PUBLISHED: JULY 30, 2011
1:16 AM EST
UPDATED: JULY 30, 2011 2:25 AM EST
Erie County judge
warns Beeman about courthouse protest
BY LISA THOMPSON, Erie Times-News
Erie County Councilman Ebert Beeman faces foreclosure by the
Internal Revenue Service, a Social Security fraud indictment from the
U.S. Attorney's Office, and a new set of charges from the county
District Attorney's Office accusing him, for the seventh and eighth
time, of driving without a license.
This week, Beeman and his anti-government views
ran afoul of yet another part of the justice system.
Erie County President Judge Ernest J. DiSantis Jr. on Thursday sent the
62-year-old councilman from Waterford a warning letter for handing out
leaflets Wednesday on the steps of the Erie County Courthouse.
Beeman and Julian Heicklen, a retired Pennsylvania State University
professor and activist, distributed pamphlets advocating the concept of
"The information you are providing the citizens
is not only false, but also tends to subvert the judicial process,
including the right to a free trial that is guaranteed by both the
United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, which you took an oath to
uphold," DiSantis wrote.
Heicklen, of New Jersey, has been traveling throughout the region to
promote the concept that jurors, when weighing a verdict, can choose to
reject the law rather than apply it as instructed by judges.
Beeman said he agreed to help Heicklen when he came to Erie because he
has followed him for many years on the Internet and through the Fully
Informed Jury Association based in Helena, Mont. Heicklen also has a
Heicklen first became known for openly smoking marijuana at protests on
the Penn State campus. He is currently awaiting trial in U.S. District
Court in New York on a charge of jury-tampering based on the same
conduct Heicklen and Beeman engaged in Wednesday in Erie. Authorities
said Heicklen passed out leaflets urging jury nullification in front of
the federal courthouse in New York in 2009 and 2010.
"I did not realize it was such a big deal, what I
did," Beeman said.
"They have not eliminated free speech. If they did, they have
not told me about it," he said.
DiSantis said Friday that promoting the notion that jurors do not have
to follow the law as given to them by a judge is not free speech, but
is akin to obstructing justice.
No trials were in session on Wednesday. However, potential jurors could
have been coming and going from the courthouse, DiSantis said. Beeman's
pamphlets could have interfered with another person's right to a fair
trial, DiSantis said.
"This activity is totally unacceptable," he said.
In the letter, DiSantis told Beeman the court "will not tolerate the
activity on the courthouse property or in the immediate vicinity of the
DiSantis said Friday that jury-nullification advocates have been around
a long time.
"They misconstrue the Constitution and our history," he said.
LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail.