Today in a pre-trial hearing, an Ohio judge casually agreed with a motion filed by a prosecutor asking to ban a defendant from bringing up the United States Constitution or the constitutionality of the law under which he is charged with a crime.
Judge Catherine Barber (or Kathryn Barber), a retired judge filling in for the Xenia Municipal Judge Michael Murray stated “there will be no mentioning of the Constitution” and then laughed when the defendant claimed that uttering words on a public sidewalk constitutes free speech. (The audio of the hearing can be found here: http://bambuser.com/v/5372976). This was in response to a suggestion from the prosecutor that bringing up the constitution and civil rights “will confuse the jury.”
About a month ago, Virgil Vaduva, a journalist and editor of The Greene County Herald purposefully stood in front of the Xenia police station in an attempt to raise awareness about the constitutionality of the city’s anti-panhandling law.
Vaduva recorded a video of his encounters with local people, many choosing to make a donation to a local charity in town as a result of his actions. Vaduva was cited by the Xenia police for “panhandling” which is a fourth degree misdemeanor.
The City of Xenia is known for questionable or outright criminal activities committed by city employees. Former city prosecutor Craig W. Saunders was permanently disbarred by the Ohio Supreme Court after stealing more than $40,000 from an estate entrusted to be managed by him. Two city council members also are currently under fire for conflict of interest after investing into a business venture in which they voted on as council members. The current city prosecutor, Ronald Lewis was charged with tax evasion in late 2014. All the charges against him were dismissed after he claimed that he “forgot” to file and that it was “an honest mistake.” The city judge ordered all evidence to be struck from the record.
As a result of his “panhandling” Vaduva raised about $42 which was donated to a local charity helping the homeless and those in need.
A jury trial for Vaduva is scheduled for March 26th at 9:30 AM at the Xenia Municipal Court.