KAREmudgeon: Taking a Stand

8:47 AM, Oct 4, 2011   |    comments
Here you sit at your own risk
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The story of a female terror suspect who refused to stand in Federal Court in Minneapolis when the judge walked into court reminded me of a case many years ago.

First of all, the suspect made the mistake of trying her stunt on Chief Judge Michael Davis.

Bad Move.

Just ask Denny Hecker. The Twin Cities most famous failed auto mogul didn't give Judge Davis the answers he wanted and he ended up in an orange jump suit, which he still currently wears. And Denny was always on his feet at the proper times.

Anyway, back in the bad ol' Vietnam War days I covered a group of five young people who were protesting the war and snuck into a federal building in Buffalo, New York, stole some draft records (we still had a draft then) and poured a red liquid (animal blood?) over those records.

They were caught and arrested. Charged with three federal offenses, the five decided that they would not stand for U.S. District Court Judge John Curtin because he was "the same as any other man."

Or so they said.

This really riled the local legal community there. Curtin was not swayed. He told the jury to ignore their little stunt. Problem was, the so-called "Buffalo Five" really liked Curtin. They decided that they wanted to pay him some respect, so they began standing when he entered and left the courtroom.

However, since he was "the same as any other man", they stood up for anybody who entered or left the courtroom. That included reporters, like myself, who had to leave periodically to file reports with the home office. You can imagine the scene.

Did I mention that every so often, nature would call? You would get up to the use the facilities and the entire defense table would be on their feet! Needless to say, that did not help the bladder situation for a lot of spectators.

Curtin, unlike Judge Davis here, seemed amused by the whole thing. I know he thought these five were basically good kids who were just trying to make a point and did it badly. After all, it was a time when a lot of people, young and old, were protesting the war. Of course, the case here involves terror, which we are a gazillion times more sensitive to since 9/11.

FYI, the five were found guilty, although I don't know why since the verdicts made no sense. They were innocent of possessing draft records (even though they were caught with them in their hands) and guilty of something of which there was little proof. Curtin sentenced them all to probation. They had no prior criminal records.

Two of the defendants even got married during the trial.
Curtin went on to become Chief Judge of that district. I eventually landed in TV, and then in Minnesota. The five defendants became what you might call "good" citizens. One even edited a good-sized local newspaper in Upstate New York.

I'm not expecting anything like that in the case in Minneapolis. It's a different political era, a different defendant and a different judge.

Still, I'm reminded that the "Buffalo five" were willing to take the consequences if they had come.

The woman who refused to stand here should expect no less.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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