George Donnelly

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George S. Donnelly
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Independent journalist

George S. Donnelly (http://georgedonnelly.com/) (BOP Reg. #65301-066) (Case No. 2:10-mj-00757) was arrested after filming at the Edward N. Cahn Federal Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania.[1] He is presently charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Julian Heicklen described the episode as follows:[2]

At 12:10 pm, six federal marshals approached us in a confrontational manner and said we could not pass out literature nor take pictures. They stood right in front of each of us, no more than 6 inches away, so that we could not communicate with passersby. These were 6 of the most obnoxious people I have ever met. We asked the marshals to identify themselves, but they refused. We would not identify ourselves. George attempted to take a picture, but they seized George’s camera. He attempted to retrieve it, but they they threw George to the ground. Then they decided to arrest him for assault. They were joined by a 7th marshal.

Current case information[edit]

Files[edit]

Charge[edit]

SIMPLE ASSAULT UPON A FEMALE UNITED STATES COURT SECURITY OFFICER, AND IMPEDED GOVERNMENT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR LAWFUL DUTIES AND FAILED TO COMPLY WITH LAWFUL DIRECTIONS OF FEDERAL OF FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ON FEDERAL PROPERTY IN VIOLATION OF 18 U.S.C. 113 (a)(5) AND 41 C.F.R. 102-74.385 AND 41 C.F.R. 102-74.390

Docket[edit]

Date Filed # Docket Text 05/28/2010 1 COMPLAINT AND AFFIDAVIT OF ENRIQUE TREVINO DEPUTY U.S MARSHAL as to GEORGE DONNELLY (1). (mas, ) (Entered: 06/01/2010)

Original case[edit]

Donnelly was originally charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain United States Government officers or employees. Specifically, he was accused of resisting Deputy U.S. Marshal Enrique Trevino and Court Security Officer Claire Burns and striking the latter. The allegation of physical contact upped the statutory maximum to 8 years, and ups the offense level from 10 to 13 under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, for a guideline range of 12-18 months, assuming no prior criminal history. There was also a possibility that supervised release would be imposed. These charges were dropped.

Donnelly declined to be represented by court-appointed counsel. He was temporarily detained but released from custody on May 13, 2010.[3] Donnelly has stated, "I need a skilled criminal defense lawyer who gets that I'm an indie journalist just exercising that 1A. Please help me find someone. My life, liberty and property are on the line." He did ultimately get a private lawyer.

Donnelly's May 25 probable cause hearing was postponed. Per Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5.1(f), "If the magistrate judge finds no probable cause to believe an offense has been committed or the defendant committed it, the magistrate judge must dismiss the complaint and discharge the defendant. A discharge does not preclude the government from later prosecuting the defendant for the same offense." Ultimately, the judge issued an order stating, "IT IS HEREBY ORDERED this 24th day of May, 2010, that the Order for the Hearing scheduled on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, for the above named defendant, is hereby cancelled based on the Governments Representation that the Complaint & Warrant will be withdrawn."

House arrest[edit]

Donnelly was subjected to some rather onerous conditions of house arrest:

  • Bail in the amount of $50,000
  • Defendant shall submit to random drug testing as directed by pretrial services
  • Defendant shall undergo drug/alcohol treatment if necessary, as determined by pretrial services
  • Defendant shall submit to electronic monitoring
  • Defendant must obtain a land line
  • Defendant may drive to food store three times per week, and must submit receipts to pretrial services, with prior approval of pretrial services
  • Travel restricted to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Defendant shall surrender and/or refrain from obtaining or applying for a passport
  • Defendant shall surrender and/or refrain from obtaining any firearms
  • Defendant shall have no contact with co-defendants in this case, or individuals engaged in any criminal activity
  • Defendant may not publicize names, images or locations of officers or release information to anyone else

Contact info[edit]

Those wishing to request (or demand) that the case be dropped can contact the United States Attorney at:

Zane David Memeger
United States Attorney
United States Attorney's Office
615 Chestnut Street
Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106

You can also call US Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter (PA) at 202-224-3121. See also http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

Sample letters[edit]

Court documents[edit]

Case information as of May 13, 2010[edit]

The following information was gathered from PACER.

Case Summary[edit]

2:10-mj-00757 USA v. DONNELLY
Date filed: 05/12/2010
Date of last filing: 05/12/2010

GEORGE DONNELLY (2)
Office: Philadelphia Filed: 05/12/2010
County: Philadelphia Terminated: Reopened:
Other Court Case: None

Complaint Citation: Offense level: 4

FORCIBLY ASSAULTED, RESISTED, OPPOSED, IMPEDED, INTIMIDATED, AND INTERFERED WITH PERSONS DESIGNATED IN SECTION 1114 OF TITLE 18 OF THE U.S. CODE, THAT IS, A COURT SECURITY OFFICER AND A DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL, WHILE THEY WERE ENGAGED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES, AND SUCH ACTS INVOLVED PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH THE VICTIMS IN VIOLATION OF TITLE TITLE 18:111
Def Custody Status: Custody This Court

Defendant: GEORGE DONNELLY
Plaintiff: USA represented by SETH WEBER
Phone: 215-861-8411
Fax: 215-861-8349
Email: seth.weber@usdoj.gov

United States District Court
Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

Docket[edit]

CRIMINAL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 2:10-mj-00757 All Defendants

Case title: USA v. DONNELLY
Date Filed: 05/12/2010
Assigned to: Unassigned

Defendant (2)
GEORGE DONNELLY

Pending Counts
Disposition
None

Highest Offense Level (Opening)
None

Terminated Counts
Disposition
None

Highest Offense Level (Terminated)
None

Complaints
Disposition
FORCIBLY ASSAULTED, RESISTED, OPPOSED, IMPEDED, INTIMIDATED, AND INTERFERED WITH PERSONS DESIGNATED IN SECTION 1114 OF TITLE 18 OF THE U.S. CODE, THAT IS, A COURT SECURITY OFFICER AND A DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL, WHILE THEY WERE ENGAGED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES, AND SUCH ACTS INVOLVED PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH THE VICTIMS IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 18:111

Plaintiff
USA represented by SETH WEBER
U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
615 CHESTNUT ST.
SUITE 1250
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106
215-861-8411
Fax: 215-861-8349
Email: seth.weber@usdoj.gov
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED

Date Filed # Docket Text
05/11/2010 Arrest of GEORGE DONNELLY (mac, ) (Entered: 05/13/2010)
05/12/2010 1 COMPLAINT as to GEORGE DONNELLY (2). (mac, ) (Entered: 05/12/2010)
05/12/2010 2 Minute Entry for proceedings held before MAGISTRATE JUDGE HENRY S. PERKIN Initial Appearance/AC as to GEORGE DONNELLY held on 5/12/10. The Government's Motion for Temporary Detention is Granted. A status hearing is scheduled for May 13, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. before the Honorable Henry S. Perkin in Courtroom 5A. Signed by Judge Henry S. Perkin.Court Reporter ESR.(mac, ) (Entered: 05/13/2010)
05/14/2010 3 Minute Entry for proceedings held before MAGISTRATE JUDGE HENRY S. PERKIN Status Hearing on PTD and PC; ORDER OF DETENTION as to GEORGE DONNELLY held on 5/13/10. Government and Defense have agreed to conditions of release. At the request of Defendant and the Government, a probable cause hearing will be held in the Edward N. Cahn U.S. Federal Courthouse, 504 W. Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA during the week of May 24th, 2010 at a date and time to be determined by Judge Henry S. Perkin.Court Reporter ESR.(mas, ) (Entered: 05/14/2010)
05/14/2010 O/R Bond Entered as to GEORGE DONNELLY in amount of $ 50,000.00, (mas, ) (Entered: 05/14/2010)
05/14/2010 4 ORDER SETTING CONDITIONS OF RELEASE AS TO GEORGE DONNELLY (2) DEFENDANT RELEASED ON 50,000.0 O/R Bond. Signed by MAGISTRATE JUDGE HENRY S. PERKIN on 5/13/10.5/14/10 Entered and Copies Mailed, E-Mailed and Faxed BY COURTROOM DEPUTY. (mas, ) (Entered: 05/14/2010)
05/14/2010 5 PROHIBITION ON POSSESSION OF FIREARM(S) AGREEMENT AND ORDER AS TO GEORGE DONNELLY THAT THE DISTRICT COURT, AS A CONDITION OF YOUR RELEASE PENDING JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS, HAS ORDERED THAT YOU REFRAIN FROM POSSESSING A FIREARM. THIS CONDITION EXPRESSLY PROHIBITS YOU FROM CARRYING A FIREARM OR POSSESSING A FIREARM INSIDE YOUR RESIDENCE, PLACE OF TEMPORARY OCCUPANCY RO VEHICLE; ETC. AS HEREIN. Signed by MAGISTRATE JUDGE HENRY S. PERKIN on 5/13/10.5/14/10 Entered and Copies Mailed, E-Mailed and Faxed BY COURTROOM DEPUTY. (mas, ) (Entered: 05/14/2010)
05/17/2010 6 NOTICE OF HEARING as to GEORGE DONNELLY: YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED TO appear for a Probable Cause hearing on the above Complaint & Warrant, before United States Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:30 pm, in Courtroom No. 4A on the 4th Floor, Edward N. Cahn United States Courthouse, 504 W. Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA, etc. (er, ) (Entered: 05/17/2010)
05/19/2010 7 NOTICE OF ATTORNEY APPEARANCE PAUL J. HETZNECKER appearing for GEORGE DONNELLY (HETZNECKER, PAUL) (Entered: 05/19/2010)
05/25/2010 8 ORDER AS TO GEORGE DONNELLY THAT THE ORDER FOR THE HEARING SCHEDULED ON TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2010, FOR THE ABOVE NAMED DEFENDANT, IS HEREBY CANCELLED BASED ON THE GOVERNMENTS REPRESENTATION THAT THE COMPLAINT & WARRANT WILL BE WITHDRAWN. SIGNED BY MAGISTRATE JUDGE HENRY S. PERKIN on 5/24/10. 5/25/10 Entered and Copies Mailed, E-Mailed and Faxed by Courtroom Deputy. (er, ) (Entered: 05/25/2010)
05/25/2010 ***Terminate Deadlines and Hearings as to GEORGE DONNELLY: (er, ) (Entered: 05/25/2010)

Analysis[edit]

Ethical issues[edit]

One could argue that the Donnelly's filming in a free speech zone was protected by the U.S. Constitution and that therefore he was acting within his rights. This argument might prevail in a government court, but it has no moral weight. Our natural rights do not, and cannot, stem from a Constitution that has no validity as a source of law, given that it was not a contract that we ever consented to. Rather, our natural rights stem from the nature of man. Man requires liberty in order to live and prosper, which implies being free from involuntary contracts. Government unethically arrogates power to itself without the unanimous consent of the governed. As Ludwig von Mises stated, "Government is essentially the negation of liberty,"[4] and it should be abolished.

It is unethical for the government to extort money from taxpayers to fund the prosecution and incarceration of George Donnelly or anyone else. It is also unethical for the U.S. Marshal to use physical force to control property that the government has no rightful claim to. The courthouse, its grounds, the neighboring sidewalks and streets, etc. rightfully should be considered unowned property that can be used by anyone for any purpose (such as filming) that does not infringe on the rights of others, until said unowned property is homesteaded and converted into private property. Therefore, there was no justification for the officers laying hands on Donnelly. If, for the sake of argument, physical contact did occur in the course of this incident, it is probably the officer's fault under the common law principle of son assault demesne. The government is not alleging that physical injury occurred from this incident, so it would be hard for them to claim that excessive force was used by Donnelly.

By using government property for his own purposes (i.e. filming), Donnelly was actually performing a good and useful work. If anything, the U.S. Marshal should be charged with forcibly assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with Donnelly. In the words of Murray Rothbard:[5]

[A]s a criminal organization with all of its income and assets derived from the crime of taxation, the State cannot possess any just property. This means that it cannot be unjust or immoral to fail to pay taxes to the State, to appropriate the property of the State (which is in the hands of aggressors), to refuse to obey State orders, or to break contracts with the State (since it cannot be unjust to break contracts with criminals). Morally, from the point of view of proper political philosophy, “stealing” from the State, for example, is removing property from criminal hands, is, in a sense, “homesteading” property, except that instead of homesteading unused land, the person is removing property from the criminal sector of society—a positive good.

Moral law is of higher authority than constitutional or statutory law. Therefore, regardless of the legal technicalities involved in this case, the charges against Donnelly should be dropped.

The purpose of political trials[edit]

Why is the government going to such great lengths to throw the book at Donnelly? Political trials such as this serve several purposes for the state. They are a show of force designed to frighten fellow activists so that they will be more reluctant to exercise their rights. They force the defendant and his supporters to devote time and resources to defending him. And they allow the government to impose conditions of house arrest that hinder the defendant's ability to function as an activist, breadwinner, etc. and that, over time, may wear down the defendant and break his will. The defendant is effectively silenced because if he speaks publicly, the prosecution may find a way to twist his statements and use them against him. The branding of a movement's activists as criminals can also be part of an attempt to discredit that movement in the eyes of the public.

The uncertainty involved in not knowing what one's fate is can be very stressful. Some defendants find that misguided friends and family members worsen the situation by blaming the government's victim, rather than the government, for the situation. When the case enters the plea bargaining stage, the government can say to the defendant something to the effect of, "We know this house arrest has been very tough on you and your family. Haven't you had enough? Aren't you ready to get on with your life? We want to help you do that, but in order for us to help you, first you'll need to help yourself, and us, by signing this plea agreement. Your guilty plea will help show the judge that you've learned your lesson and accepted responsibility, and that you don't need a harsh punishment." Of course, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(B), there is no guarantee that you'll get the sentence you bargained for. All you know for sure is that if you exercise your Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and get convicted, the government will spare no effort to make an example out of you in the sentencing phase, so as to deter others from exercising their rights.

If we succumb to the government's bullying and to its insidious tactics of demoralization, then the terrorists have won. The rules of the courtroom may be rigged against us, but we can still prevail in the court of public opinion. The justice system is not immune to political pressure; maybe this can work to our advantage for a change. We can also show them that we are not intimidated, by redoubling our efforts to distribute FIJA literature, and to film, outside of federal courthouses.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External link[edit]