Friday, October 8, 2010


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




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




WHO: The Iraq Pledge of Resistance was formed for individuals willing to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to first prevent and later to protest the war in Iraq. The group has been renamed the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].


Pledge activists have repeatedly risked arrest to protest the war with Iraq.  On Sept. 26 & 27, 2006, for example, they joined with activists from around the country in protests organized by the Declaration of Peace aimed at urging Congress to cut off funding for the war in Iraq.  In response, religious and secular peace activists were denied access to their legislators and arrested on Capitol Hill.  The 71 peace activists arrested on Sept. 26 were charged with either “crossing a police line” or “unlawful assembly.”  The 26 citizens who were arrested outside the Rayburn House Office Building on Sept. 27 were charged with “unlawful assembly.”


WHAT:  The defendants were either prosecuted in a trial which concluded on Feb. 16, 2007 or on March 14, 2007.  Both trials were conducted by Chief Judge Rufus King III, and all but one protester were convicted and sentenced to pay a $50 assessment fee.  Eleven defendants, including Maria Allwine, the Green Party candidate for governor in Maryland, Michelle Grise, and Max Obuszewski, wrote letters to the judge to inform him that in good conscience they would not pay the fee. They felt they were unjustly convicted, and paying the fee would be an admission of guilt. On May 11, King held the activists in contempt, and was prepared to jail them.  However, once he was apprised of the law, the case was moved to be heard by Associate Judge John Ramsey Johnson.


Because the original convictions were appealed, the contempt case was on hold.  So it moved from Johnson’s docket to that of another judge.  By the time the appeal was denied, the contempt case was on Associate Judge Craig Iscoe’s docket.  Iscoe then held several hearings to prompt the defendants to pay the fee.  He was successful, as only Allwine, Grise and Obuszewski remained as defendants.


Lawyers representing Grise and Obuszewski argued that “crossing a police line” is not a serious misdemeanor, and the defendants cannot be compelled to pay the fee.  Iscoe ruled it was a serious misdemeanor, but the decision was appealed. 


It was assumed that at the next hearing, arguments would be made on whether the judge could proceed pending the outcome of the appeal.  However, the lawyers failed to produce a brief and did not argue this issue.  Once the defendants appeared before the judge, they were surrounded by marshals.  It was obvious Judge Iscoe was inured to any discussion of the matter.


Instead of granting the defendants a criminal trial and an opportunity for due process, he found the activists in civil contempt and indicated they would be jailed immediately.  Caught unprepared, Allwine and Obuszewski, under duress, paid the $50 fee.  Grise, a mother of six, still resolute that she and the others were unfairly convicted refused to kowtow to the imperious judge.  However, while she was in custody, her significant other paid the fee and she was released before being taken to the District of Columbia Jail.


WHEN:  Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 4:30 PM


WHERE:  Courtroom 319, District of Columbia Superior Court, 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Washington, DC


WHY:  The lawyers failed to produce a brief and were unprepared to argue the issue of proceeding while a decision was on appeal.  So it became rather obvious that Iscoe was going to ride roughshod over the defendants.  In each hearing, he was unable to disguise his disgust that the defendants were not complying with his orders.  He was an awful listener and constantly interrupted the lawyers, and was uninterested in hearing from the defendants their reasons for being unwilling to pay the fees.


Finally, on October 7, he reluctantly allowed Obuszewski and Allwine to speak, but then cut them off.  Both defendants tried to explain that they recognized after 9/11 how police power was increasing to the detriment of activists engaged in protests, especially against the wars.  Instead of allowing these defendants to articulate their concerns, he cut them off and lectured them.  Obuszewski tried explaining that the problem continues, as evidenced by the recent FBI raids on homes of activists.  Iscoe was not even aware of the raids.


His behavior was even worse when Grise tried to speak to the court.  He cut her off almost immediately and sent her to jail.  What harm could have happened if this dedicated activist from Leesburg, VA explained to the judge her reasons for her refusal to pay?


This legal matter is not yet over, as Grise and Obuszewski have filed a notice to appeal the judge’s decision that “crossing a police line” is a serious misdemeanor.  It is unclear if Iscoe followed proper procedure in pursuing civil contempt charges against the defendants.  Obuszewski, for example, was not able to confer with his attorney before the judge found him in contempt.  He intends to seek legal advice on this matter and assumes the judge found him in civil contempt, so that he could not appeal Iscoe’s ruling.  So this case begun on September 26, 2006 continues.



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