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Friday, January 05, 2007

Ohio Editor: Demands Rumsfeld As 'Material Witness'

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Alt weekly news editor Greg Flannery carried through on his pledge and filed court papers Friday asking an Ohio judge to order former Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld to appear as a 'material witness' at Flannery's trial later this month on a charge that grew out of an Iraq War protest.

Flannery, whose lawyer filed the motion seeking Rumsfeld around 2 p.m., is accused of trespassing in the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, in September. He and six others sought the Oh-01 congressman's signature on the ''Declaration of Peace, Congressional Pledge." The pledge supports legislation to end the Iraq War and bring the troops home. Flannery is the news editor of Cincinnati City Beat, an alternative weekly newspaper. The motion for an order declaring Rumsfeld a material witness is scheduled for a hearing Jan. 12 before Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge David Stockdale. The trial is supposed to begin on Jan. 22. (Case No: 06 CRB 38497, State of Ohio v. Greg Flannery).

The docket is available on the county court clerk's Web site. The declaration of peace is also on the Web.

In an interview on the courthouse steps, Flannery said he has long been an opponent of the war . "I felt compelled to act,'' he said of the sit-in at Chabot's office. "People are dying as a result of an illegal war. It's being fought in my name and with my money. I think it is wrong. I spoke out."

Barbara Wolf, another protestor facing the same charge, said she wants Rumsfeld to explain under oath ''if the war was based on a lie. If this is based on a lie, we and the citizens need to know this."

William R. Gallagher, their defense lawyer, said 650,000 Iraqis and more than 3,000 U.S. military members have died in the war and that Rumsfeld's actions triggered the protest. ''Mr. Rumsfeld possesses information, data and evidence vital to the defense of this charge,'' Gallagher said.

Some are dismissing the move to call Rumsfeld as a publicity stunt and political theater. They might be right. Publicity stunts and theater are staples of American political life going all the way back to the Boston Tea Party. A recent successful example was the Contract With America, which conservative Republicans led by Newt Gingrich used to capture the U.S. House for 12 years.

Gallagher declined to handicap his chances of netting Rumsfeld for the trial. ''It's a unique request. Maybe because it is unique increases its chances of success. Rumsfeld is just an average citizen now. All Rumsfeld's doing is picking up a pension check, I suppose," he said.

At this point, there is no legal opposition to the motion. Something may materialize next week. It could come from Rumsfeld himself, the U.S. Justice Department or local prosecutors. Or, the order could be issued requiring an appearance in Ohio -- but it would be subject to challenge in the state where Rumsfeld resides.

Another possibility: The former defense secretary goes to an ''undisclosed location" where the court order could not be served upon him. (Would Vice President Dick Cheney loan him a hideout?)

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