ELENA SASSOWER JAILED FOR ASKING A QUESTION DURING A PUBLIC JUDICIARY HEARING
Details Concerning "Crime"
by NewsWithViews.com - July 25, 2004
On May 22, 2003, Elena Sassower quietly waited through two hours of speeches during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Judicial Confirmation Public Hearing. Sassower respectfully requested to testify and go on record in opposition of President Bush' nomination of NY Court of Appeals Judge, Richard Wesley, for a lifetime federal judgeship. Sassower is a co-founder and coordinator for the NY based Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc., (search) which monitors judicial misconduct.
Chairman Senator, Saxby Chambliss adjourned this hearing without asking if anyone present wanted to be heard. Ms. Sassower spoke up and said, "Mr. Chairman, there's citizen opposition to Judge Wesley based on his documented corruption as a New York Court of Appeals judge. May I testify?”
No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than the D.C. Capitol Police hand cuffed Ms. Sassower, put her under arrest and incarcerated her for 21 hours. She was eventually prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and was found guilty of "Disruption of Congress" on April 20, 2004 and sentenced to six months in a Washington D.C. Capitol Jail. Additionally, Judge Brian F. Holeman of the D.C. Superior court fined her $500. The probation office recommended community service.
Sassower, refused to accept what she deemed cruel and unusual conditions after her sentencing June 28, 2004. At the conclusion of her sentencing, Sassower's attorney, Mark Goldstone, exclaimed, "Judge Holeman offered Ms. Sassower a long list of unconstitutional conditions for her immediate release, which she rejected. These conditions included her being placed on probation for two years, ceasing electronic, verbal and other communications with her NY Senators Clinton and Schumer for two years, to stay away from all Capitol office buildings, requiring her to report all her activities as Coordinator of the Center for the next two years, do 400 hours of community service, and write letters of apology to Senators Clinton and Schumer and their staffers as well as Judge Wesley (the nominee about whom she sought to present opposition testimony to the US Senate Judiciary Committee) saying how remorseful she was."
Goldstone also commented, "Seems reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.... These are conditions you put on someone who attacks a senator with a knife."
Supporters ask the question: Where in the Standing Rules of the Senate does it state that any citizen who asks a question at a public hearing in the Senate should be arrested?
Standing Rules of the Senate -- Chapter 26: Committee Procedure
5.(B)(6)(d) Whenever disorder arises during a committee meeting that is open to the public, or any demonstration of approval or disapproval is indulged in by any person in attendance at any such meeting, it shall be the duty of the Chair to enforce order on his own initiative and without any point of order being made by a Senator. When the Chair finds it necessary to maintain order, he shall have the power to clear the room, and the committee may act in closed session for so long as there is doubt of the assurance of order.
Another question supporters want an answer to: Where in the D.C. Code does it state any citizen who asks a question at a Congressional public hearing should be arrested for "Disruption of Congress?"
10 D.C. Code Section 503.16(b)(4) . . . (b) It shall be unlawful for any person or group of persons willfully and knowingly: (4) To utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or to engage in any disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place upon the United States Capitol Grounds or within any of the Capitol Buildings with intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of any session of the Congress or either House thereof, or the orderly conduct within any such building of any hearing before, or any deliberations of any committee or subcommittee of the Congress or either House thereof.
Sassower, by all reports waiting politely until Senator Chambliss finished speaking and then requested in a respectful tone she be allowed to testify for the record. Supporters say this draconian action against Sassower is nothing more than an overt attempt by the government to stiffle her free speech rights under the First Amendment.
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179 DAYS INCARCERATION
While she was
incarcerated, Sassower could be reached as: Prisoner #301-340, D.C. Capitol
Jail, 1901 D
Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003 (Tel:
JUSTICE NOT JAIL TIME FOR
(Editorial from The Westchester Crusader - June 24, 2004)
The Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (CJA) is calling for "justice not jail" for Elena Sassower, its Coordinator, who on June 28th returns to our nation's capital for sentencing before D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian F. Holeman, following her week-long jury trial before him and conviction on April 20th on a spurious criminal charge of "disruption of Congress," which the organization plans to appeal based on "a litany of reversible errors of law and fact."
CJA is a non-partisan, non-profit citizens' organization co-founded more than a decade ago by Ms. Sassower, an Ivy League graduate, to depoliticize the processes of judicial selection and discipline by increasing citizen participation. On May 22, 2003, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a "public hearing" to confirm President Bush's nomination of New York Court of Appeals Judge Richard Wesley to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont. The "hearing" was adjourned without any inquiry as to whether anyone present wished to be heard - at which point Ms. Sassower rose and made her polite inquiry, "Mr. Chairman, there's citizen opposition to Judge Wesley based on his documented corruption as a New York Court of Appeals Judge. May I testify?"
Ms. Sassower was thereupon taken out, arrested, handcuffed behind her back, incarcerated for 21 hours, during which she was kept incommunicado, and criminally prosecuted for "disruption of Congress." By contrast, protestors at last month's May 7th hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee who interrupted the hearing by shouting out for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to be fired and unfurled a "FIRE RUMSFELD" banner were NOT even arrested.
The Center views the case against Ms. Sassower for "disruption of Congress" as a vicious assault on citizens' rights - and retaliation for CJA's longtime public advocacy in exposing the corruption of the federal judicial selection process.
Judge Holeman himself, a recent Bush appointee, 46 years old at the time of his nomination, was approved after a "rubber stamp" confirmation similar to that of Judge Wesley, with no prior judicial or criminal law and procedure experience. Says the Center, "If our First Amendment is to mean anything, civic activists who courageously do their patriotic duty to speak out to stop the tide of governmental corruption of our judicial system at home should be given a medal of honor, not jail time."
Who is Elena R. Sassower
Elena R. Sassower is Coordinator of the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc. (http://www.judgewatch.org), a national nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens' organization that is working to reform the way federal, state, and local judges are selected and disciplined. She is the author of "Without Merit: The Empty Promise of Judicial Discipline," a 1997 essay on the more insidious aspects of judicial misconduct.