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After Guilty Verdicts in 1st January 6 Trial of Reffitt With Public No Call In Line Now on Denney Too?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - Song

FEDERAL COURT, March 14 – While January 6 cases like US v. Guy Reffitt have from their beginnings been available to cover by public call-in phone lines, now the US v. Reffitt trial and its guilty verdicts had no call-in lines.

On March 8 after three hours of deliberation Reffitt was found guilty of all five felony counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, carrying a firearm during the attack and threatening witnesses.  Reffitt faces a maximum of 20 years in prison from the obstruction counts alone.  All the more reason to have a call-in line.

And this: "Defendant Lucas Denney is being unlawfully detained without a valid charging instrument having been filed within the time frame mandated by statute. Mr. Denney urges this Court to Order the immediate dismissal of this matter, and his release from custody FORTHWITH. Dismissal is mandatory. Whether that dismissal is to be entered with or without prejudice is a matter that can be reserved for another day. The matter of Mr. Lucas’s liberty cannot and should not wait for another day. PROCEDURAL HISTORY Defendant Denney was arrested on December 13, 2021, pursuant to a Warrant issued from this Court. Case No. 21 mj 686, ECF No. 5. As of the date of this Motion, no indictment has been filed in this matter charging Mr. Denney with any federal crime. As of the date of this Motion, Mr. Denney has not made any appearance in this District, and has not appeared in any Court since December 17, 2021. Mr. Denny has been held in custody since the date of his arrest, and is currently house Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, in the care, custody, and control of the United States Marshal."

From the docket: "    Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Randolph D. Moss: Video (Zoom) Status Conference as to LUCAS DENNEY held on 3/14/2022. Case called for an Arraignment but not held. Defendant consented to proceeding by video. Due Process Protections Act Order read into the record by the Court. Oral motion by Defendant to proceed today with an arraignment and enter a plea of guilty to the Indictment; HEARD and DENIED, for the reasons stated on the record. Counsel shall submit their respective guidelines calculations, including any criminal history, by 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday. An Arraignment/Plea is set for 3/17/2022, at 3:30 PM, in Courtroom 8, before Judge Randolph D. Moss." Again no call-in line?

On March 9 - while Judge Friedrich held a criminal proceeding about crack with a public call in line - this was docketed: "MINUTE ORDER. On or before March 10, 2022, the parties shall file any objections to the Court unsealing the following portions of the trial record: (1) the parties' March 1, 2022 email to the Court summarizing their respective juror strikes; (2) all bench conferences (except for those related to alleged victims and medical issues); and (3) the inquiry that took place on March 4, 2022 and referenced an alternate juror. So Ordered by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on March 9, 2022"

Inner City Press on February 3 requested a public call-in line, in writing, here. It has covering the case from the beginning, here. It continues to cover other January 6 cases, for example US v. Hale-Cusanelli on February 28, here. But also on February 28, jury selection in US v. Reffitt began, with no call-in line.

  Late on March 1, Judge Friedrich docketed this: "MINUTE ORDER. Before the Court is Matthew Russell Lee's email [117] Letter, which the Court construes as an application requesting that the public call-in line be open during trial. The Court just discovered this in its spam email box. For the reasons stated on the record on February 28, 2022, Lee's [117] application for public call-in is DENIED. So Ordered by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on March 1, 2022. (lcdlf2)."

   But of course, since there had been and still is no call-in line, the basis of Judge Friedrich's decision was not available to Inner City Press. Thanks to a colleague in DC, Inner City Press now has the February 28 transcript, in which Judge Friedrich said: "the public line will be closed during trial under Federal Rule of Evidence 615. Witnesses are excluded from the courtroom so that they cannot hear other witnesses' testimony. This rule serves to prevent one witness from shaping his testimony to match that given by another witness at the trial. Tasty Baking Company v. NLRB, 254 F.3d at 122 to 23. If the public line were to be open, there would be no way to monitor whether trial witnesses were listening by phone. The public line will also be closed during voir dire to respect the privacy of the venire members whose presence is compelled and who must answer questions about their personal lives and views. The Court concludes that the access outlined above is more than sufficient to qualify this trial as an open and public proceeding."

We disagree. The balance between public and unsubstantiated fears about witnesses (or, seemingly, a single witness, Reffitt's unflipped daughter) has been misapplied.

 And on March 7 it emerged that the prosecutors are NOT calling the daughter, Peyton Reffitt, as a witness. So this rationale for excluding the public is done. But it proceeding to closing arguments with no public call-in line - and a diversion, echoing Judge Rakoff on Sarah Palin v. NYT in the SDNY, about push notification as a basis to defer running on a Rule 29 motion.

Inner City Press has now put Judge Friedrich's Reffitt jury instructions on its DocumentCloud here, after "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Dabney L. Friedrich:Jury Trial as to GUY WESLEY REFFITT held on 3/7/2022. Same jury and alternates. Parties give closing arguments. Court excuses alternates. Jury Deliberation set for 3/8/2022 at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 14- In Person before Judge Dabney L. Friedrich. Bond Status of Defendant: Remains Committed; Court Reporter: Sara Wick & Lorraine Hermann; Defense Attorney: William Lawrence Welch, III; US Attorney: Jeffrey S. Nestler and Risa Berkower. Witnesses: Adam Descamp, Thomas Ryan and Matthew Flood." We'll have more on this but for now this from the exhibits, and consider this, from CNN:

"Judge Dabney Friedrich will also allow one family member of defendant Guy Reffitt to sit in the courtroom during the proceedings. The decision gives the public, ultimately, more access to the atmospherics of the trial, and will insure everything that is said and done in the courtroom is witnessed by people who are not part of the trial itself. 'The journalists we represent appreciate the court making sure that the public receives in-person accounts of this historic trial, as the First Amendment requires,' attorney Charles Tobin, whose law firm Ballard Spahr who represented a coalition of media groups including CNN, said Tuesday." So a family member can be in, anyway. We fail to appreciate...

Song here.  

For now, we'll report that Judge Dabney Friedrich told prospective jurors to turn off their phones for news alert notifications - an echo of the Sarah Palin v. New York Times fiasco in the Southern District of New York (where the US v. Lev Parnas trial, for example, was available worldwide by call-in line).  

 On the UN beat, with Inner City Press also covers, prospective juror # 16 seems to be the stepson of Kelly Craft,  US Ambassador to the UN under the previous Administration. We'll have more on this. 


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