Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 7 Of The Bill White Roanoke Trial: After Judge Turk Rejects Dismissal Motion, Defense Rests Its Case; Bill White Does Not Testify

On December 17th, 2009, Bill White's defense team surprised everyone by not calling any witnesses and resting their case. This means that after each side delivers closing arguments on Friday December 18th, the case will go to the jury. General media stories from WSLS Channel 10 and WDBJ Channel 7.

-- Roanoke Times blog coverage of the entire trial HERE.
-- Roanoke Times blog coverage of Day 7 only HERE.
-- Archive of Roanoke Times print stories of entire case HERE.
-- Vanguard News Network Forum mega-thread HERE.
-- All posts on the Bill White Roanoke trial available HERE, with the most recent post displaying first.

The opening gambit took place when the defense team moved to dismiss the charges against White, arguing that White made no direct threats against a half-dozen or so people around the country, and that his words were protected by the First Amendment. Judge James Turk took the motion to dismiss the charges under advisement, meaning that he could revisit the question later, but ruled that all seven counts against White will go to the jury.

It appeared that the defense wanted to discourage Bill White from taking the stand. The defense asked the judge to make sure and go over White’s rights with him, reiterating the fact White did not have to testify in his own defense. After about a ten minute conversation, White’s co-counsel Ray Ferris shook his head to another member of the defense team and mouthed the word “no.“

Then the defense lawyers, after consulting with their client, again presented their arguments to Judge James Turk again in a motion to dismiss the charges on First Amendment grounds, and again the judge took it under advisement, ruling that it could go to a jury. Afterwards the defense declared their intent not to call any witnesses, and rested their case. Court was recessed to allow both sides to prepare closing arguments.

On Friday, the prosecution will start off with its closing argument, followed by the defense. The judge is likely to instruct the jury on what it must decide for the case, which is of course will be if White is guilty or not guilty on his seven charges. The instructions will likely include the legal definition of a “true treat”—- that any “reasonable person” would take White’s alleged communications (i.e. e-mails, phone calls, or blog postings on overthrow.com) as a “real and serious” that it was White’s “intent to do harm.“ The government is not required to prove anyone actually ever hurt one of the alleged victims, only that a “true threat” was communicated.

The seven counts are spelled out on pp 17-19 (on the document) of the indictment. Because it loads slow, the counts are cross-posted below:

COUNT ONE (refers to Jennifer Petsche)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about March 22, 2007, in the Western Judicial District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce a communication by email to JP, an employee of Citibank, containing a threat to injure JP.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c).

COUNT TWO (refers to Jennifer Petsche)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about March 22, 2007, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE, with the intent to extort a thing of value from a person and corporation, knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce a communication by email to JP, an employee of Citibank, containing a threat to injure JP.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(b).

COUNT THREE (refers to Section 8 Negro tenants)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about May 23, 2007, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly attempted to and did use intimidation with the intent to influence, delay and prevent the testimony in an official proceeding of African American tenants, who had asserted claims that their landlord was engaging in discriminatory practices, by mailing letters containing intimidating language to the home addresses of the African American tenants.
3. All in violation of Title18, United States Code, Section 1512(b)(1).

COUNT FOUR (refers to Leonard Pitts)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That between on or about June 3, 2007, and on or about June 6, 2007, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce communications by telephone, email, and Internet postings directed at LP, an African American journalist, containing a threat to injure LP.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c).

COUNT FIVE (refers to Kathleen Kerr)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about October 31, 2007, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce communications by telephone and Internet postings directed at Dr. KK, a university professor and administrator, containing a threat to injure KK.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c).

COUNT SIX (refers to Richard Warman)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about February 23, 2008, and on or about February 26, 2008, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce communications by Internet postings directed at RW, a Canadian lawyer, containing a threat to injure RW.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c).

COUNT SEVEN (refers to Charles Tyson)
1. The Introduction to this Indictment is realleged and incorporated into this Count of the Indictment.
2. That on or about March 1, 2008, in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM A. WHITE knowingly transmitted in interstate commerce communications by telephone, email, and Internet posting directed at CT, an African American Mayor, containing a threat to injure CT.
3. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c).


Most likely outcomes: Either the jury will hang, as it did in the Hal Turner trial, or they'll convict only on one or two counts. The most vulnerable counts are Count Three and Count Seven, because they involve victims who did not necessarily provoke Bill White in any way. Leonard Pitts, Richard Warman, and Kathleen Kerr clearly showed some degree of provocation.

Another Vanguard News Network observer present at the trial provides definitions of the different Section numbers involved, from the Cornell University Law School:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 41 > § 875
Prev | Next
§ 875. Interstate communications

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any demand or request for a ransom or reward for the release of any kidnapped person, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

(b) Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

(c) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

(d) Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

18 USC 1512(b)(1) states:

(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to—
(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;

Maximum penalties:
-- 18 USC 1512(b)(1) - 20 years
-- 18 USC 875(b) & 18 USC 875(c) - 5 years and/or $250,000 per count.

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