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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cincinnati's Brief In Chabot Sit-In Appeal: Protest Could Not Stop Combat In Iraq

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Cincinnati prosecutors have urged a state court of appeals to uphold the criminal trespass convictions of four anti-war protesters who refused to leave U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot's congressional office last year. The city contends the peaceful sit-in had no effect on U.S. policy, and could not have stopped the war in Iraq.

"At the close of evidence, the jury heard the testimony of the appellants. Through cross-examination, they say it showed that it was not reasonable to argue that the harm appellants wished to prevent -- further killing in Iraq -- could have been prevented by their actions. They admitted that their actions were meant to sway Congressman Chabot to sign the declaration and hopefully influence other politicians to take action to end the war. . . . They knew this was not an immediate goal, one that would take time. Sister Jegen described the anti-war activities as a 'movement.' Mrs. Wolf described it as 'a swell.' None of these descriptions is of an imminent personal emergency or crisis. They are self-professed political views, which have been expressly rejected by the courts as a necessity that invites the commission of a crime."

The four protesters -- Greg Flannery, Ellen Dienger, Barbara Wolf and Sister Mary Jegen -- occupied the OH-01 Republican congressman's office in a downtown tower in September 2006. They wanted him to sign the Declaration of Peace. Chabot was in Washington at the time and the protesters vowed to remain until his return. Police removed them from the building around 8 p.m. They were convicted in Hamilton County Municipal Court earlier this year. The case is now in Ohio's 1st District Court of Appeals.

City Prosecutor Jay G. Littner wrote in his appeals brief that the war protesters' actions were no different than anti-abortion protesters -- and he cited a line of cases showing abortion protesters can be convicted of trespassing for activities outside clinics.

"Abortion protesters across the country have maintained they have a privilege to tresspass on the grounds of abortion clinics due to the necessity of preventing the loss of life. The justification of necessity, however, applies only when a defendant seeks to prevent 'a legal harm or evil as opposed to a moral or ethical belief of the individual defendant.' . . . In both anti-war and abortion cases, courts have emphasized that necessity must be based upon a real emergency in which there are no other solutions."

Littner added that the Chabot protesters believed in their cause, but it did not override the law.

"The state does not argue that the appellants lacked credibility; their views were heartfelt and sincere. But this did not weaken the state's proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

The protesters believe they were denied a fair trial in Cincinnati. The appeals court has not yet set oral arguments on the case. Chabot supports the war and is seeking reelection next year. President Bush was in town last month for a fundraiser that put money in the bank for Chabot's reelection bid.

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