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chris 'the crying nazi' cantwell was in front of an albemarle county circuit court judge today with 3 pretrial motions ahead of his 2/12 trial for malicious use of gas (a class 3 felony). his attorney, the inimitable elmer woodard, managed to stretch this into a 2.5 hour affair.
the motions: change of venue, special prosecutor, & 'enlargement' (this seemed to have to do with his confinement -- elmer referenced the ankle bracelet & the ability to drive freely in his current city of residence, unnamed. CA tracci didn't object to it & it passed quickly)
the short of it is: no special prosecutor, no change of venue. the long of it is... long and weird. elmer loves to talk. he managed to get some weird shit on the record in what should've been a pretty uneventful, brief appearance.
i've got 14 pages of notes here on the weird road elmer took us down over the next two hours, but technically you already have all the real 'news,' here. stay tuned for cited case law from 1908, speculating about doxxing & murdering jurors, lawsuits against used car salesmen...
in his request for a special prosecutor, elmer stated his need to call CA tracci as a witness (re: goad's initial misidentification of cantwell in the magistrate's warrant) meant he couldn't possibly prosecute the case, wouldn't be able to be a sequestered witness.
he gleefully, repeatedly threatened that he'd end the 'three-day jury trial' in a mistrial.
judge: "are you alleging mr tracci influenced the witness' identification?"
elmer: "i get to ask him those questions."
i wrote in the margins here, "tracci squinting scornfully" 🤷
the judge decided elmer did not, in fact, get to ask him those questions -- she dismissed the motion as too speculative, too broad. it would risk opening the door for nearly all cases to request a special prosecutor.
the request for a change of venue was based on what elmer believed to be evidence that cantwell couldn't possibly get an impartial jury in albemarle county. he wanted to present significant audiovisual evidence (as usual), but this was ultimately denied.
elmer literally wanted to play voicemails from cantwell's haters. AKA today's episode of cantwell's podcast. glad the judge denied that request because i just listened to that two hour pity party this morning.
when pressed, he conceded that "maybe 4 or 5" of the callers had 434 area codes and even then there's no proving those callers live in albemarle county (that area code extends quite far south).
all 3 videos were from august. judge cited requirement for change of venue -- court must look at presence of pervasive prejudice *at the time of trial,* not the time the crime was committed. people hating cantwell in august doesn't mean an impartial jury can't be impaneled now.
he also submitted to the judge ahead of time several news articles he believes are evidence that the local community is to prejudiced against his client to try him, including articles from the washington post and daily kos (national outlets)
"how do you know these publications are widely read in albemarle county?"
"the few times i've seen people in charlottesville reading a paper, it's been the washington post." he also cites having seen newspaper delivery boxes that say washington post on them.
in an olympic feat of logical contortion, elmer stated that in the last election, cville & alb county voted for perriello. perriello is a democrat. daily kos is a left wing publication. ergo all residents of albemarle county read that article about his client?
the judge notes that not only was the WaPo article written in august, the most recent COMMENT on it was from august 28. again, must find evidence of pervasive prejudice at the time of the trial, not six months ago.
says video shows man w/an american flag being "beaten on the steps of this courthouse" on A12. beaten with a red flag: "red, as in COMMUNISM. also the color."
"beating somebody on the steps of the courthouse takes a lot of passion. to take somebody's flag takes a lot of passion."
elmer uses the phrase "prejudice & excitement" quite a bit. i've noted in the margins that this would be a good subheader on his business cards.
he cited some local press, as well - specifically a daily progress article about the charges against cantwell when he was originally arrested. he took issue with reporters using the language of the warrant vs. that in the criminal complaint.
this really tested the judge's patience. she asks how using the exact language from the indictment can be construed as prejudicial.
"you're asking the court to find that WINA & NBC29 are prejudiced against your client because they used the language in the warrant?"
elmer cited his experience suing unscrupulous car salesmen, says what these reporters did is the same about lying about the mileage on a used car?
of one such salesman he successfully sued, "he closed his eyes to the truth and the jury paddled him for it!" he's visibly agitated.
judge: "but aren't they just reporting what he was charged with?"
elmer: "true. but there are truer statements."
elmer woodard, speaking very convincingly on his client chris cantwell: "there's no evidence he's a nazi. does he believe certain things? yes. but he's gone on to say that he's not a nazi. nazis are national socialists -operative word is SOCIALIST. they wanted to conquer europe!"
elmer decrying the unfairness of the "crying nazi" moniker: "just because you're white & you believe something doesn't mean you're a nazi. doesn't mean you're in the klan. the people who called him a nazi don't even want to talk to him because they don't want it to be disproven."
in his argument against the change of venue, tracci (rightly) points out that the ubiquity of the internet & the size of this story means he won't find a jury pool that ISN'T touched by this coverage. surprisingly (or not?), elmer vehemently disagrees.
elmer says he was going to attend the rally that day. he supports monuments. "there's a monument to lenin in seattle. GREAT! i'm in support of that. i think everybody should support everybody else's monuments!" but he says he was too old and tired to attend on A12
from his home in Blairs, VA, he claims he saw nothing of the events of A12 on the TV news, "maybe it was mentioned on the radio." he goes on to say that no one outside of cville cares about what happened in cville (ok but the trial is in albemarle county?)
he says no one in spotsylvania county (i assume this is the venue he wanted to move to?) has heard of cantwell or kessler. except one guy. one guy he talked to had heard of kessler. so he talked to everyone in that county? and contaminated the jury pool...?
here's the thing, i've got a friend in fucking serbia who knows what happened on A12. it was not local news. there is no jury pool untouched by knowledge of A11 and A12. what you're looking for isn't a tabula rasa, it's a further-right county.
he literally said "maybe a few people" outside of the city of charlottesville have been following the story since august, and these are mostly people personally affected by charges brought. he seems to believe this. again, though, cville court is NOT the venue at issue here.
to be fair, he also said "i cannot tell where the city of charlottesville ends and the county of albemarle begins." not a good argument for your change of venue motion. he leans a lot on arguments about kessler, too. seems ill-advised - kessler's change of venue was just denied.
specifically citing kessler's failed press conference on A13, "if they'll deny THIS MAN [forcefully pointing to kessler in the gallery] his right to free speech, on film, in front of their mob pals," they'll [unclear who 'they' is here] deny cantwell a right to a fair trial?
he has a lot of security concerns. apparently prior to today's appearance, he and cantwell hid in the district court building for an hour and a half while is creepy little assistant skulked around doing recon, keeping an eye on things.
please note that i was the only non-press, non-nazi member of the public present. so much for your screaming mobs, elmer. what're you afraid of? it's just me out here.
elmer says he uses an "escort service" (good god, that is NOT what you call a hired car) because he's afraid to drive his own car (smart, tbh). says he urged witnesses to do this in nov, but they didn't and "their cars were traced and towed" (they parked illegally at a church)
he's also worried about the safety of potential jurors. elmer, on the record:
"it's easy to find out the identity of jurors"
after they acquit his client: "is it fair to these jurors that their names will be on the internet for supporting white supremacists?"
he seems to be making the argument that it would be UNSAFE for a jury to acquit his client, but also that the jury pool is so tainted by slanted media coverage that no jury WOULD acquit his client... so this is just bizarro concern trolling?
"when my client the killer, my client the child molestor goes to prison..." [talking about how easy it is to get the jurors' names] "it's too much work to kill all the jurors, let's just narrow it to 1 or 2. what about the witnesses?"
elmer, why are you saying this?!
when you cannot cry out for fear of being scolded by the bailiff, you scribble your distress in all caps
the case elmer cited was uzzle v. commonwealth, from 1908. after a riot in accomack county, a man who shot someone fled to norfolk ("for fear of getting the kessler treatment") where he turned himself in (elmer likened this to cantwell turning himself in in lynchburg)
the authorities in accomack rounded up the shooter & "kept the posse embodied while he made a motion to change the venue." that motion was denied, he was convicted, and it was appealed to the VA supreme court. is this the most recent, relevant case he could find for venue change?
"we gotta go through 'em all with a fine-toothed comb. it's gonna take forever." elmer whining about how difficult jury selection will be. don't...don't you always go through the jury pool carefully? he's really pushing this idea that there exists a place untouched by news of A12
at 3:50 the judge called a 10-15 min recess to deliberate on the venue change motion. it was then i noticed eli mosley was no longer in the courtroom -- unsure when he left, but he arrived with cantwell & elmer. (kessler arrived a bit ahead of them).
during the recess i overheard elmer trying to explain to kessler & cantwell the federal drug schedule -- "it's the order of badness set forth in the... i forget what it's called."
folks, i move that we refer to drug scheduling as "the order of badness" from here on out.
recess ended up being 35 minutes. that's a lot of minutes to sit on a hard bench without any distractions. i noted that elmer was wearing an american flag tie & a mustard pocket square, stuffed messily into the pocket. no reenactor garb today.
after 35 minute recess, the judge returned & addressed several matters. to elmer's concerns about jurors' privacy, she cited lux v commonwealth (2002) and 273 VA 458 (no name or year) -- court CAN seal jury info, but she doesn't see this as related to the motion for venue change
elmer moved to go ahead and pre-emptively do this. tracci objected, citing need to read the precedent the judge had just cited. elmer tried to withdraw the motion, but the judge was very eager to deny it.
some guy standing on the dais talking to the clerk volunteered the fact that jury lists aren't exactly public to begin with. you can't just call the clerk's office and ask for jurors' names. elmer insists he's found lists of jurors' names online before (on stormfront, probably)
her decision on the motion for venue change came down to timing -- he failed to prove there is pervasive prejudice NOW, at time of trial. all evidence was from late summer/early autumn. said it could be reconsidered IF no jury could be empaneled.
elmer says "a person in the gallery suggested" (mosley, kessler, or zarski) written questionnaires for potential jurors, to ensure impartiality. this would delay trial date. judge says, sharply, "i would prefer to keep the trial date." she is DONE HERE. see you 2/12, cantwell.
i would be remiss if i didn't thank @laurenbergk for loaning me a pen when mine went haywire 4 pages into my 14 page record. 🙏
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