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Pa. man who attacked police on Jan. 6 gets 46-month sentence
Court Watch | 2022/08/29 11:46
A Pennsylvania man was sentenced Friday to 46 months in federal prison for attacking a police officer with a Donald Trump flag during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The newspaper reported that Howard Richardson, 72, of King of Prussia, told the court in Washington “there’s no excuse” for his behavior and pleaded for mercy.

But U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly responded, “Your presence and actions in joining other insurrectionists was an inexcusable attack on our democracy.”

Richardson’s sentence is one of the longest yet among those who have been prosecuted for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. In addition to the nearly four-year prison sentence, Richardson was ordered to serve three years under court supervision after his release and to pay $2,000 in restitution.

Richardson never entered the Capitol, the Inquirer reported, but prosecutors said his attack on a Washington, D.C., police officer merited a lengthy prison term.

According to the paper, police body camera footage showed Richardson bludgeoning an officer outside the Capitol with a metal flagpole. NBC News reported that Richardson also joined a mob using a giant Trump billboard as a battering ram.

Approximately 850 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on Jan. 6. Over 350 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 230 have been sentenced. Dozens of Capitol riot defendants who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to five months.


Judge rules teen was justified in shooting assailant 7 times
Court Watch | 2022/08/23 09:28
A Georgia judge has dismissed a murder charge against a teen after concluding that he was legally justified in shooting a man seven times in 2021 because the man was trying to kidnap him.

The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus reports that Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Martin dismissed charges Wednesday against the unnamed teen at the behest of prosecutors who concluded from witnesses and video footage that the boy had a right to defend himself to stop a forcible felony under Georgia’s “stand your ground” law.

The boy, then 16, shot and killed Iverson Gilyard in August 2021 at a Columbus park. The newspaper withheld the boy’s name because he was a juvenile and has now been cleared of charges.

The boy was indicted as an adult in February for murder, aggravated assault, and possessing a gun while committing a felony. But prosecutors later concluded that Gilyard was the primary aggressor, entering the park and hitting the boy over the head with a handgun three times as the boy tried to get away.

Assistant District Attorney Robin Anthony said Gilyard, 22, also threatened to shoot the teen, saying “I’m going to bust you in the kidney.” When parents at the park complained, Anthony said Gilyard told the teen to follow him, stuck the gun in his waistband, and said, “You’d better not run, either.” Anthony said when Gilyard turned to walk away, the teen took a gun from his backpack and shot Gilyard. The 22-year-old was shot seven times, four times in the back, his family has said.


Court denies request for emergency halt to Ohio abortion ban
Court Watch | 2022/07/01 10:15
An emergency stay of Ohio’s newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat” was rejected Friday by the state Supreme Court.

At issue was a request by Ohio abortion providers for the interim delay while the court reviews the question of whether the ban should be overturned. The providers argue the law violates the Ohio Constitution’s broad protections of individual liberty.

Their lawsuit followed imposition of the Ohio ban June 24, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court found the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion. A federal judge lifted his stay on Ohio’s abortion restriction later that night.

The Ohio law prohibits abortions after what it terms a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks’ gestation, or before many women know they are pregnant. It makes exceptions for the life of the mother and certain severe health risks.

The office of Attorney General Dave Yost, defending the new law, opposed the emergency stay, saying the Ohio Constitution does not recognize the right to an abortion.


Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation member
Court Watch | 2022/06/13 17:48
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Native Americans prosecuted in certain tribal courts can also be prosecuted based on the same incident in federal court, which can result in longer sentences.

The 6-3 ruling is in keeping with an earlier ruling from the 1970s that said the same about a more widely used type of tribal court.

The case before the justices involved a Navajo Nation member, Merle Denezpi, accused of rape. He served nearly five months in jail after being charged with assault and battery in what is called a Court of Indian Offenses, a court that deals exclusively with alleged Native American offenders.

Under federal law Courts of Indian Offenses can only impose sentences of generally up to a year. The man was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He said the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy” clause should have barred the second prosecution.

But the justices disagreed.

“Denezpi’s single act led to separate prosecutions for violations of a tribal ordinance and a federal statute. Because the Tribe and the Federal Government are distinct sovereigns, those” offenses are not the same, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for a majority of the court. “Denezpi’s second prosecution therefore did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The Biden administration had argued for that result as had several states, which said barring federal prosecutions in similar cases could allow defendants to escape harsh sentences.

The case before the justices involves a tribal court system that has become increasingly rare over the last century. Courts of Indian Offenses were created in the late 1800s during a period when the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans was to encourage assimilation. Prosecutors are federal officers answerable to federal authorities, not tribal authorities.

Federal policy toward Native Americans shifted in the mid-1930s, however, to emphasize a greater respect for tribes’ native ways. As part of that, the government has encouraged tribes to create their own tribal courts, and the number of Courts of Indian Offenses has steadily decreased. Today there are five regional Courts of Indian Offenses that serve 16 tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They are generally tribes with a small number of members or limited resources. Nationwide there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes.

The court said in 1978 that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the federal government from prosecuting a Native person in federal court after a tribal court prosecution, so the only question for the court this time was whether the rule should be different for Courts of Indian Offenses.

In July 2017, Denezpi traveled with a female member of the Navajo Nation to Towaoc, Colorado, which is a part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. While there, Denezpi raped the woman.

Denezpi was first charged in a Court of Indian Offenses with assault and battery, among other things. He eventually agreed to a so-called Alford plea in the case, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence that he would likely be convicted at trial. He was sentenced to time served, 140 days in jail. His prosecution in federal court followed.


German federal court mulls bid to remove antisemitic relic
Court Watch | 2022/05/30 09:30
A German federal court on Monday mulled a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of a 700-year-old antisemitic statue from a church where Martin Luther once preached, and said it will deliver its verdict in the long-running dispute next month.

The “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg is one of more than 20 such relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

The case went to the Federal Court of Justice after lower courts ruled in 2019 and 2020 against plaintiff Michael Duellmann. He had argued that the sculpture was “a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people” that has “a terrible effect up to this day,” and has suggested moving it the nearby Luther House museum.

Placed on the church about four meters (13 feet) above ground level, the sculpture depicts people identifiable as Jews suckling the teats of a sow while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

In 1988, a memorial was set into the ground below, referring to the persecution of Jews and the 6 million people who died during the Holocaust. In addition, a sign gives information about the sculpture in German and English.

In 2020, an appeals court in Naumburg ruled that “in its current context” the sculpture is not of “slanderous character” and didn’t violate the plaintiff’s rights. It said that, with the addition of the memorial and information sign, the statue was now “part of an ensemble which speaks for another objective” on the part of the parish.


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