Sunday, October 22, 2006

Politics Philly Style

Court Examines Rendell's Role In 1998 Protester Beatings
By: WILLIAM MULGREW, The Evening Bulletin

Philadelphia - A special three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals convened Wednesday to hear arguments on whether a Federal Civil Rights suit may proceed against Gov. Ed Rendell and overturn a 2003 lower court ruling that there was insufficient evidence. Rendell is charged with conspiring to suppress the First Amendment rights of protesters by having Teamsters Local 115 beat them while they demonstrated outside Philadelphia's City Hall during a Democratic fundraiser featuring President Bill Clinton.Rendell, who was mayor of Philadelphia at the time, admitted in a deposition following the Oct. 2, 1998 beatings to personally inviting Teamsters Local 115 Secretary-Treasurer John Morris and instructing the union to "drown-out" the Clinton protesters."I specifically said I didn't want any interaction with the demonstrators. I wanted this to be extremely peaceful and extremely positive," Rendell also claimed in the deposition, which was taken two years after the fact.Morris was caught on video by local media placing a fedora over protester Don Adams' head, signaling the Teamsters to knock him to the ground and assault him. Adams was treated at a nearby hospital for a concussion, lacerations and multiple bruises. His sister, Teri, sustained minor injuries.Testimony from Morris' chief of staff revealed that, after the beatings, Rendell called Morris about the Teamsters who participated in the attack and said, "nothing is going to happen to these guys," and "I know how these things go." He then suggested that Morris and the Teamsters file a criminal complaint against Adams, which they did two days later on Oct. 4, 1998, alleging that he struck a woman in their group.Even though there was no police reports supporting the Teamster's claim, the incident was caught on video, and the District Attorney's Office pursued trial against Adams, who filed suit against the Teamsters and Rendell several months later.At one point, the Teamsters offered to drop their charges against him if he dropped his case. During that time, they launched a media campaign and accused Adams of being a woman-beater. Adams rejected the deal and was found not guilty on July 8, 1999. Five teamsters then pled guilty to various charges of assault and were granted probation, and Morris died in 2001.Arguments surrounding Rendell's involvement center not on how convincing the evidence is, but whether his interaction with Morris after the fact - consoling the Teamsters and advising them to sue Adams - can be used as evidence to support the charge of conspiracy.The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States vs. Smith in 2002 that concerted actions to conceal unlawful behavior are relevant to a finding of conspiracy. The Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in United States vs. Brodie last year.However, Philadelphia Law Department attorney Jane Lovitch Istvan, who represents Rendell, argued in brief, "The alleged conversation in this case ... contained no evidence of attempted concealment, nor is there a pattern of other alleged attempts to conceal.""I think he might have a case," Circuit Judge Restani said during oral arguments surrounding Adams' claim.The three circuit judges were appointed to hear the case from outside the Third Circuit Court's jurisdiction after a motion asking the entire Circuit to recuse itself was granted. This recusal was issued due to the fact that Rendell's wife, Judge Marjorie Rendell, sits on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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