Federal Judge Blocks Military Detention Law – Lawsuit Against President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta And Defense Department To Protect Americans From US Military – Could Have Held Citizens Forever Without Legitimate Charges

May 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a part of the National Defense Authorization Act that opponents claim could subject them to indefinite military detention for activities including news reporting and political activism.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan today ruled in favor of a group of writers and activists who sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Defense Department, claiming a provision of the act, signed into law Dec. 31, puts them in fear that they could be arrested and held by U.S. armed forces.

The complaint was filed Jan. 13 by a group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. The plaintiffs contend a section of the law allows for detention of citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the U.S. on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to people engaged in hostilities against the U.S., such as al-Qaeda.

“The statute at issue places the public at undue risk of having their speech chilled for the purported protection from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ‘associated forces’ – i.e., ‘foreign terrorist organizations,’” Forrest said in an opinion today. “The vagueness of Section 1021 does not allow the average citizen, or even the government itself, to understand with the type of definiteness to which our citizens are entitled, or what conduct comes within its scope.”

Enforcement Blocked

Forrest’s order prevents enforcement of the provision of the statute pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by Congress.

Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, declined to comment on the ruling.

The plaintiffs claim Section 1021 is vague and can be read to authorize their detention based on speech and associations that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Hedges and two other plaintiffs testified in a hearing before Forrest in March, the judge said. A fourth plaintiff submitted a sworn declaration. The government put on no evidence, Forrest said.

Forrest, an Obama appointee who has served on the Manhattan federal court since October, rejected the government’s arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue over the law and that it merely reaffirmed provisions in an earlier law, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Plaintiffs’ Activities

In her opinion, Forrest said the government declined to say that the activities of Hedges and the other defendants don’t fall under the provision. Forrest held a hearing in March at which government lawyers didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence, according to the judge. The government did cross- examine the plaintiffs who testified and submitted legal arguments.

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.”

Hedges, who testified he has been a foreign news correspondent for 20 years, said he has reported on 17 groups that are on a State Department list of terrorist groups. Hedges testified that after the law was passed, he changed his dealings with groups he had reported on, Forrest said.

“I think the ruling was not only correct, but courageous and important,” Hedges said in a telephone interview today.

The case is Hedges v. Obama, 12-CV-00331, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Appeared Here

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Florida Man Will Serve No Jail Time After Murdering His Father – Used “Red Bull” Defense To Claim Temporary Insanity

June 9, 2011

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA – A man who admits he killed his own father will see no jail time after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

An expert has said drinking Red Bull was one of the things that led to the crime.

Stephen Coffeen admits he smothered his father Robert with a couch cushion two years ago. He originally claimed was he was defending himself.

His defense Wednesday was temporary insanity.

And Wednesday, Judge Nancy Moate Ley accepted a deal worked out between his lawyers and the State Attorney’s Office. Under the deal, in six months, Stephen Coffeen could go free.

“The defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity due to mental illness,” Judge Ley said, after explaining she had no choice but to send him to a mental hospital instead of putting him on trial.

Instead of going before a jury, Coffeen will be sent to an institution in the Panhandle.

He’ll be evaluated there, and six months from now if he’s found to be mentally healthy, he could be released.

The judge said she had never seen it before.

Four doctors — two hired by prosecutors, two by the defense — all agreed: Stephen Coffeen lost touch with reality and was legally insane when he suffocated his elderly father.

The experts and all of the attorneys involved came to the conclusion that at the time, Coffeen could not tell right from wrong. And under the law, that means he can’t be punished for a crime.

Stephen’s brother Thomas found their father’s body. He says Stephen knew just what he was doing. Thomas pushed for a murder trial.

“This is not justice. Justice has not been done today,” Thomas said, standing outside the Pinellas County Courthouse with a despondent look on his face as his wife sobbed nearby.

The judge said she considered every point he brought up, but after reading the doctors’ private medical reports, she said the insanity case is remarkably clear-cut.

“I have spent many many hours on this case. Reviewing it, thinking about it, considering it, looking at case law. And I have determined that I have no choice, because it is also my duty to follow the law,” Ley said.

Thomas says his brother Stephen was jealous of his success — and that led Stephen to plan the murder of their father, 83-year old Robert Coffeen, in St. Petersburg in 2009.

Thomas says he’s worried if Stephen is released, Stephen will come after him and his family.

Stephen Coffeen will now head to Florida State Hospital, a mental hospital in Chattahoochee, northwest of Tallahassee and near the Georgia state line.

The doctors’ reports in the case are medical records and can only be released with Stephen Coffeen’s consent.

His attorneys say the killing was a momentary snap and that their client is already mentally well, which is a sign they may ask the judge to release him at his next hearing in December.

Appeared Here