Allege ongoing campaign to influence jurors.
Yesterday I posted about a flurry of motions in the re-trial of Rasmea Odeh for immigration fraud.
I focused on the prosecutor’s motion to take the testimony in the West Bank of Rasmea’s two co-conspirators in the bombing of the SuperSol supermarket in 1969, Prosecutors seek testimony of Rasmea Odeh bombing co-conspirators. That post has extensive background on the case, so please head over to the link if you are not yet familiar.
The original immigration fraud trial was in November 2014. The re-trial is May 2017.
For this post, I’m focusing on an issue that first caught my attention in October 2014. I’m pretty sure I had not heard of Rasmea prior to that, but I saw a link or article about a judge issuing an order to protect jurors from harassment by anti-Israel activists. It’s not very often that a court needs to issue such an order, so I began to look into the case of Rasmea Odeh.
On October 6, 2014, just before the first trial, I posted Palestinian activist groups accused of attempting to influence jury
We have frequently reported on the aggressive protest tactics of anti-Israel groups.
According to a motion filed in federal court in Detroit, some of those groups allegedly have crossed a line, or plan to cross a line, from legitimate and protected protest into improperly trying to influence the jury in the upcoming trial of Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, who is accused of lying on her naturalization application by failing to disclose terrorist connections.
The Motion for Anonymous Jury … spells out the allegations against the protest groups….
I followed up when the Judge made a decision, Judge orders jurors protected from pro-Palestinian activists:
The case has become a cause célèbre with anti-Israel groups, with protesters loudly picketing outside the courthouse whenever there is a hearing. One of those groups, of which Odeh was a leader, is the Arab American Action Network.
With the trial coming up, one of the key organizers of the protests openly stated the plan to try to influence the jurors through protests and packing the courtroom….
That led the government to seek both an anonymous jury and special protections for the jury such as meeting off-site and being transported by Marshalls to the courthouse. See our prior post for more details, Palestinian activist groups accused of attempting to influence jury.
The defense claimed, among other things, that special transportation measures would signal the jury that Odeh was a terrorist or dangerous.
Late yesterday the Judge granted the government’s request in part… The Judge denied the request for an anonymous jury as the legal standard required proof of threats by the defendant towards the jury or a history of trying to tamper with the jury by this defendant, of which there were none here.
But the Judge did grant the request for special procedures to transport the jury to the courthouse….
The Judge also issued an Order against attempts to influence the jury through protests and courtroom conduct
The Rasmea supporters did not get the message, so the Judge issued a second Order:
The Judge in the trial of Rasmieh (Rasmea) Odeh has issued a second order addressing protests at the courthouse which may be part of attempts to influence the jury, Supplemental Order Regarding Public Conduct (full embed at bottom of post):
It has come to the attention of the Court that leaflets prepared by Defendant’s supporters were passed out to individuals entering the courthouse prior to the hearing on October 28, 2014. Of course, contact with the jurors or prospective jurors is strictly prohibited. See Dkt. No. 110.
Moreover, this Court has explicitly stated that no one shall “attempt in any way to influence or intimidate any juror or prospective juror through any means, including … carrying any clothing, buttons or other items in the Courthouse that may be clearly visible to the jury that carry any message or symbol addressing the issues related to this case.” ld. at 2.
As such, passing out literature of the type passed out on October 28, 2014 to individuals entering the courthouse is STRICTLY PROHIBITED on November 4, 2014, since Defendant’s supporters have no means of knowing whether an individual entering the courthouse on that day is a prospective juror for the trial in this matter.
Fast forward over two years and over 60 posts later, we are back to the issue of attempts by Rasea supporters to influence the jury.
Since Defendant’s indictment, Hatem Abudayyeh, acting as Defendant’s
agent by virtue of his role as “spokesperson for the Rasmea Defense Committee”
has engaged in a concerted effort to improperly influence the criminal proceedings before the Court. Specifically, through the aid of the AAAN (www.aaan.org), as
well as the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) (www.stopfbi.net) and the
U.S. Palestine Community Network (USPCN) (www.USPCN.org), Hatem
Abudayyeh has organized a campaign designed to improperly sway the jury that will
be empaneled to hear this case. Hatem Aybudayyeh also has publicly claimed that
through those same efforts, “we,” referring to the Defense Committee, “pressured
the judge” into favorable rulings.
The government also noted past protests outside the courthouse, including the video below:
In fact, those groups have demonstrated in front of the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in connection with all previous proceedings in the case, including the most recent. See www.http://justice4rasmea.org/news/2016/11/04/all-out-november-29-in-detroit/. (The fact that the hearing previously scheduled for November 29, 2016, was canceled by the Court is not relevant; it is clear that a large contingent would have attended court had proceedings occurred, and will do so in the future.); see also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66FD8OcPpk (July 31, 2014, status conference); http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtube&v=NVEA0fyOGUM&app=desktop (September 2, 2014, status conference).
Attached in an Appendix are two photographs taken outside the courthouse during earlier proceedings in the case, available on “Justice4Rasema.org,” showing the sidewalks around the courthouse entrances filled with demonstrators holding signs with Defendant’s photograph, and stating things such as “Justice for Rasmea” and “Drop the Charges.” And because the demonstrators manifested their intention to be present for the first trial there is every reason to expect they will do the same again now. See https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=phbaCLkAHr0 at time 01:14 – 01:26 (“We will be back hereof course for the trial and we’ll fill that courtroom … and everybody here bring 5 people because … if people can’t get in that’s great, that’s great.”)
The prosecution notes that there is no 1st Amendment right to influence a jury:
It also is worth noting that such activity is almost certainly criminal, and
without a doubt is not First Amendment protected. Title 18 U.S.C. § 1507 provides:
“Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the
administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness,
or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building
housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied
or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty,
pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or
near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness or court
officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any
other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, [is guilty of a crime
against the United States].”
The prosecution seeks not only special transportation arrangements for jurors, but also an anonymous jury:
As regards an anonymous jury, the Sixth Amendment provides defendants with a right to a public trial by an impartial jury, but it does not guarantee a right to a public jury. United States v. Lawson, 535 F.3d 434, 440 (6th Cir. 2008). A district court may empanel an anonymous jury “in any case where the interests of justice so require.” Title 28, United States Code, § 1863(b)(7). The decision to grant an anonymous jury is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Lawson at 439; United States v. Talley, 164 F.3d 989, 1001 (6th Cir. 1999)….
In the present case, it is abundantly clear that Defendant Odeh is aware of and endorses the efforts of her “defense committee.” To begin with, it is absurd to think that such a structure could exist without her knowledge and encouragement. And beyond the common sense approach, Defendant has addressed and thanked the crowd of supporters after at least some of the demonstrations, including the verdict after the first trial. See, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieFeazVZ78Q; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0vcz_7tcVQ at 1:30-2-02. Thus,even if the law required some direct involvement by Defendant Odeh in efforts to affect jurors in order to justify an anonymous jury, which it does not, that requirement would be fully satisfied here.
Further, defendant and her supporters have previously attempted to flood Department of Justice telephone lines in an attempt to influence these proceedings. See http://www.stopfbi.net/2014/9/4/all-out-detroit-defend-rasmea-odeh; https://m. youtube.com/watch?v=phbaCLkAHr0, at time .00:17 – 00:44. There is no reason to think they will not do so with regards to jurors if the jurors’ names are made public; at a minimum, given the publicly stated goal of swaying the jury by other means, it is the prudent course to make any such attempt impossible.
The prosecution could have noted that the organizational support behind Rasmea is much more vast than existed prior to the first trial.
We documented this extensive network, including Students for Justice in Palestine, in our post The Sickening Deification of Rasmea Odeh.
[Rasmea Odeh Tampa Rally, September 2016]Rasmea is part of a group organizing a planned “national strike” of women in March 2017, to protest Donald Trump, and has been fully embraced by the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace, which has supported her for a long time and which is featuring her on a panel at JVP’s upcoming annual conference.
In short, all of the factors that called for jury protection in the first trial argue even more powerfully now.