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Choi court brief compares Obama to Nixon

Compares the President’s role in prosecution to Watergate scandal

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A 59-page legal brief filed in defense of gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi cites the Nixon Watergate scandal and suggests that President Obama played a role in a decision to “illegally” prosecute Choi under a harsher than usual federal law following his arrest last November for chaining himself to the White House fence.

The brief filed Sept. 20 by Choi’s attorney, Robert Feldman, calls on U.S. District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth to deny a Petition for Writ of Mandamus by prosecutors. The petition asks the court to prohibit Choi from arguing in his ongoing trial that the government waged a “selective/vindictive” prosecution against him. The trial was suspended for at least 10 days while Lamberth deliberates over the Writ of Mandamus petition.

Choi and 12 other protesters were arrested Nov. 15, 2010 for refusing to obey a “legal order” by U.S. Park Police to disperse from the White House fence during a protest against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The others agreed to plead guilty in exchange for the government’s promise to dismiss the case against them if they didn’t get arrested for a period of four months.

“Even more damaging, evidence was exposed during Lt. Choi’s criminal trial indicating that the paper trail of this government persecution of Lt. Choi led – like the Watergate tapes snaked their way back to President Nixon – directly to President Obama himself, who was/is not only personally opposed to gay equality, but was, as the self-described legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., deeply humiliated by being criticized by Lt. Choi and others for enforcing discriminatory laws (like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) against gay Americans,” Feldman states in his brief.

Feldman has argued that a chain of e-mails between former gay White House aide Brian Bond; the U.S. Park Police, who arrested Choi at the protest; and the Secret Service indicates that the White House may have been involved in orchestrating the prosecution. But no evidence has surfaced to show Obama was aware of the e-mails, and prosecutors say the charging decision was a legitimate, legal action made by Park Police.

A spokesperson said the White House doesn’t comment on pending court cases.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, the lead prosecutor in the case, has called on Lamberth to overrule an opinion by Magistrate Judge John Facciola, who is presiding over Choi’s trial. George argues in the Petition for Writ of Mandamus that Facciola improperly issued a preliminary finding that Choi presented sufficient evidence indicating a “selective” or “vindictive” prosecution may have occurred.

“It is well within the broad discretion afforded the prosecutor to bring any charge for which probable cause exists against a person who has three times in nine months engaged in the same illegal conduct,” George states in her court petition.

She was referring to Choi’s two prior arrests in 2010 for handcuffing himself to the White House fence during separate protests against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Feldman has argued that Choi was exercising his First Amendment right to peaceably protest against the government in all three cases and that the arrests were illegal because they violated his constitutional rights.

Lamberth was expected to rule on whether or not Choi can continue to use a “selective” or “vindictive” prosecution defense within the next week or two.

In a related development, two of the other activists arrested with Choi last November who accepted the plea agreement in May filed petitions in court last week asking a judge to allow them to withdraw their guilty pleas and to take their case to trial. An attorney representing arrestees Miriam Ben-Shalom and Ian Finkenbinder said evidence of a selective or vindictive prosecution that surfaced in Choi’s trial prompted them to determine that they should not have agreed to the guilty plea. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, who presides over their case, is expected to decide on the matter after prosecutors file a response to their request to withdraw the guilty pleas.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    September 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Deny the Writ of Mandamus and let the trial continue. If Choi wants to appeal his pending conviction he has the right to do so.

  2. Robertjfeldman

    October 2, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Thank you Lou for your incisive, smart and balanced reporting.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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Equality Virginia announces new executive director

Narissa Rahaman will succeed Vee Lamneck

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Narissa Rahaman (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

Equality Virginia on Saturday announced Narissa Rahaman will be the organization’s new executive director.

Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Regional Campaign Director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida.

“Narissa also has 10+ years of experience in long-term strategic planning, multi-state organizing efforts, coalition management, and staff development, which make her an exceptional individual for the role of executive director,” said Equality Virginia in its announcement. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact will continue to flourish as will our commitment to racial justice.”

Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.

Equality Virginia’s annual lobby day will take place virtually on Jan. 25. The organization’s annual Commonwealth Dinner is scheduled to take place in Richmond on March 26.

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Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Va. governor

Republican backed teacher who opposed trans student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at his swearing in in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 15, 2022 (YouTube screenshot)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Saturday amid concerns that he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in the state.

“Today we gather not as individuals, not as Republicans and Democrats,” said Youngkin after his swearing in. “Today we gather as Virginians.”

Former Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are among those who attended the ceremony that took place at the State Capitol. Terry McAuliffe, who Youngkin defeated in the general election, did not attend because of a COVID-19 scare.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin on Thursday named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

“We will remove politics from the classroom and focus on the essentials,” said Youngkin in his inaugural speech, without specifically mentioning LGBTQ students.

He added “parents should have a say in what is taught in schools.”

Youngkin has also expressed his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and would “support that” as governor.

Lieutenant Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares also took office on Saturday.

Winsome, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is the first woman and first female of color elected lieutenant governor. Miyares, a former House member whose mother was born in Cuba, is Virginia’s first Latino attorney general.

Youngkin in his inaugural speech noted “the people of Virginia just elected the most diverse leadership” in the state’s history. Youngkin’s first executive order ends “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia schools) and other “divisive concepts” in Virginia’s public schools.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday.

Republicans control the House by a 52-48 margin. Democrats have a 21-19 edge in the Virginia Senate.

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