The federal hate crimes trial of the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery began in Georgia today. This trial would never have come about had it not been for the courage of Arbery’s mother. She first demanded that the case be taken out of the hands of local officials in Glynn County, Georgia so that a prosecution for murder could take place. Then, she had to go before a judge and demand that Ahmaud Arbery’s killers not be allowed to take a plea deal for hate crimes and spend the first of their sentence in a federal prison. It is outrageous that Arbery’s mother has had to push through legal action against her son’s killers.
The judge in the case is US. District Court judge Lisa Godey Wood.
Jurors were questioned outside the courtroom where reporters and the public were allowed to listen.
After this questioning, the judge dismissed nine of the panelists leaving 16 remaining in the jury pool.
I cannot for the life of me understand why the media continues to call the neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, using his nickname.
One of the potential jurors was dismissed after telling the judge that she had known Bryan and that she felt “sorry for him.”
The prosecutors in the state murder trial almost completely left race out of the discussion.
Sentences for the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were handed down in a Brunswick, Georgia courtroom today. Two of the men, Greg and Travis McMichael, were sentenced to life without parole plus additional years. William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and a consecutive number of years. This means, for Bryan, that after he is eligible for parole in 30 years, this additional sentenced will be added on.
There is no way to celebrate the sentencing of men to prison, but these men participated in a crime so hateful and cruel no other alternative was possible. It bears remembering, though, that had this case been left in the local jurisdiction, there would have been no trial, no conviction, no sentencing.
The local Glynn County authorities tried their hardest to cover up, gloss over, minimize this case. The District Attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson, has herself been indicted for the way she handled the case.
Because of the tenacity of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and the work of various other civil rights activists, this case not only was brought to trial, but was taken out of the hands of the local authorities. So many things had to go perfectly for a guilty verdict to have been rendered.
As a citizen of Glynn County I am still amazed that a nearly all-white jury handed down a guilty verdict.
But, as the prosecutor pointed out, even though the actual chase and killing of Ahmaud Arbery involved minutes, this event was a product of years of preparation. The men involved spent years festering in a stew of racial hatred, suspicion, and entitlement. That has not gone away. It was obvious from the testimony of some of the people in the Satilla Shores neighborhood that they shared the ingrained racism of the defendants.
I do not believe that the case of the District Attorney has been taken out of the hands of local authorities.
When the Ahmaud Arbery case was first being tried, members of the families of others who had been violently treated by local police (and police pretenders) were present. The parents of a young woman who had been shot through the windshield of her parked car and killed were present. The police officers involved were protected and not prosecuted by the office of Jackie Johnson. There are many other cases handled by the DA’s office that we don’t even know about.
I don’t think there can be justice when a young man is hunted down and shot in the street for nothing more than being in a neighborhood where men are prepared to kill if they cannot intimidate. We will soon see if this justice extends to the people who tried to cover it up.
This is the text of the Georgia Citizen’s Arrest law that is being used in the defense of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and killed him in the street.
“A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.”
According to Joseph Margulies, of Cornell University, citizen’s arrest laws date back to before the founding of the country. These laws allowed citizens to detain someone they had seen commit a crime. The laws were designed for an environment in which there were few police.
The Georgia law, updated since then, was put into effect in 1863 and was designed as a slave catching statute. Georgia along with other states, primarily in the south, later expanded these laws to cover citizens arresting someone they reasonably suspected of trying to escape from a felony.
This law was only repealed after Ahmaud Arbery was killed. 
The jury will have to decide whether the three men “reasonably suspected” Arbery of committing a felony and trying to escape. The issue will be whether the predominately white jury thinks that the three white men reasonably believed that Arbery had committed a crime.
Margulies also points out that there is a “stand your ground” law in Georgia which allows the use of deadly force if a person “reasonably believed that they were at risk of serious bodily injury or death.” 
Ira P. Robbins, a law professor at American university who studies these citizen’s arrest laws, wrote: “…a member of the public doesn’t know — and likely cannot understand — the nuances of citizen’s arrest, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force.” “That’s why it is so dangerous for people to take the law into their own hands.”
In an article in the New York Times, a case in surburban Atlanta is described. “…Hannah R. Payne, 22, is awaiting trial on murder charges for the shooting death of Kenneth E. Herring, a 62-year-old mechanic who left the scene of a fender bender last May. Ms. Payne, who was not involved in the crash, chased Mr. Herring in her Jeep.”
“Witnesses told police in Clayton County, Ga., that Ms. Payne blocked Mr. Herring’s truck, approached the open driver’s-side window of his vehicle and punched him with her left hand as she pointed a 9-millimeter firearm with her right.”
“A 911 dispatcher told her (Payne) to stand down, but the police said the call recorded Ms. Payne’s demands: “Get out of the car,” she yelled, using a vulgarity. A single shot was fired, and Mr. Herring stepped out of the truck and died.”
Payne was described by her lawyer as an “all-American girl” who “thought she was helping out,” but she is now “facing a long prison term for a killing that shares eerie similarities to the shooting death of Mr. Arbery, who was killed in February after a father and son told the authorities they thought he was the suspect of a rash of recent break-ins in their neighborhood.”
After the refusal of a Wisconsin court to convict Kyle Rittenhouse for taking it on himself to go armed into a situation where he knew he was going to be at risk and put other people at risk, there will be more of these incidents.
People (including women) are bragging on social media about how they will “pop” you if you cross them. They are proud of this aggressiveness. Women have adopted this Marjorie Taylor Greene “packing and proud of it” mentality. One of the neighbors in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed, testified about usually carrying a gun and running out in the dark in her neighborhood when she thought something was happening. She even testified that she feared her own husband was going to be shot by the McMichaels one night because the husband was in a vacant house site looking for “intruders.”
These citizen’s arrests laws are dangerous, unconscionable, and completely unnecessary.
 In this article, published by NPR, the killing of Ahmaud Arbery is said to have happened “after a fight broke out in the road…” A fight did not “break out.” Three men were pursuing Arbery, cutting him off and positioning themselves so that Arbery was “trapped like a rat” as described by Greg McMichael.
 I do not know if this “stand your ground” law is still in effect. I think it it.
One of the most infuriating parts of trying to cover the trial of the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery is that individual questioning of the jurors is shielded from the public.
When each panel of 20 potential jurors is called before the court, lawyers ask general questions, asking the potential jurors to raise their hand if they agree or disagree with a particular statement. If you are lucky you can catch this part of the trial on Court TV, or a streaming service.
Then, potential jurors in this pool are taken to another room individually and questioned outside the hearing of the other potential jurors. The problem is that the public has no access to this second, individual questioning. Reporters (2 at the time) are allowed to witness this part of the trial, but they are only taking “notes.” This has resulted in a few quotes and a little bit of demographic information for some of the jurors. So, the reporters are not making a transcript, they are taking “notes,” jotting down facts they deem important. As far as I know, the public does not have access to the notes, only other reporters.
So, one of the most important parts of the trial, the selection of the jury, is being essentially held in private outside the view of the public.
At the beginning of the jury selection, Glynn County, Ga, the county where the trial is being held, made a decision to hold the trial in a normal courtroom in the downtown courthouse. This courtroom is not large enough for a high profile trial. And, because of social distancing, the county has limited the number of people in the courtroom.
Defense attorneys tried to make the entire jury questioning process secret and held away from the public. Reports are that the judge in the case made a “compromise” by allowing reporters, two at the time, to sit in the courtroom while individual juror questioning is being conducted.
The reporters are rotated in and out of the courtroom so no reporter is witnessing even an entire day of questioning. I am guessing that they are limited to a couple of hours at the time.
This arrangement serves the interests of journalists, since they can file stories as if they were witnessing the process, and they only have to report a small snippet of what is going on since that’s all they are witnessing and all they are allowed in terms of air time.
It does not, however, serve the interests of the public. First, because reporters are being treated as if this is a favor, they are going to err on the side of not reporting anything they think might get them kicked out of doing the coverage. Second, they are witnessing only a small snippet of the trial and cannot therefore form impressions of trends that may be relevant had they been allowed to witness the entire day. Third, they are either not allowed or not reporting any information about body language or facial reactions. One of the jury experts on Court TV noted that the answers of the jurors were not nearly as important to her as were the pauses, the body language, and the facial expressions of jurors.
Gaetz is certainly a subject of the investigation.
A target means that the prosecutor intends to indict.
Being a subject is not something you should feel good about. It means they’re trying to develop enough information to charge you.
The defense attorney can ask if his/her client is a subject or a target.
Sex trafficking statute. Drugs potentially can go to the coercion part of the law.
Drugs are at the very least a thing of value you can be exchanging for sex.
Mariotti is talking about the decisions that go into charging, whether there is enough evidence to win in court on a specific count.
Mariotti maintains that he would want to have the 17-year-old count. Juries will look at the defendant as such a sleaze they won’t be able to think of anything else.
The Mann Act is a “strange act.” Enacted over a century ago. Weird language in it.
It had been used to prosecute people for sex among adults. People questioned the use. Mariotti maintains that it is not a normal act for the federal government to charge under.
When there are federal Mann act cases, they usually involve child sex trafficking.
My note: Why was Bill Barr so determined to stay away from this case and Matt Gaetz? Why didn’t he quash the case?
There is the speculation that this case is larger than the underage girl question?
Mariotti argues that he would want a slam dunk charge like identity fraud or bank fraud. Then, he would introduce the other sex acts as context. The idea is to convict Gaetz on the fraud charges (the “slam-dunk”) and then tell the judge that the fraud was committed in the context of the sexual behavior which the judge would consider in sentencing.
My note: I don’t really understand this but it sounds sleazy as hell.
My note: Why is Mariotti even talking about Gaetz being charged for political reasons? Is he arguing that they should charge the “slam-dunk” instead of the sex charges because it can be argued that the sex charges are politically motivated? Why? What difference does that even make? Why are people so afraid of what some Republican might say about criminal behavior? If Gaetz has violated the law, he has violated the law.
My note: Mariotti is maintaining that one of the considerations in charging is: “How will this cause people to view the Justice Department differently?” So, what’s Mariotti’s actually saying is that the Justice Department itself is making political decisions (the politics of their own image) in charging.
My note: This is the type of attitude that led Comey to make some of the decisions he made that were so disastrous for the Democrats. He made decisions partly on the basis of what he thought was good for the Justice Department and its image, not on what DOJ policy was and had been when he announced they were not charging Clinton, but probably should have.
My Note: Gaetz was showing photographs of naked women to other men on the floor of the House and bragging that they were his conquests. I would like to know who he showed these photographs to and why they didn’t report him and have him censured? Who were they?
My Note: Matt Gaetz, a Republican, and his behavior with underage girls speaks to the repeated projection by the Republican party. They have spent years accusing Democrats of running a pedophile ring. Now that they have a pedophile in their midst and they are fine with it. It’s all projection. So, I keep thinking about the “baby eating” charge.
The interviewer asks, as a prosecutor would you bring in the fact that Gaetz showed these photos on the House floor? Mariotti says that if he were the judge he would not allow this evidence in because it would be too prejudicial. My note: Jesus Christ.
Mariotti argues that it would be too prejudicial because “Jurors would judge him (Gaetz).” My note: Well, hell yeah. Quite rightly.
Mariotti is talking about “streamlining” cases, what prosecutors do to “streamline” cases. My note: this is part of what’s wrong with the system.
My note: In what universe is Gaetz’s showing nude photos of women on the floor of the House not evidence of a pattern of exploitive behavior towards women?
Gaetz has chosen Mark Mukasey as his attorney. Mukasey’s father was at the Justice Department after Alberto Gonzalez. Mukasey’s a very good trial lawyer, according to Mariotti. He is very closely tied to Giuliani. Perhaps also representing the Trump Organization.
My note: So now we know that Mukasey is part of the club.
Gaetz still thinks he’s living in a world where Trump is president and can shield him.
My note: these men wouldn’t be behaving like this, like they were above the law, if they hadn’t been for their entire lives. The world Mariotti lives in has shielded these elite criminals for decades.
If you are new to the Reality Winner story, this is an excellent place to begin. There are a number of things I disagree with in this podcast, especially the assumptions and analysis of Chris Hayes at certain points, but it is well worth listen to.
• At the beginning of the pandemic, because of the total lack of a federal plan to deal with the problem, New York spent $1.1 billion for supplies to deal with the crisis. According to the New York Times (NYT) Both the state and city governments entered into contracts rushing to try to deal with the pandemic. Now they are trying to avoid paying vendors who they say didn’t deliver on time, and making void contracts now that the crisis has abated. The New York Times called the behavior a “frantic buying spree.” But, this buying “spree” was the result of the lack of a federal plan and the decision to allow states to bid against each other for emergency supplies. (See NYT, 12/17/20)
• Several health care workers in Alaska have had severe reactions to the new vaccine. There is no coverage of the idea that rational people may be reluctant to have a vaccine because it was developed under the Trump administration. There are almost weekly stories about the Trump administration’s successful influence over the CDC. The corporate media is filled with stories about how black people and reluctance to get the vaccine. To give you an idea of how in touch these corporate media people are, one commentator noted that black people were reluctant to get the vaccine because of the Tuskeegee “airmen.” (NYT, 12/17/20)
• The Judiciary is time bomb waiting to explode. (NYT, 12/17/20) The NYT reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration. Trump appointees were “more likely…to disagree with peers selected by Democrats…” and “more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues.” The “published opinions from the nations’ appeals courts this year show that Trump appointees stand out from other judges…” The “conservative imprint” is only deepening. One of the reasons we managed to escape another Trump term is the federal judiciary. But, that is the reason Mitch McConnell is packing the federal courts with “right-thinking” judges. Next time, these judges may side with even the most outrageous lawsuits to maintain the power of the Republican party. McConnell has encouraged federal judges to retire to make room for these more radical colleagues. (NYT, 12/17/20)
• The new version of the stimulus bill doesn’t include the get out of jail fee card for corporations wanted by McConnell (NYT 12/17/20)
The Nevada Independent is reporting that Trump’s campaign and Nevada Republican Party officials have filed an emergency appeal requesting the Nevada Supreme Court to immediately order Clark County to stop processing mail ballots.
Even though a District Court last week, issued an order denying their request, they have gone to the Nevada Supreme Court. The request is for Clark County to stop using an automatic signature verification machine and to stop “duplication” of all mail ballots. The “duplication” occurs when a mail in ballot has something wrong with it that prevents it being processed by a machine, so another ballot is created to record the vote.
If Clark County doesn’t immediately stop counting, the attorneys argue, “Nevadans – and the rest of the country – will be left wondering whether the results of the election are legitimate.”
The Registrar of Voters in Clark County has stated that if the use of the signature verification machine is stopped, it is unlikely that they will be able to complete the counting of ballots by the deadline set by state law.
And, this is exactly the intent. The Republicans will do anything to win, anything.
At a time when many people who have read the information about electronic vote manipulation seriously question the integrity of the vote count in the coming election, FiveThirtyEight, one of the most visible of the polling companies, is already warning us that exit polling will be “even less reliable this year.”
Even though exit polling is extensively used all over the world to monitor the possibility of fraudulent elections, U.S. polling firms and media outlets maintain that their exit polling cannot be used to monitor election integrity. They say that their exit polls are not designed to detect fraud, but to predict elections and flesh out demographics.
Even when the vote count has been widely different from the exit polling, professional pollsters and corporate media pundits have denied even the possibility of fraud in this country.
But, as election integrity expert Jonathan Simon notes in his book “Code Red,”
“America’s electoral system has been corrupted in the most direct and fundamental of ways: the computers that now count virtually all our votes in secret can be—and, the evidence indicates, have been—programmed to cheat…”
And, if the Republicans cheat in this election and eke out tiny margin of victory across a few key states, how will that cheating be uncovered? We as a country have allowed Republicans (and to a certain extent Democrats) to bury the vote counting process in the secrecy of electronic vote counting systems that cannot be meaningfully audited.
“We continued merrily on our way, election to computerized election, sending our votes into the partisan pitch-dark of cyberspace with nothing much besides our thoughts and prayers to protect them.”
What Elie Mystal calls the “elite industrial complex” has already started, before the election(which the Democrats are convinced they are going to win) to make the case for allowing Trump and the Republican crime family escape accountability for all the crimes they have committed not least of which is an attempt to subvert democracy and turn this into an authoritarian kleptocratic state.
We wouldn’t even have a crime network running the government, had we a functioning criminal justice system for white collar, corporate and political criminals. Just take your pick from the various scandals and crimes the Trump family has been accused of ( sexual assault against women, including marital rape; defrauding the U.S. government through racial discrimination in housing; tax fraud; consumer fraud through Trump University; tenant intimidation; bankruptcy fraud; use of undocumented workers, including models; casino fraud; antitrust violations; money laundering; refusing to pay workers and contractors; charitable foundation fraud through the Trump Foundation; various frauds and scams related to ties with organized crime). As Jeff Wise has written in the New Yorker: “His entire life, after all, is one long testament to the power of getting away with things, a master class in criminality without consequences..”
But the elite industrial complex has already started working over time to pave the way for minimizing, normalizing and burying Trump’s crimes.
On October 16, the Washington Post published an astounding article by Jill Lepore who claimed to be responding to a suggestion by Chris Hayes that “if we survive this” (meaning the Trump administration,) we should establish a truth and reconciliation commission. She noted that NPR did a piece about a truth and reconciliation commission the same week.
“This is a terrible idea.” She wrote.
Lepore then reminded the reader that this country has a tradition of a “peaceful transfer of power” and of conceding an election “without violence.” What she didn’t point out was that there is nothing, nothing about a truth and reconciliation commission that implies a non-peaceful transfer of power or a resort to violence. Lepore is, therefore, objecting to something that has never been proposed, setting up a straw man to knock it down. This is how she starts.
Lepore then goes on to quote Thomas Jefferson. “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.”
Lepore is arguing that the crime spree that has taken place in the past four years, calls for violence, threats not to allow an election, reminders by the likes of Mike Lee of Utah that the goal is not democracy, are just errors of opinion. No. These are not errors of opinion. Shaping foreign policy to fulfill your own personal agenda and financial interests instead of that of the country is not an “error of opinion.” Soliciting a bribe from the leader of another country, proposing to release public money in exchange for dirt on a political opponent is not an “error of opinion.” I could go on for pages if not books in this vein, but you get the point. Only an imbecile or a propagandist would call these errors of opinion.
The quote itself ends with a phrase that contradicts Lepore’s premise. Jefferson says to let these folks stand undisturbed “where reason is left free to combat” their wishes to dissolve the union or change its republican form. But, reason is not free to combat this effort at replacing a democratic system with an autocracy. We have Fox News churning out propaganda 24 hours a day. We have social media promoting the worst, most base fear mongering propaganda 24 hours a day. No. Reason is not “left free to combat” the threat. So the quote Lepore’s using contradicts the argument she is advancing.
Lepore then quotes Justice Robert Jackson, chief counsel for the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials. “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
Once again, Leopre’s own quote belies her entire argument. The crimes and attacks on democracy and justice by the Republicans have indeed been “calculated,” “malignant” and “so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored.” And, democracy “cannot survive their being repeated.”
I am not at all convinced that Joe Biden will even win the election. The Republicans have been working for decades to install a system of voter suppression, stuffing the courts with right-wing religious zealots, voting system manipulation, data mining through social media (Cambridge Analytica) and legislation that erodes voting rights. They have too much to lose to allow a Biden win and I do not think they will do so. And withe Supreme Court packed with right-wing ideologues who have no respect for the law, I doubt we will get another chance to hold a fair election.
Lepore goes on to assert that Trump was elected in a “fair election.” But, there is evidence that this is not the case. A former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, an expert in election security, has said as much. We have indictments of Russian nationals who hacked computer systems. We have a Mueller report that details the handing over of computer voting information to the Russians by Paul Manafort. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lepore self-righteously asserts that truth and reconciliation commissions don’t take place after democratic elections. Well, that may well not have been a democratic election.
And, then, idiotically enough, Lepore just asserts, without question, that we can trust “investigative journalism, a functioning judiciary, legislative deliberation and action and dissent” to solve any problems caused by the crime spree of the last four years.
Well, investigative journalism is the first thing to go in newsrooms taken over by conglomerates and has been gutted. We certainly don’t have investigative journalism from television networks that are owned by corporations. The Republicans have worked for decades to stock the courts with ideologues who have no respect for law, but for dogma and some of whom have even been deemed incompetent by their own Bar Association. Mitch McConnell bragged recently on Fox News that he totally blocked any legislative agenda the Obama administration had in the last six years Obama was in office. And, we just had an impeachment process where Republicans in the Senate voted not to even hear evidence against the President, let alone convict him. Dissent has been met with violence and illegal surveillance of the protestors, and Lepore is suggesting we rely on people protesting during a pandemic.
In short, this essay is idiocy and the fact that the Washington Post published it is a travesty. But, as Elie Mystal notes, it’s the “elite industrial complex at work.” Rick Stengel was on MSNBC waxing poetic about the “lovely” way in which the Biden campaign refused to engage in recriminations. And, Joe Biden is part of this complex. As Lepore points out, Biden has already said that pursuing charges against Trump officials is “probably not very…good for democracy.”
“We are facing too many crises, we have too much work to do, we have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.” This was Biden at Gettysburg, delivering a speech that had been carefully crafted to make the case for unilateral surrender.
So, Biden and the “elite industrial complex” like Lepore will work to convince us we just have to engage in “self-reflection.” Sen. Cory Booker thinks what we need is a “return to civic grace.”
Leopore ends with the statement: “Lock him up” cannot be the answer to “lock her up.” What she fails to see, however, is that one of them is guilty and the other is not.