Click to embiggen: Doonesbury, © 22 October 2017 Garry Trudeau: The Flashback Edition.
Once again, a bunch of significant news dropped after I queued up this week’s Friday Five
, and I just cannot wait until next week to share it. And, as is usually the case when I post these weekend updates, to comment (sometimes at length) on the new news. And some of this week’s is just, “Wow!” Buckle up!
First, thank goodness for the rule of law: Neo-Nazi Found Guilty in First Degree Murder of Heather Heyer at Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally. Remember those rallies, with those alt-right jerks chanting Nazi phrase while waving their tiki torches? You know, that ones that Trump called “fine people” and at another part referred to as “us”? And there were counter-protesters (the people Trump called “them” in the same sentence) who were there to speak out against hatred and genocide and so forth? And then there was the asshole who drove his car into the crowd on counter-protesters, injuring at least 35 people but worst of all, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The neo-Nazi behind the wheel of that car was arrested, charged with murder, among other things, and this week the jury returned their verdicts (plural):
James Fields found guilty on all 10 counts, including 1st-degree murder, for ramming car into a group of peaceful counter-protesters following Charlottesville white nationalist rally in 2017.
—NBC News report
Not everyone is happy with this development. There was a lot of commentary on the alt-right/neo-Nazi/InCel/Men’s Rights Advocates side of various social media very angry about the first degree murder charge, especially. I actually laughed out loud at some of the comments. It’s always enlightening to watch people who pride themselves on logic demonstrate their ignorance and irrationality. Painful, but enlightening.
But first, the link above is just a news brief, the BBC has a more indepth story: Charlottesville driver Alex Fields Jr found guilty of murder as does the Washington Post (though the paywall may thwart your reading): Self-professed neo-Nazi James A. Fields Jr. convicted of first-degree murder in car-ramming that killed one, injured dozens.
Those online lawyers are trying to claim that the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to hurt people because of a meme he shared on social media three months previously of someone running liberals down with this car. That is not what happened. Instead, prosecutors showed the jury video of Fields sitting stonefaced in his car with the engine idoling, watching the counter protestors (who were all some distance away), and then, throwing his car into reverse, backing as far as he could on the street, throwing it into first, and peeling out aiming for the crowd. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t confused. He intentionally backed up so he could have more space to get his car up to as high a speed as possible when he hit it.
He drove 500 miles to participate in the rally. When his mother found out where he’d gone, she texted him urging him to be careful. He texted back (shortly before driving into the crowd): “We’re not the one who need to be careful.”
There was a lot of video (because it’s a big protest and people have their phones and Go Pros and such out), and numerous witness statements that there was no one standing near his car. Contrary to the tales his supporters are telling each other, he wasn’t surrounded, no one was yelling at him, nothing.
Yes, the Instagram post about driving over people was also part of the narrative for premeditation, but it was a tiny part. There were other conversations and comments made in the days leading up to the rally. And, of course, that chilling text message to his mother.
So, his intent to cause harm is established by his words shortly before the act, and the very deliberate act of slowing backing up to get more running room with the car. And twelve people on that jury came to a unanimous decision that the prosecution had established his intent to harm and that he had planned to do it before hand. An important part of premeditation isn’t just that it’s planning in advance, though. Part of the reason we think of premeditated murder as worse than an impulsive act of passion, is an opportunity to change one’s mind. I don’t know the precise jury instructions this jury was read, but the typical text from the judge includes that bit about premeditation: did the defendant have an opportunity where he could have stopped and decided not to go through with it, and then went ahead?
He could have, at any point during the backing up and staring at the crowd decided not to do it.
One of the other crimes he was found guilty of was fleeing the scene of the crime.
His defense team tried to disprove the intent argument by saying he was immediately remorseful, et cetera. But, he fled the scene. Sure, once he was tracked down and arrested he was sobbing, but I think we all know that he was upset because he had been caught.
Of course, Fields wasn’t the only alt-right jerk found guilty…
Takeaways from a frenetic week of Mueller filings: the special counsel left a series of public hints that prosecutors are closing in on President Donald Trump and his inner circle and Mueller Plays Truth or Consequences: In a slew of filings, the special counsel and Justice Department prosecutors slap (and praise) the witnesses who are making their case against Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York made a bunch of filings in federal court this week. The filings are related to the previously made guilty pleas of Trumps former campaign manager, his former lawyer, and his former National Security advisor.
So what does it all mean? Each of the three men has already pled guilty to serious crimes. Each made a plea deal to cooperate with Mueller’s invistigation, the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, and “other related prosecutions.” That latter is one of the few public hints we’ve been given over the 80-some weeks of the Special Counsel’s investigation that information is being shared with state (and apparently international) justice departments. That latter is important not just because of more crimes, but it has been a signal that even if Trump rushes in and tries to pardon everyone, it won’t keep the men out of jail. Presidential pardons have no effect on state criminal charges, nor of international ones (as are likely to be brought by various European countries we can assume since Trump’s banking associates were raided last week over there).
While a lot of people are focusing on the anonymous Individual-1 named in the filings (which is clearly Trump himself), and the fact that the men have already made statements and provided evidence that Individual-1 participated in their crimes, what I find a bit more interesting is that all three of these men’s cases came to this point today, and how very different they are. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to the filings, has cooperated fully since he plea deal–everything he has told prosecutors has been able to be verified. So both Mueller and the U.S. Attorney are asking the judge for leniency on his behalf for the crime’s already pled guilty to.
Trump’s former attorney, who months ago bragged that he would take a bullet for Trump, on the other hand, has sometimes been less than cooperative. He has continued to lie about some things that the prosecutors can prove are lies. He has, on the other hand, provided a lot of evidence that Individual-1 committed a number of crimes related to the recent election. So, the prosecutors are asking the court to not go nearly so lenient on him, but don’t be too harsh, either.
And then there’s the former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort has lied and lied and lied in indisputable ways. So both prosecutors are recommending maximum penalties for all his crimes.
This is a strategic action. It warns all of the other people who are being or are about to be questioned by either the Special Prosecutor or the U.S. Attorney, that if you don’t cooperate, they will bring the hammer down. And if any Trumpkins are reading this and thinking smugly, “until the president shuts it down,” well that’s not easy. Yes, Trump has been maneuvering to shut Mueller down, but so far he’s been unsuccessful. And while I don’t think the Senate Republicans are yet ready to hold Trump to account if he fires Mueller, stopping the U.S. Attorney is much more complicated, and nothing the alleged president can do prevents a jurisdiction like, say, the New York State Attorney General, pursuing charges against many of these people. It doesn’t stop the Congressional Democrats, who are about to take control of that chamber, from holding hearings including asking a fired Mueller to come tell the public everything he found out.
I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that as this was coming to light that Trump went on a lengthy, angry, foul-mouthed attack on Twitter directed at his former Secretary of State. I think he’s starting to realize that he has backed himself into a corner, and the people he counted on to protect him are all going to behave like Flynn if they find themselves in the crosshairs. Donald Trump’s entire existence has just been set on fire
Right now, I just hope the country survives long enough for us to see a bunch of his inner circle carted off the prison.
Regarding the cartoon I illustrated this post with: I probably should do a new Sunday Funnies post about this site, but if you want to learn more about Trudeau’s long running comic, or just catch up, you ought to check out Reading Doonesbury: A trip through nearly fifty years of American comics