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In SDNY Guilty Plea Was Moved To Locked Courtroom for Malik Nicholas Then Press Derided

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Feb 14 – Malik Nicholas was indicted in May 2019 and appeared and pled not guilty in the Magistrates Court of the U.S. District Court for the Southern Districe of New York on May 30, represented by Marc Greenwald of the Quinn Emanuel law firm.

    By November 12, 2019 Assistant US Attorney Adam S. Hobson wrote to SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon that "the parties have been discussing a disposition of this case."  Hobson said, in open court on June 10, 2019, that Malik Nicholas is a "suspected member of the Mac Ballas gang."

    On February 14, 2020 Inner City Press went to the SDNY Magistrates Court to witness and report on Malik Nicholas' guilty plea. When it arrived, already the court reporter was present, along with AUSA Hobson, the defendant and two lawyers, and two U.S. Marshals. There was no other media present.

   But before the change of plea proceeding began, the lawyers and surprising one of the Marshalls were summoned back into the Magistrate Court's robing room by the Deputy to presiding Magistrates Court Judge Robert W. Lehburger.  

  After a time they re-emerged. Nothing was said on the record, or even audibly. But the court reporter left, and Malik Nicholas was taken back into the holding cell, which like the judges' column has its own elevator system.

    Finding this strange, Inner City Press went up to the 26th floor to the courtroom of the assigned District Judge, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon. Her courtroom was unlocked, but empty.  

  Down on the 18th floor, Magistrate Judge Lehrburger's Courtroom 18D was locked. But it was visible that he was on the bench - that a proceeding was taking place behind the locked doors.  

    Inner City Press' attempts to inquire did not result in any answer before the exit from the locked courtroom first of the court reporter, then of one of Malik Nicholas' two lawyers. Inner City Press asked him if this was the same case as had been canceled down in the Magistrates Court.

 He said he didn't know what had been down in the Magistrates Court, even though Inner City Press had seen him there, and seen him enter the robing room. 

  Then AUSA Hobson, at least more forthright, emerged from Judge Lehrburger's locked courtroom. Inner City Press asked him why the proceeding had been moved. He said it was at the Judge's request. Inner City Press said, The courtroom was locked. 

 AUSA Hobson said, I didn't lock it. Inner City Press said, in the US v. Schulte CIA leaks cases, there was public notice and a public hearing on sealing the courtroom. (See Inner City Press' filing into the docket, here.)

  In this case of Malik Nicholas, there was no notice or explanation of sealing. By then AUSA Hobson had hopped on the elevator and was gone.

Nine hour later, no explanation. Instead, when Inner City Press returned to the Magistrates Court later on February 14 to cover a multi-defendant Medicaid fraud takedown, Judge Lehrburger's Deputy made a point of saying loudly to all those present in the then-full Magistrates Court while gesturing at Inner City Press, "Have you met the courthouse blogger? He write down everything that is said here."

One attorney added, "It's not a real job."

The child of one of the defendants asked Inner City Press, "Does that lady not like you? 'Cuz that was rude." Yes, it was. Worse, it appeared people present to be retaliation for actual reporting, as contrary to freedom of the press as locking the courtroom door. Magistrate Judge Lehrburger's Deputy Clerk is Rupa Shah - because yes, Inner City Press writes everything down that it can. But every day is a new day in the courthouse.

Inner City Press will have more on these issues, and on this case. It is US v. Malik Nicholas, 19-cr-380 (McMahon / Lehrburger). 


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