Federal judge agrees to reconsider Trump's First Amendment argument in Louisville protest lawsuit
“Does the First Amendment protect Donald J. Trump’s March 1, 2016 statement “Get ‘em out of here,” or may the statement be found to constitute incitement of a riot?” U.S. District Court Judge David Hale wrote.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A federal judge has agreed to reconsider his decision from March in which he rejected President Donald Trump’s argument that he had a First Amendment right to order protesters thrown out of a rally in Louisville during a campaign stop in March 2016.
U.S. District Court Judge David J. Hale on Wednesday amended his March 31 order that allowed a lawsuit accusing Trump of inciting violence to move forward. He ordered the case put on hold while the free speech question is decided.
“Does the First Amendment protect Donald J. Trump’s March 1, 2016 statement “Get ‘em out of here,” or may the statement be found to constitute incitement of a riot?” Hale wrote in his order. Hale also dismissed a negligence claim against the president.
Hale had ruled that Trump could be held responsible for injuries to protesters as they were a "direct and proximate result" of his actions.
"It is plausible that Trump's direction to 'get 'em out of here' advocated the use of force," Hale ruled. "Unlike the statements at issue in the cases cited by the Trump Defendants, 'get 'em out of here' is stated in the imperative; it was an order, an instruction, a command."
Since then, Hale said in his ruling Wednesday, Trump and his attorneys have “registered their displeasure at the decision in a variety of increasingly impatient ways,” including recently asking the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Hale.
“Under the circumstances,” Hale wrote, “the Court felt it necessary to proceed with consideration of” Trump’s appeal. "The court is aware of the unique sensitivities involved where the President of the United States is a party to litigation."
Attorneys for three people who claim in the lawsuit they were assaulted at the rally last year, have repeatedly asked to depose Trump, as well as obtain the president's "tax returns" and the names "of all medical providers from whom Trump has sought or received any psychological" treatment, according to court records.
These requests will now be delayed.
Trump's attorneys have argued that he was not "inciting a riot," but rather exercising a core constitutional right when he reacted to the disruptive protesters by saying, "Get ’em out of here," before also adding, "Don’t hurt 'em."
Trump's call for the removal is fully protected "unless he advocated a greater degree of force than necessary to remove them," his attorneys claim. The words did not mention “violence or lawless action,” they argue.
However, in his ruling Wednesday, Hale still seemed to discount this argument, writing that the context of the statement is as important as the actual words used.
“For example, the exclamation “shoot!” might constitute incitement if directed to a crowd of angry armed individuals, but shouted by a basketball fan or muttered in disappointment, it has no violent connotations,” Hale wrote. “In short, the mere absence of overtly violent language in Trump’s statement does not appear fatal to plaintiff’s incitement claim.”
Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah and Henry Brousseau, claim they were peacefully protesting at the Kentucky International Convention Center when Trump ordered supporters to throw them out.
Matthew Heimbach, a leader with the white supremacist Traditionalist Youth Network, has pleaded guilty o misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Heimbach was fined $145 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was conditionally discharged for two years. He was ordered to have no contact with the protester, Nwanguma.
In addition, Heimbach must get anger management treatment in Tennessee.
Criminal summonses were also issued for Alvin Bamberger, a 75-year-old Ohio resident who was wearing a uniform associated with the Korean War Veterans Association, and Indiana resident Joseph Pryor.
Pryor pleaded guilty to harassment with physical contact of Nwanguma on June 23. He paid $245 in fines and court costs, according to court records.
Bamberger has not yet been served with his criminal summons.
Nwanguma, a University of Louisville student, was seen being pushed and shoved out of the audience in a video that went viral.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Dan Canon and Greg Belzley, have argued that Trump has plenty of time for a deposition, arguing his "presidency is, shall we say, qualitatively different from most modern presidencies in terms of the 'undivided time and attention' paid by the President to his 'public duties.'"
"As of this writing, Trump has played golf 20 times since his inauguration," according to Canon and Belzley's May motion. "He has the time for a deposition."
Canon, a Democrat, recently announced he is running for the 9th District Congressional seat in Indiana now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Hollinsgworth.
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