This Tuesday, in Racine, Wisc., union-endorsed Judge Mark Nielsen found defendant Al Haj Jameel Ghuari “not guilty” of disorderly conduct stemming from events that occurred on June 5, the day of the Wisconsin recall election. Ghuari (pictured above with President Obama), a local community organizer and executive director of the Bray Center in Racine, had been accused of threatening to smash the head of volunteer poll watcher Jennifer Neubauer into the ground for challenging election judges’ issuance of ballots to individuals without proper credentials to vote.
According to Neubauer, whom I interviewed at the polling place shortly after the time of the incident, the police were called and Ghuari was issued a ticket for disorderly conduct. (Disorderly conduct is a municipal, not criminal, code violation, which requires “clear and convincing evidence” for a guilty verdict and not the much higher standard “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”) Ghuari was then told to leave the polling place.
During Tuesday’s hearing, which initially had been postponed so that Ghuari could attempt to find a witness (he was unsuccessful), Judge Nielsen first informed the courtroom of his connections to Ghuari, whom he had met previously at a political event. The judge and defendant had been introduced by Ghuari’s counsel Patrick Cafferty. Cafferty, along with UAW Local 180, Carpenters Local 161, AFSCME, and the AFL-CIO–all groups which had been leaders in the fight to recall Governor Walker–also happen to be listed as endorsers of Judge Nielsen on his campaign website.
Despite these myriad connections, Judge Nielsen persisted in insisting he could hear the case fairly. After testimony during which, according to Neubauer, the police backed up her account, Judge Nielsen ruled that Ghuari was “not guilty.”
Neubauer, who contacted Breitbart News with her account, said that Judge Nielsen cited the fact that she was “not from the community” and therefore “oversensitive” to the threats addressed to her by Ghuari. She went on to say that Judge Nielsen informed her that Ghuari’s threats “couldn’t have been meant literally”:
The judge found, after my testimony, two cops’ testimony (and Mr. Ghuari’s brief testimony (no witness for Mr. Ghuari), that his threat to “bash my head into the floor” while “imprudent” was not the “unreasonable behavior” necessary for a disorderly conduct conviction.
He stated he believed that I was telling the truth, but opined an inclination to buy into Mr. Ghuari’s lawyer’s characterization of me as someone not from “our community” who didn’t understand the “mores and ways of speaking” prevalent in Racine, and that my testimony that I was in fear of injury or worse after hearing Mr. Ghuari’s statement that he would bash my head against the floor was probably itself not reasonable as I was “oversensitive.”
He also said the defendant’s allusion to a boxing match was a problem…because obviously no literal boxing match was taking place at the polling place (he actually used the term “pugilism” during the trial), and since no literal boxing match was taking place at the polling place at that time, Mr. Ghuari’s statement that he would “knock me out” (I guess that was Ghuari’s testimony, which I didn’t hear because we were sequestered) couldn’t have been meant literally, and therefore he didn’t really mean it literally.
He also poo poo-ed my testimony that the polling place was “tense” and “chaotic” at times, even though he accepted the testimony that voters were swearing at the election judges, yelling at the election judges and, at times, throwing paperwork in their faces during the epic Wisconsin recall election that everyone on the planet knew was tense and chaotic (and hotly contested) except, perhaps, this judge. He again referenced my “oversensitivity” in describing the polling place as “tense” and “chaotic” (his words).
While Judge Nielsen appears to have dismissed Neubauer’s accusations in part because of the unusual atmosphere surrounding the recall election, he might note that the state of Wisconsin’s political scene has only gotten worse since. Just this past weekend, the son of State Senator Neal Kedzie was brutally beaten by two men he caught stealing pro-Romney signs from his yard. Sean Kedzie was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and told me in an interview that he actually feared for his life until a neighbor disrupted the attackers.
While Kedzie’s attackers have still not been caught, with big labor judges like Judge Mark Nielsen on the benches of Wisconsin’s courts, these attackers might have hope that their attacks would also be excused, as Ghuari’s threats were–maybe they would even be called “normal for the area.”I’m tearing up
On his website, Judge Nielsen’s states, “I want to make sure I am the kind of judge that my daughters can feel proud to call their father.” It would be interesting, had one of his daughters been the subject of Jameel Ghuari’s threats, to see if he would want a judge like himself to hear the case.