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Judge Dismisses Trump’s “Free Speech” Defense for Inciting Violence

— April 5, 2017

A federal judge rejected Donald Trump’s “free speech” defense after a lawsuit was brought against the President, accusing him of inciting violence at a campaign rally.

Three protesters who were manhandled by then-candidate Trump’s supporters at a March 1, 2016 rally in Kentucky filed a suit claiming Trump wanted them to get hurt. Attorneys for the commander-in-chief argued the President hadn’t wanted the crowd to get rowdy with the trio.

The victims of the violence, two men and a woman, were pushed, shoved, and punched by members of the Louisville audience, arguably and ostensibly at Donald Trump’s command. The beating was captured on video and shows Trump, on stage, pointing at the supporters and yelling, “Get them out!”

Federal Judge David J. Hale didn’t buy the defense laid out by Trump’s attorneys.

“It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” Hale wrote. “It was an order, an instruction, a command.”

The ruling wasn’t the first time Trump’s own words have come back from the past to haunt him in court.

Last week, another federal judge, Derrick Watson of Hawaii, extended a block of the President’s second rendition of a controversial travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries. Watson postulate that rhetoric used by Trump on the campaign trail was indicative of an unconstitutional attempt to keep members of the Muslim faith from entering the United States. While the Department of Justice argued that the ban executive order was designed for the betterment of the nation, Watson and the attorneys general of several states felt a less noble narrative underpinned the ban.

The courts cited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said Trump was trying to find a way to make a “Muslim ban” legally practical.

“So when first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban,’” said Giuliani. “He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”

The temporary halt on the travel ban turned “indefinite” by Watson was justified partly on the basis of Trump possibly running afoul of the Constitution’s establishment clause.

One of the Louisville assailants, Alvin Bamberger, issued an apology to the Korean War Veterans Association, whose uniform he had been wearing at the rally.

Caricature showing Donald Trump's reactions to protesters at various campaign-trail events and rallies; image by DonkeyHotey, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes made.
Caricature showing Donald Trump’s reactions to protesters at various campaign-trail events and rallies; image by DonkeyHotey, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes made.

He wrote that he “physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit” after “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them,’” in a statement to the Association. Bamberger’s words were included in the lawsuit filed against Trump, leveraging them as evidence that the President’s supporters had taken his incitement as an order.

Trump’s attorneys had also argued that the protestors assumed the risk of harm by attending the event and speaking out against the Republican candidate. Hale, in turn, countered that “every person has a duty to every other person to use care to prevent foreseeable injury.”

“In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that their harm was foreseeable and that the Trump Defendants had a duty to prevent it,” Hale ruled.

The federal judge has referred the case to Federal Magistrate H. Brent Brennenstuhl, “to handle litigation, discovery and settlement efforts.”


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