Jan 2009 - Suspension of action - Sen Clinton will no longer be our US Senator. John Murtari was leading this effort. While we like to keep the focus on Federal action, John has stopped driving while attempting to get license issues due to child support resolved. Limited for now to walking distance, a local focus has become Parental Notification of Child Birth with a member of the NY State Assembly, click here for details. We hope to resume the Federal effort soon.
September 2008 -
September story in a
Catholic regional paper (local
March 19, 2008 - A News Release about yesterday's trial was sent out. John was release on Friday, March 21st -- thanks to all of you for your help!
March 18, 2008 - John had his Federal Trial today. He was found guilty on both charges and was sentenced to 55 days in jail. He expects to be released on Friday March 21st and looks forward to seeing his son for the Easter holiday.
March 14, 2008 - A News Release about John's upcoming trial was sent out.
March 6, 2008 - John Murtari sent a letter to Senator Clinton asking her to meet with parents regarding Family Rights.
March 4, 2008 - John received a letter informing him his trial date had been moved up to March 18th at 9:30 am. We don't have a lot of time for planning, but we are encouraging parents to come to Syracuse for the trial and to visit the offices of Senator Clinton. The trial should be less than two hours in length and the Federal Courthouse is in the same building as Clinton's offices. Click here for details on event planning.
Feb 6, 2008 - John sent a letter to the Judge asking if the trial date could be moved so he could see his son during Spring Break. His request was denied.
Feb 1, 2008 - John had his Federal Detention Hearing today. The Judge ordered John to be held in jail until trial (currently scheduled for March 31st). John's mailing address in jail is: John Murtari, P.O. Box 143, Jamesville, NY 13078.
Jan 29, 2008 - John returned to the Syracuse Federal Building with a petition containing pictures of parents and children unjustly separated. He was also carrying kid's chalk and planned to write "I LOVE YOU" to his son and "SEN CLINTON HELP US" on the ground outside the building. For the third time this January, he was arrested and taken into custody by building security. We will release more details as they become available. Check back here for updates.
Jan 25, 2008 - John submits a letter to US Magistrate Peebles regarding the Civil Rights nature of his effort and also a motion for dismissal of pending charges and a request to vacate his new stay-away order.
Jan 24, 2008 - John returned to the Fed. Building at 2PM (it was a cold and snowy day!). When he started to write "I LOVE DOM" on the ground he was arrested by Federal Police, issued a ticket for 'disobeying' and order and released. He was also given a new and broader stay-away order. He plans on returning on Tuesday, Jan 29, at 2 PM -- your participation is welcome! More details on what happened to John here.
Jan 17, 2008 - After two nights in jail, John was returned to Court for a
'detention hearing' in front of US Magistrate David Peebles. Initially it
appeared that John would be returned to jail for violating the conditions of his
release from Judge Peebles on Sep. 27th. The Judge was fair minded and
took the time to adjourn and listen to the audio transcript of the Sep 27th
proceeding. He determined that John had not violated his release
conditions. After some discussion it was felt that the current
stay-away order was too broad and the US Attorney decided to dismiss the charges
from the Jan 15th arrest. John also plans to submit a motion to have
the stay away order retroactively vacated, and so possible get the remaining two
John was very thankful to be able to go home, at least for a while. He hopes to continue the effort next week and again the participation of more parents is critical. John was contacted by the local CBS affiliate who was interested in covering the activity on Jan 15th, but they were disappointed that no other people would be there.
Jan 15, 2008 - John Murtari returned to the Syracuse Federal Building with a petition containing pictures of parents and children unjustly separated. John was quietly standing in front of the building for about 5 minutes when he was arrested by Federal Police for violating an earlier stay away order. John tried to explain to the officers that the stay away order, issued on Sept. 7th, was limited to the duration of "this proceeding." He told them that he had gone to trial and that the proceeding was completed. He was still arrested.
John was arraigned by Judge Peebles whom he had already written to regarding recusal and problems with his assigned counsel (see Jan 9th entry below). The Judge told him he was still trying to determine the maximum penalty for John's prior two violations of stay away order. John was being charged with criminal contempt which could be a Class A or Class B misdemeanor with a max penalty of either 6 months or one year. The Judge advised him if the penalty was over 6 months he would have a right to a jury trial and also have his case heard by a Federal District Judge.
The Judge seemed appreciative that John had written him regarding his pending activity, but he ordered John held until Thursday Jan. 17th when a decision on his release will be made.
A press release was also sent out and you are free to redistribute.
Jan 9, 2008 - A growing legal mess in Federal Court - Due to the pending activity, John thought it would be a good idea to write a letter to Federal Magistrate Peebles. He wanted to advise the Judge that his activity would resume and also that being forced to drive with a 'suspended license' may have put him in violation of some standard 'conditional release' terms the Judge had ordered. He also wanted to alert the Judge he would be asking for his recusal (It happened that John had 'fired' a Federal Public defender who had worked on his case years ago who happened to be the Judge's former spouse).
After review, John's assigned counsel refused to send the letter even after a direct request from John (and it now appears the attorney would not ask for recusal). John wrote the Judge a cover letter asking his attorney be relieved, and asking for clarification of client rights in this situation. His attorney told him:
Nov, 2007 - John was released from jail after his sentence but still has two serious charges for contempt pending trial (details below) in Federal Court - ouch!. In any case, the effort will resume on January 15th (Martin Luther King Day). John is looking for another Dad and Mom to join him. Please contact us to participate! Check here for more news.
October 18, 2007 - John was called back to Court for the Judge's decision (12 pages) and sentence. US Magistrate DiBianco found him not guilty on the two counts of damaging government property with chalk, but did find him guilty on two counts of disobeying a Federal Officer when he was told to stop his actions. The Judge gave him a 10 day sentence on each to be served concurrently. John was to report to the US Marshalls to begin his sentence the next day, until Oct. 29.
October 3, 2007 - John Murtari's trial was
today for the two chalk writing incidents and also
for contempt of a US Magistrate's Order. John
could not afford to pay for counsel and none was assigned. Some member
of the group submitted some good case law to John, especially a decision from
the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,
MacKinney v. Nielsen, 69 F.3d 1002. John was being charge under
41 CFR 102-74.380(b) with 'destroying or damaging' government
property. In it's decision the 9th Circuit clearly states, "No reasonable
person could think that writing with chalk would damage a sidewalk."
The facts at trial were pretty much in line with the incidents as they have been described below. Under cross-examination the Building Manager did admit that no 'repairs' were necessary and the effort to removed the chalk was just 'cleaning'. At the end of the trial the Judge asked the prosecutor if he had anything to submit regarding the motion for dismissal. He did and was given till Friday (the 5th) to submit any memorandum of law. John would have a chance to reply.
The Judge then said he would call everyone back at a later date for a decision. No future trial date was set for the Contempt charges. No time frame was given and it was not clear at all to John when this might happen? No further events are planned by John for the remainder of this year. He hopes to travel and see his son next month and have his son home at Christmas time...
"Our" effort should resume in early January and John hopes another Mom & Dad will join him in the Federal Plaza.
September 20, 2007 - John receives a letter from the US Attorney's office, it is a letter and revised complaint regarding his activities. A very fair article runs in a regional newspaper, The Finger Lakes Times (see copy here). It explains John's activities regarding parent's rights and the attempt to get help from Sen. Clinton.
September 17, 2007 - John was released from jail by US Magistrate DiBianco -- he was very thankful. A news release was sent out on the 19th.
September 14, 2007 - A newspaper article appears in the local Syracuse Post Standard. Please note there is a factual error. The article says that John painted on the sidewalk at the Federal Building on Sept. 4. John didn't paint, but just wrote with sidewalk chalk.
September 13, 2007- John returned to the Syracuse
Federal Building today at about 10 AM. Instead of chalk, John carried a
picture of he and his son, along with pictures of other parents and children. A written message
said "Senator Clinton Help Us". A picture of the small placard is above.
September 7, 2007- After being held for three days in jail. John was taken to Federal Court for another appearance in front of US Magistrate DiBianco. He again stated his reasons for refusing to sign a conditional release. The Judge then signed another Order directing John stay away from the Federal Building grounds without prior mission of the Court. He told John that if he violated that order he could be found in Contempt of Court and be given a six month jail sentence. A trial data of October 3rd or 4th was set for the pending two incidents and it was also determined that John did not quality for assigned counsel. John was happy to be released.
September 4, 2007 - At app 10 am today, John returned to the Syracuse Federal
Building with chalk. He was taken into custody and was
seen by a Judge. The US Attorney filed a two
count complaint. The Judge asked him to sign a conditional release form stating he
wouldn't come back to the building. John would not sign. He is
currently being held at the Jamesville
Correctional Facility near Syracuse. John hasn't been told how long
he'll be there, but he had been told earlier that the maximum sentence is 15
days for each offense.
August 30, 2007 - At app 2pm today John Murtari
returned to the Syracuse Federal Building to write a simple message on the
Plaza. "I LOVE YOU DOM" & "Sen. Clinton Help Us!" He wrote on the ground with
kid's sidewalk chalk. He wrote his message on the ground in four different
locations before being stopped by building security officers. He was allowed to
walk away, but was told not to come back. John gathered more chalk and returned
to the building about 15 minutes later and wrote his message in another
location. This time he was handcuffed and arrested by Federal Police officers.
He was given a ticket for defacing Government property and was told to expect an
appearance date in Federal Court. He does plan on returning to
the building at a later date to continue a similar effort. He is looking
for a mom & dad to join him in this effort.
August/September 2007 - Continuing our effort of NonViolent Action, John Murtari will be leading an effort to help convince the Senator of the importance of our goals. The Senator's aid said we should 'write her more letters'. He will turn that into action by initially taking chalk and writing "I Love Dom" & "Sen. Clinton Help Us!" on the Federal Plaza. What is lacked in 'volume' of letters, may be made up by a willingness to risk arrest and voluntary sacrifice of freedom....
July 31, 2007 - We had a small a rally at the Syracuse Federal Building. A local mom, Katherine Neville brought a picture of her children and a letter to Sen. Clinton. John Murtari, group coordinator, also wrote a summary letter which Katherine personally delivered to Mr. Biba, the Senator's regional rep. A few days later, Katherine wrote a summary of her experiences.
REMEMBER - Again, we are
trying to keep a positive and courteous attitude at all times. These are good
people that we are dealing with (certainly no worse than any of us are!). They
may have trouble understanding our situations and goals. We will help them
understand, NOT by insults, but by demonstrating OUR willingness to sacrifice
for the sake of our children.