United States v. Thomas

CR 87-62, 87-64

(The Court reading.)

THE COURT: Where did 17 come from?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: 17 is a page from a transcript of a hearing.

THE COURT: Before Judge Oberdorfer?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Judge Bryant on July 5th of 1983.

THE COURT: Ali right, sir.


THE COURT: Just a moment.

Then you put in Exhibit 18, which is a newspaper story from --


THE COURT: Washington Post.

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: May 10th, 1985. The relevant wording --

THE COURT: I have read Exhibit 18.

What are they doing in that picture, cleaning up "Reaganville"?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: No, Your Honor, there was -- That is a long story.

There was an individual who had strewn quite a bit of trash, I suppose, around the park, and the Park Service is cleaning it up in those pictures.

It didn't have anything to do with what we were


doing or with the signs.

THE COURT: All right.

All right. I have read your Exhibit 19 also.

Now, Mr. Thomas, do you have any other evidence on this motion?


THE COURT: You have no evidence other than your own belief and these exhibits to support your proposition that you have been singled out for prosecution under this regulation, that you have been singled out by the Government for this prosecution, arrest and prosecution, because they don't like your message?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I can show that others similarly situated have not been prosecuted.

THE COURT: How many?

Do you know their names?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I believe that I have names in my records.

THE COURT: Are you prepared to present them to the Court today?


As I said, I didn't think that this was going to be an evidentiary hearing.

THE COURT: Well, sir, I gave you notice of what the hearing was about, and you know, you have a copy of the


consolidation order that all pretrial proceedings in these combined cases were consolidated before this member of the Court, unfortunately, because I had the first one.

So, if you don't have any evidence other than what you have put forth thus far, your motion is denied.

Now I have granted your motion for a jury trial.


THE COURT: I assume you don't haven't any quarrel with that, unless you want me to reverse myself.

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: No, I certainly don't have any quarrel with that.

I would not like you to reverse yourself.

THE COURT: All right.

Just a moment.

You have also filed a motion to proffer evidence in support of defense of necessity.


THE COURT: That motion is that, even assuming you violate the regulation, you did so because of your belief or beliefs, a vow of poverty which you have taken, and the alleged threat of death as a result of a possibility, by, quote "nuclear proliferation," unquote.

Is that correct?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I think I can say precisely.


THE COURT: Well, you have a whole list of things.

You want to put forth evidence in support of this?

Dealing with nuclear war, nuclear weapons, religious, and other theories about nuclear war.

The effects and capacity of nuclear weapons. Heads of state. International law. A treatise including, but not limited to, the treaties of Westphalia, the Kellogg- Bryan Pact, the United Nations Charter, tribunals set up to hold and conduct the Nurenberg trials, American nuclear weapons treaties, the right of a citizen, as you put it, to meet their obligations to divine or international law.

Is that right?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Yes, Your Honor, I wrote that.

THE COURT: And that is the basis of your motion?


THE COURT: Assuming that you believe all of those things, the Court finds that they do not make out the legal defense of necessity, and accordingly that motion will be denied.

Now, Mr. Thomas, -- this applies to all the defendants -- you have also filed a motion to dismiss by reason of an Act of God, is that right?



THE COURT: Now, you filed that yesterday?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I think I filed it day before yesterday with a motion.

THE COURT: We didn't get it until yesterday.

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: That is possible. Right. I filed --

THE COURT: Are you aware of this, Ms. Chapman?

MS. CHAPMAN: Your Honor, I found this in my mailbox as I was on my way over here to court.

THE COURT: Have you read it?

MS. CHAPMAN: Yes, I have, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Now, if I understand you correctly it was brought in to me, and I -- when I was trying to eat some lunch yesterday. Your theory here is that you have engaged in this protest and were engaging in this activity on the day of your arrest in the instant case because God told you to do it?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Yeah, you could say --

THE COURT: Pardon?


THE COURT: And that to have done otherwise would have been a violation of the free exercise of rights clause which all citizens enjoy under the First Amendment, or the Bill Rights, to the Constitution. Is that correct?


DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I think that is fairly accurate.

THE COURT: Fairly accurate? Is it right or not?


THE COURT: All right. It is right.


THE COURT: Let me ask you this, Mr. Thomas. Does your act of demonstrating and protesting with these signs and whatever else you do or are alleged to have done at or near the Lafayette Park at the time of your arrest in this case, form a central part of your religious belief?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I believe that it is my religious belief --

THE COURT: I just ask you yes or no --

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: I think that is reflected in the --

THE COURT: The answer to the question is yes --


THE COURT: -- or no? And your answer is yes?


THE COURT: Now let me just digress for a moment. It is important.


You want me to decide this question, or do you want a jury to decide this question, involved in whether you are sincere in your contention here under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, or do you want the Court to decide?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Do I want a jury to decide?

THE COURT: That question of whether you are sincere in stating what you have stated to me this afternoon, or do you want a jury to decide that question?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Can I consult with an attorney?

THE COURT: You certainly may. (The defendant consulting with Ms. Asiner and Mr. Hurley.)

THE COURT: Yes, Mr. Thomas?

DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Well, I think that if I can just draw your attention --

THE COURT: I have just posited with you and the other defendants and their distinguished and able lawyers a question, and all I want is an answer yes or no.

Now, this is a murky area, Mr. Thomas, and a very sensitive area, at least with this member of the Court.

Do you want the jury to decide it or do you want me to decide it?


DEFENDANT WILLIAM THOMAS: Well, it seems to me that you would probably be better versed in the rights of an individual under the law, but I am not sure that I have proffered enough evidence.

I think that I can support my sincerity in this matter.

THE COURT: The question is: are you willing to waive a jury on the issue raised by your action to dis- miss by reason of an Act of God, as you described it?


THE COURT: Will all of the defendants please indicate whether they agree with that or not?

Ms. Asiner.

MR. HURLEY: May I ask the Court's indulgence?

THE COURT: Yes, sir. Ms. Asiner.

MS. ASINER: Yes, on behalf of Sunrise, Your Honor; he would ask the Court to decide that issue.

THE COURT: Is that also on behalf of Mr. -- Who is your other client today?

MS. ASINER: And on behalf of Mr. Galindez.

THE COURT: All right. Thank you.

MS. ASINER: Your Honor, Ms. Thomas would also join in that action.


THE COURT: To have the Court decide? MR. HURLEY: To have the Court decide it.

THE COURT: Very well. Sir? THE DEPUTY CLERK: Mr. Joseph, Your Honor. DEFENDANT PHILIP JOSEPH: Philip Joseph. I will go ahead with the same.

THE COURT: In other words, you waive a jury on this issue? DEFENDANT PHILIP JOSEPH: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Does that include everybody? Mr. Sunrise? Have we gotten everybody's -- MR. HURLEY: I believe so, Your Honor.

THE COURT: -- assent? My question to you is do we have everybody's assent to waive a jury on Mr. Thomas's motion to dismiss by reason of an Act of God? THE DEPUTY CLERK: That is correct, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Does the Government have any objection to the Court's deciding this question?

MS. CHAPMAN: No, I don't, Your Honor.



DEFENDANT PHILIP JOSEPH: I would like to change


mine, - I would like to have a jury decide it.

THE COURT: You have already waived it.

It is too late.

You may be seated.

Mr. Thomas, and counsel, and other defendants, the Court understands that you have put forth in your motion here a sincere belief that what you did was based on religious grounds or an Act of God.

Is that correct?


THE COURT: All right.

That being the case, does the Government have a response?

MS. CHAPMAN: Your Honor, I will do the best I can, having just received the motion shortly.

Your Honor, I don't believe that, regardless of the insincerity of religious beliefs, that that is a recognized legal defense to breaking the law.

THE COURT: Are you familiar with Professor Lawrence Tribes' treatise and well-known book in the field of American constitutional law, Ms. Chapman?

MS. CHAPMAN: Your Honor, I am not intimately familiar with it, but I know I have looked at it, Your Honor.

Your Honor, I would just briefly object to any of these defendants being allowed to prefer their religious


beliefs, again however sincere they may be, as a defense at this time, because I don't think it is appropriate. That would be all, Your Honor

THE COURT: You mean -- Does the Government wish to prove any governmental interest in preventing Mr. Thomas from sleeping in the park or the other defendants?

MS. CHAPMAN: Your Honor, the Government has no interest per se in prohibiting any of these particular defendants from sleeping in the park.

The Government's interest is in enforcing the regulations which are designed to protect the national park lands.

THE COURT: Anything else?

MS. CHAPMAN: No, your Honor.

THE COURT: Do you wish to cross-examine Mr.Thomas at all?

MS. CHAPMAN: No, I do not, Your Honor, thank you.

THE COURT: Very well.

The Court will stay a short recess and everybody will remain seated.

(The Court left the courtroom at 3:19 p.m.)

THE DEPUTY MARSHAL: Remain seated and come to order.

(3:27 p.m.)

(The court reporter reading to the Court informally


at the bench from the court reporter's notes.)

THE COURT: Ms. Asiner.

MS. ASINER: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: On behalf of Mr. Galindez you have heard the discrete questions I asked Mr. Thomas with respect to this particular motion.

On behalf of your client is your answer the same?

MS. ASINER: Yes it is, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Very well. Is your answer the same on behalf of Stephen Semple, also known as Sunrise?

MS. ASINER: Yes, it is, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Hurley, you have heard the questions and the answers by Mr. William Thomas.

Does Ms. Ellen Thomas adopt the same answers and position that William Thomas has proffered to the Court in this discrete motion?

MR. HURLEY: Yes, Your Honor, she does.

THE COURT: Mr. Philip Thomas, is your answer the same ?

THE DEPUTY CLERK: Your Honor, I am sorry. That is a mistake. It is Philip Joseph, his name. I am sorry.

THE COURT: Mr. Philip Joseph, is your answer the same as the other defendants in regard to this discrete




THE COURT: Thank you.

THE COURT: Have we covered all of the defendants, Mr. Clerk?

THE DEPUTY CLERK: Yes, Your Honor, we are.

THE COURT: Ms. Chapman.

MS. CHAPMAN: Yes, Your Honor.

The Court is obliged to tell you that under the jurisprudence --

You don't have to stand.

MS. CHAPMAN: Thank you. Your Honor.

THE COURT: -- enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States construing the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the Constitu- tion that, if a person who is a defendant, such as these defendants in the cases at bar, objects to a regulation or a requirement of law based upon a sincerely held religious belief, which is an undisputed fact here, and thus the defendants having made such a showing, and your response thereto, namely, and I just had the court reporter read it back to me, that the Government has no interest per se in prohibiting any of these defendants from sleeping in the park, that its only interest is in enforcing the regulations which are designed to protect the national park lands --


That is all you said in opposition.

I offered you an opportunity to cross-examine.

You decided.

The defendants having thus raised a sensitive and important issue under the free exercise clause of the Constitution and the critical part thereof, namely, that they sincerely did what they did based upon a sincerely held religious belief, then, and in that event, their motion to dismiss must be granted on this record.

Accordingly there is no need for any further proceedings in this case, and the defendants will be allowed to leave.

ALL DEFENDANTS: Thank you, Your Honor.


THE COURT: You see, Ms. Chapman, you have to show a compelling governmental interest in response to that.

That is a critical part of the law.

MS. CHAPMAN: Thank you, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right.

All right, Mr. Clerk.

THE DEPUTY CLERK: Your Honor, we have one additional matter.

(Whereupon, at 3:35 p.m., the Court proceeded to other matters.)



I, M. Eugene Olsen, C.S.R., an Official Court Reporter for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that I reported in my official capacity the proceedings had and the testimony adduced in the cases of USA v. Scott M. Galindez ak Scot E. Galindez, Criminal Nos. 87-60 and 87-158, USA v. Stephen Semple aka Sunrise, Criminal No. 87-61. USA v. William Thomas, Criminal No. 87-62, USA v. Philip Joseph, Criminal No. 97-63, an USA v- Ellen Thomas, Criminal No. 87-66, in said court, on the 23rd day of April 1987.

I further certify that the foregoing 52 pages constitute the official transcript of said proceedings, hearing on motions, as taken from my shorthand notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto subscribed my name, this the 28th day of April 1987.

Official Court Reporter



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