SASSOWER JAILED FOR ASKING A QUESTION DURING A PUBLIC JUDICIARY HEARING
July 25, 2004
12:50 AM Eastern
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.
Sassower was not allowed any stay or bail; she is currently serving her six month sentence.
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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...