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“Free Speech Loses” in a US Court


Court Observer: “Free Speech Loses” in a US Court

From Court Observer

Hello,

The attached article outlines a violation of a defendant’s free speech for the sake of “civil rights” regarding Islamic centers. I would appreciate if you would publish/publicize the attached article. All info is accurate, I was present at all hearings. if “court observer” isn’t a good pseudonym, you can publish it by “xxxx xxxxxxxx” or “anonymous”.

………………………………………………..

The following article outlines how the US justice system abused its power to give an unreasonably harsh sentence for an act that was barely, if at all, a crime. They ruined a young man’s life with a 12-month prison sentence, another 12 months of supervised release and a fine. All this for actions that are questionable in criminality. Even if the defendant’s action was a violation of the law, the list of mitigating factors (see bullet list in part 2) in favor of a lighter sentence is substantial.

The story is available on, among other news outlets, the Washington Post.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/local-breaking-news/maryland/md-man-sentenced-for-threats-t.html

The defendant received the maximum sentence for a political statement, not a criminal act. The case is: US vs. Sobolevsky, case number 10-20062-DGB, conducted in Federal Court of Urbana IL, on November 2010. David Bernthal was the presiding magistrate judge. The defendant was charged with Title 18, Statute 247(a)(2) of the Federal law code:

From the US House website:

http://uscode.house.gov/

Title 18, Statute 247(a)(2):

(a)(2) Whoever intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).

(d) a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

Background

In early 2008, the defendant visited CIMIC—an Islamic center in Champaign, IL. What he saw prompted him to research the religion. Apparently, the defendant concluded that Islam was substantially intolerant, violent, and generally unpleasant. He continued to visit the group’s sermons out of curiosity. He tried to engage CIMIC’s leader(s) in a legitimate, if uncomfortable, debate that centered on Islam’s doctrinal intolerance. He saw it odd that CIMIC preached and followed an aggressive and exclusivist religion while simultaneously advocating for “civil rights” and “tolerance” in the outside community. The defendant was concerned to the point of contacting the local FBI office about what he thought was CIMIC’s jihadist sympathies.

I’d like to emphasize this:

The defendant took the initiative to contact law enforcement about the Islamic group’s apparent jihadist sympathies.

In spring of 2008, the defendant, against his better judgment, fired off some nasty emails. For that, he got the maximum penalty: 12 months incarceration, a fine, and 12 months of supervised release.

The defendant was unjustly punished out of proportion to the crime (if it was a crime at all). The government twisted the law to “make an example” out of someone who did not deserve it. I was present at the hearings, so I can attest to what happened during the proceedings.

1. The Charge

Use or attempt to use force was not proven. This is a central point since the statute focuses on “intentional obstruction.” There was no attempt to obstruct by force. There were no arguments or evidence that the defendant intended or threatened any forceful action.

There was no testimony or evidence that the Islamic center was closed as a result of the email. Nobody was ever physically obstructed. The plea and sentencing hearings failed to show any temporary or lasting harm to CIMIC or its members over the 2.5 years this investigation has gone on.

The prosecutor injected opinion and bias into a “statements of facts” in her argument. It was an absurdity to accuse the defendant of “terrorism” as the prosecutor and the judge proceeded to do. In fact, it was precisely the defendant’s awareness of Islam’s undeniable connection to jihadi terrorism that prompted the defendant to act in good intent, if admittedly poor manners.

The defendant was not given a chance to respond to the prosecutor’s creative extrapolations of harmful intent and general character smearing. I feel that the defendant should have had the last word in this hearing.

2. Judge Bernthal’s Conduct

Bernthal ignored mitigating factors that would seem to lessen the defendant’s sentence. These include:
That this was a first-time offense. Maximum penalties are typically imposed on unrepentant repeat offenders.

The defendant’s cooperation with investigating agents.

The fact that the defendant was released with no arrest, detention or travel restrictions for over 2.5 years.

The defendant’s productive employment, volunteering record, and positive professional/personal character references before and after the incident.

The defendant’s acceptance of responsibility and explicit apology in all court appearances.

The fact that the defendant contacted law enforcement with his legitimate concern about extremist sympathies by CIMIC members. The defendant saw questionable sermons and informed the authorities accordingly.

The judge twisted statements that were political, but within domain of protected speech. The defendant was not judged by any concrete actions, but by his views and beliefs. Bernthal’s decision was not based on any consideration of the defendant’s history, character or cooperation in the case. This makes a mockery of “justice” or “fair judgment.”

The presiding judge took a political statement (“do whatever it takes”) and, despite no evidence of force or intent to use force, gave the maximum punishment. Absurdly, Judge Bernthal equated emailed politically-incorrect statements and opinions to “acts of terror.”

Whatever his thoughts and motives in setting an unreasonably harsh sentence, Judge Bernthal’s conduct casts serious doubt on his capacity to carry out his job responsibilities.

3. Concluding thoughts

People like Wafa Sultan, Robert Spencer and many others have an explicitly bad opinion of Islam. Such perspectives are clearly “discriminatory” against a particular faith. They openly speak, and write about, the evils of Islam in no uncertain terms. They are not persecuted; in fact, they often are awarded for their “defense of freedom.” Moreso, many activists of all stripes regularly receive threats far harsher than what the defendant said. For example, Robert Spencer regularly receives death threats that he publishes on his website, jihadwatch.com. To my knowledge, few if any of those threats by Muslims are investigated or prosecuted.

The US justice system is often unfair and political. It has little credibility, and the “US v Sobolevsky” case is another unfortunate testament to this fact.

The defendant is “guilty” of bad word choice. Even if this is a crime, it is not one that rationally deserves the maximum sentence.

In this case, Judge Bernthal went against the core spirit and purpose of discretion allowed to judges. I shudder to think of future defendants facing Bernthal’s draconian “reasonable judgment.” Yes, the sentence was technically within the law. Nevertheless, “the law” needs an ethical foundation and a constant reminder that the punishment should match, not exceed, the severity of the crime.

To allow Bernthal this blatant abuse of power, excused by technicalities, puts a serious dent in the credibility of the US justice system. Judge Bernthal should be removed from the bench for his malicious abuse of sentencing discretion.

Sincerely,

A concerned court observer

One Response

  1. Great post and shows mwhat we are up against when bad judges legislate from the bench and not the law of the land, the Constitution. Pleasing the
    fools who are pushing diversity and multiculturalism at all costs, this mjudge showed how ignorant he is in regard to islam and muslims.
    I am ashamed for my country because of this one judges actions.

    I will be posting on PC and glad to see a post or two Sam!

    Like

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