

The Supreme Court had decisions on four more cases today, though only three opinions because the two cell phone cases were treated as one. In a unanimous decision the Court ruled that a warrant is required to search an individual’s cell phone.

In his opinion for the Court Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

In another significant decision concerning technology Justice Breyer delivered the opinion in ABC v. Aereo in which the broadcast network’s copyright protection triumphed over Aereo’s innovative program delivery model that sought to bypass royalties.

That leaves four decisions in argued cases – three from January, one from March – to be announced. It is expected that the  Court will meet two more days since the chief justice has not yet announced the final day as is custom.

 

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

2776

U.S. v. Rock 'n Roll, No. 2776

My contribution to 2776: The Album. You may have seen the liner notes in last week’s New Yorker or  heard Neko Case’s track, “These Aren’t The Droids”.

Posted in History, Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Final Week For Supreme Court?

The Court announced opinions in three more cases today, two of which are sketched below. I think that leaves eight, or nine if you count the two cell-phone search cases separately. More opinions on Wednesday and Thursday, and the possibility that the final opinion(s) won’t come until next Monday.

Justice Scalia announced a knobbly opinion in Utility Air v. EPA, from which both sides have claimed a win. And the Chief Justice, below, had the opinion in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund on certification of a class action in securities fraud.

SCOTUSblog’s videographer, Fabrizio di Piazza, took this beatific photo of me this morning working on the sketch you see at the top of the post.

Sketching_photo

Thanks Fabri !!!

 

 

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