Judge Denies Capitol Riot Defendant’s Request For Luxury Mexican Vacation
September 26, 2022
In one of the most memorable scenes from the popular film My Cousin Vinny, Judge Chamberlain Haller (played by Fred Gwynne) responds to the request of defendant Joe Pesci that he be permitted to travel to Rome,
Italy to attend his mother’s funeral. Judge Haller denies the request and swiftly punishes Mr. Pesci with a bench slap, whereupon Mr. Pesci falls off his chair onto the floor, screaming, Ow!
The judge drops a benchslap
Dressed in street clothes, Larissa Martinez pulled out her phone and began taking video of the courtroom. District Court Judge John O’Boyle immediately cut off her recording. Turn that off, he said sternly. With a voice full of indignation, she retorted: What are you hiding?
But the defendant was no match for a judge well-versed in quelling courtroom outbursts as he coldly shut down her requests. But not every defendant has such short-lived defiance—for some, their requests fall on more sympathetic ears.
Late last month, an activist charged with breaking windows and disturbing the peace during last year’s Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C., filed a motion requesting he be allowed to visit Mexico on vacation as he awaited his next hearing.
The judge overseeing the case swiftly denied the request, not allowing more than five days of intermittent release over two years. You can go to jail or you can stay home, Judge Lynn Leibovitz said. But you cannot avoid what will happen next by going to Mexico.
The judge’s ruling gives a glimpse into what may be in store for other arrested protesters if authorities seek to prosecute. Twenty-one defendants have been charged with rioting, inciting a riot, and destruction of property. A grand jury has handed up an indictment.
And prosecutors have asked that they all be held while they await trial. That appears likely after Leibovitz rebuffed a request to give one defendant – Taylor Hudson –
permission to travel outside Washington, D.C., and Maryland for nine days in February. Allowing Mr. Hudson any intermittent release, even five days out of every 60 over two years, would undermine these efforts, she wrote in an opinion issued last week.
Nathan Neiweem, the defendant in the #J20 conspiracy case of one of the riots that erupted at Trump’s inauguration, has been denied a luxury vacation by Judge Lynn Leibovitz.
This is not unusual – defendants convicted of crimes typically serve out their sentences at facilities near their homes while they are still under court supervision. What is unusual is that this denial came without much explanation.
In his request for an up to five-day stay at a luxury hotel in Mexico, Neiweem said he wanted time to decompress and visit with.
The vacation, Neiweem said, would help him mentally prepare for a four-month stint in prison. The stay would be funded by his parents and friends. He said it was a necessity, not a privilege: I fear that I will be unable to effectively decompress from my situation outside of Mexico.
Update on the defendant
The defendant, Carmelo Garcia, wanted the court to consider his circumstances when sentencing him. Judge Riley disallowed the request and said that Garcia didn’t get it.
Specifically, Garcia argued that he had missed significant time with his family because of the arrest and incarceration.
Judge Riley responded that he should have taken better care of himself and planned accordingly if he wanted to spend a vacation with his family.
Furthermore, Garcia continued that traveling to Mexico was cheaper than paying $2,000 in legal fees. Judge Riley ordered a brief recess before responding:
Yes… that’s right. He continued to slam Garcia for not taking more responsibility for his actions.
Analysis of the ruling
Recently, in the state of Oregon, a defendant, who participated in a riot on the West Lawn of the Oregon State Capitol Building during a protest, filed for permission to go on vacation to Mexico.
As part of his motion, he cited that the disturbances at the protest have not been substantiated and should not be considered as dangerous because they involved verbal arguments and property damage.
However, even though this is true it is only one side of the story and many people saw physical altercations as well. This includes reports from an officer who was escorting an individual out of the lobby when he was kicked by someone else in the crowd.
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