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Michael Phelps In Court For DUI

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps pleaded guilty in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday to driving under the influence. He was stopped for speeding in the Fort McHenry tunnel about 1:40 a.m. September 30 after leaving the Horseshoe Casino.  District Judge Braverman gave Phelps a one year suspended sentence that now hangs over the 29 year-old swimmer should he slip up. Phelps had a previous DUI ten years ago in Wicomico county.

Phelps’ lawyer, Steven A. Allen, told the court that the swimmer attended a 45-day in-patient treatment in Phoenix and is continuing after-treatment at a facility in Towson. “Mr. Phelps has not been treated differently because of his celebrity status.” Mr. Allen said,  “He has really stood up to what has occurred, accepted responsibility and, of course, there is a level of humiliation involved,”

Phelps was accompanied in court by numerous supporters including Ray Lewis and, of course, his mom.

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Boston Marathon Bomber Back In Court

The last time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in court, at his arraignment in July 2013, he looked and sounded quite different. He was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, his left hand was bandaged and his face swollen from injuries he suffered during the manhunt that followed the Boston Marathon bombing. He spoke with a Russian accent and displayed a certain arrogance or swagger, at least it appeared that way to me. Yesterday was a different story. He was dressed in a dark zip-up sweater, shirt and belted chinos. He seemed quietly interested in what was happening, speaking softly to the judge when questioned. The Russian accent was gone even though an interpreter was present just in case.

All signs point to the trial beginning with jury selection on January 5, as scheduled, though the defense is still asking for a delay. It’s sure to be a long and emotional trial.

I sketched the scene outside the courtroom before the doors opened. There was a tall woman in a long fur coat who talked incessantly with whoever would listen to her. I didn’t pay attention to what she was saying. But later, at the conclusion of the hearing as Tsarnaev was being led from the courtroom, this same woman started shouting in Russian.

It turns out she is the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed by the FBI under very odd circumstances. At one time Todashev was, along with Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan, a suspect in a bizarre murder in the Boston suburb of Waltham. There’s a lot to the story that has yet to be explained.

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A Made For TV Kidnapping

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When Delvin Barnes snatched a Philadelphia woman off the street Sunday night it was recorded by surveillance cameras. And when he later used the victim’s ATM at a bank and a convenience store it was again on camera.

Barnes is a bad guy. There was already a warrant for his arrest for an October abduction in Virginia of a 16 year-old girl who escaped naked, doused in bleach and gasoline. He appeared by closed-circuit TV in Baltimore county district court yesterday before being extradited to Virginia to face attempted murder and rape charges.

When he arrived in Virginia he was “perp-walked” through a crowd of reporters shouting questions to which he responded with vulgar words of language. It made for great TV.

True, the story was also interesting for the way the authorities used GPS to track Barnes car – the dealer who sold him the vehicle had the GPS device installed because of Barnes’ bad credit – but what really made this a prime-time story was all the video. I’m afraid my sketch, which was in fact partly drawn from a video screen, got left on the cutting-room floor so to speak.

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Khatallah Back In Court For Additional Charges

Looking very much like an Old-Testament prophet, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah was arraigned Monday on 17 additional charges related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Khatallah said nothing as he stood in a green jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled on the back while his lawyer, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, entered for him a plea of not guilty.

No trial date has yet been set as the prosecutors say they need more time to gather and redact the “thousands and thousands of pages” and hundreds of hours of video before turning them over to the defense.

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The Latest White House Fence Jumper

He scaled the fence but unlike the previous intruder three weeks ago Dominic Adesanya never made it all the way across the lawn and into the White House. He was stopped by Hurricane and Jordan, two Secret Service dogs with whom he fought until officers took him down.

Clearly deranged, his arm and fingers bandaged, Adesanya repeatedly tried to speak during his appearance before a federal magistrate. He resisted as he was led out of the courtroom.

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Black Aggie and the Doomsday Binder

I didn’t expect to have much fun covering two days of a trial relating to the government’s 2008 bailout of AIG, but I was mistaken.

It was fascinating to hear former Fed. chairman Bernanke describe the near financial collapse as more severe than the great depression of the 1930’s, and that there exists a “doomsday book”, a collection of emergency documents and memoranda outlining the central bank’s powers, that Timothy Geithner carried around in a 2-inch binder.

Even better was coming across the statue of Black Aggie in the courtyard of the building housing the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims. Black Aggie used to reside at Druid Ridge cemetery in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. She sat over the tomb of Union Army general and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper Felix Agnus until the mid 1960’s when the family gave the statue to the Smithsonian. For years Black Aggie was the subject of ghostly lore and attracted midnight visitors who trampled the gravesite to sit in her lap.

 

As forty-three year resident of Baltimore who loves his adopted city I can’t help feeling a little resentful at DC’s acquisition.

Back to the AIG trial, on the face of it this effort by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg to sue the government for saving AIG’s ass seems pretty preposterous. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the point of the bailout wasn’t to benefit AIG shareholders but to avoid the freezing of global insurance markets and financial meltdown. Greenberg’s legal team is led by super-lawyer David Boies, but I hope this is one time Boies loses.

Here are the rest of my sketches from my two days at the Court of Federal Claims. Note in the unfinished sketch the shelves full of binders on each side of the courtroom.

 

 

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White House Intruder Back in Court

Omar Gonzalez appeared before magistrate judge Deborah Robinson for arraignment on charges stemming from the Sept. 19 incident in which he managed to scale the fence, run across the lawn and enter the White House before finally being stopped in the East Room. Gonzalez did not speak during the twenty minute hearing letting his lawyer, federal public defender David Bos, enter a plea of not guilty for him. He also waived his rights to a formal reading of the charges and to a detention hearing.

Judge Robinson ordered a mental competency screening for Gonzalez which his lawyer vigorously opposed. As the judge and defense attorney Bos argued about the competency screening Gonzalez himself seemed to recede into a wallflower.

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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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