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Friday, January 12, 2007

Ohio War Protest Trial: Rummy Out, Rep. Chabot In

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Lawyers for the U.S. House are expected to challenge a Hamilton County municipal court judge's ruling that OH-01 Rep. Steve Chabot must appear as a defense witness for a group of Iraq War protestors who face criminal charges over a sit-in at the Republican's office last September. Judge David Stockdale threw out a motion seeking to force former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to appear at the Jan. 22 trial as a material witness for the five protestors.

Chabot, a conservative first elected to the House in 1994, is starting his 7th term. He has been a supporter of the war. Chabot's House Web site is available here.

Elizabeth A. Tye, an assistant prosecutor for the City of Cincinnati, said neither Chabot nor Rumsfeld were present at the sit-in ''and therefore could not offer any testimony relevant to whether or not the defendant acts constituted criminal trespass." Stockdale, a Republican and former law partner of ex-Ohio Senate President Stanley Aronoff, agreed about Rumsfeld. He said Chabot will have to show up. Tye said Ohio's rules of evidence -- she cited Rule 602 -- blocks testimony from witnesses who lack personal knowledge about an event.

''It is respectfully submitted, that the aforementioned subpoena is vexatious in nature, intended by the Defendant to create spectacle that exceeds the scope of issues before this Court,'' Tye said.

Bill Gallagher, the lawyer who represents the protestors, said after the hearing that the House counsel's office has contacted him and said it would intervene to block Chabot from becoming a witness. ''They said they were going to move to quash," he said, adding that Chabot had been served a subpoena outside a gate at Paul Brown Stadium last fall. At the time, he was campaigning for re-election as fans entered a Cincinnati Bengals football game.

Alt/weekly newspaper editor Greg Flannery, who led the sit-in and is a defendant, said he wants to hear Chabot testify about his support for the war, which the protestors say they consider illegal. ''Citizens are the only people who can take the actions to stop the war, and we think that when the jury hears what we did, and why, and what Chabot has to say, maybe there will be an airing of the illegal policies,'' Flannery said. He is the news editor of City Beat, a 50,000-circulation weekly alternative newspaper that is published in SW Ohio. Flannery said he sees no conflicts protesting the war and working as a journalist. ''We don't start off with the assumption objectivity is good. We have a point of view," he said.

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