Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It is discovered during Ghosts of the Iraq War jury trial that government withheld document about "surveillance" of defendant

Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski at verizon.net



Contact: Max Obuszewski [410] 366-1637 or mobuszewski at verizon.net



WHO: The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore was formed for individuals willing to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to first prevent and later to protest the war in Iraq. It is affiliated with several national peace groups, including the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] and United For Peace & Justice. 

NCNR organized a theatrical event on March 12 inside the gallery of the U.S. Senate.  Three members of the Baltimore Pledge, Maria Allwine, Ellen Barfield and Max Obuszewski, joined with Tim Chadwick, Joy First, Judith Kelly, Art Landis, Linda LeTendre, Manijeh Saba and Eve Tetaz as the Ghosts of the Iraq War. 

Each of the ten stood up individually, while wearing a We Will Not Be Silent tee shirt and gauze over the head, and stated "I am a ghost from the Iraq War.  While I died needlessly, I am here to demand an end to the funding of the war so that others do not have to die."  All were removed, arrested and charged with Unlawful conduct, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Nine of the defendants are pro se with Ann Wilcox acting as an attorney advisor.  Tetaz is represented by Jack Baringer.  Judge Robert Morin is presiding in the trial, and on October 20, a jury was impaneled.  


WHAT:  Obuszewski filed a motion for additional discovery after reading a report by Justin Smothers, a former doorkeeper in the U.S. Capitol, who indicated that intelligence indicated in advance that the group was coming to the gallery on March 12.  The government tried to quash the motion but Judge Robert Morin ordered that an additional search be made.  In the morning on October 21, the prosecutor presented two pages to Obuszewski.  Page 1 was a Table of Contents for the Daily Intelligence Report for Wednesday, March 12, 2008 for the U.S. Capitol Police. The other page was titled Future Demonstrations Tracked, but it did not list Ghosts of the Iraq War.  The activist then tried to convince the judge to revisit his motion, but it did not happen until the prosecution rested its case.


Sure enough, once the judge examined the 26-page intelligence report, he discovered two relevant pages.  These pages contained an email proposal from Obuszewski sent to selected activists calling for a March 12 visit to the gallery.  However, the source was mislabeled as a URL from Common Dreams.   It is believed the actual source for the email was a Maryland state trooper, now discredited because she was involved in surveillance of Obuszewski and other activists.  Despite assurances from the state police that the surveillance had ended in 2006, this revelation suggests it was continuing in 2007 or 2008.


Obuszewski will ask for a dismissal of the case against all the defendants on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct.  He will argue that this information should have been released, that it may be exculpatory and that it was illegally obtained.


WHEN:  Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 10:15 AM


WHERE:  Courtroom 312 in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001


WHY:  The prosecution presented four witnesses, including two Capitol Police officers.  If the intelligence was given to the defense at a timely basis, then the defendants would have reacted differently during cross-examination.  Obuszewski also filed a subpoena to have Terry Gainer, Sargeant-at-Arms, testify.  Judge Morin denied the motion, but this will be revisited.  If Gainer were to testify, he would be queried as to the source who obtained a copy of Obuszewski’s email and why it was covered up by a phony URL.  If the judge denies the motion to dismiss, the defense will then present its case.  Many of the defendants will testify, including Obuszewski.   


All ten defendants, long-time peace activists, have been working for years to try to convince their legislators that the Iraq War is an unqualified mess, a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars and an unmitigated disaster for the people of Iraq and the soldiers sent to fight.  They have marched, lobbied, vigiled, protested and written letters to their elected officials.  Since they have been unsuccessful in their efforts, they decided to get creative and take their message directly to the U.S. Senate.  


They acted without any criminal intent and pleaded with the members of this august body to bring the troops home and to cut off funding of the Iraq War.  Some of the senators present on March 12 were Ben Cardin [D-MD], Ted Kennedy [D-MA], Blanche Lincoln [D-AR] and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad [D-ND]. The ghosts were only obeying their Nuremberg obligation to speak out when a government violates the law.


Their plea was entered in the Congressional Record, heard on C-Span and reported in the media.  They hoped their message would reverberate around the country through media coverage and that others would also take the risks of peace and speak to their legislators. It remains unclear what effect the Ghosts of the Iraq War might have had.  Nevertheless, the defendants will use the trial to continue to call for an end to the war.


See the action at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8BsJdy11Fc




"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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