Judge Keith Sutherland ruled Thursday that a controversial video made by anti-government Internet blogger Jeffrey Weinhaus will be viewed by jurors at his trial Oct. 8.
The video in question, titled “The Party’s Over,” aired in August 2012 on the video site YouTube.
It is a little over nine minutes long and contains what Weinhaus’ attorney Hugh Eastwood called “conditional threats” to authorities and elected officials in Crawford and Jefferson counties.
In the video, Weinhaus gives unnamed lawyers, judges and police officers until Sept. 17, 2012, to “stand down” and “just quit.”
“You’re getting out of our house,” Weinhaus states in the video. “I’d like to see you go peaceably, but if you are going to try to resist, you are going to meet your own fate. You will be arrested, you will be tried, and once you are convicted by a jury . . . then you will be executed for the crimes you have committed against the American people.”
The video was played, with notes superimposed on the screen, at the hearing on pretrial motions.
Judge Sutherland has set aside three days for the trial.
Eastwood filed a motion to suppress the video as evidence, stating that it should be protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.
“My client is an Internet blogger,” Eastwood argued in court. “It was published as part of the Bulletinman series on matters of public concern. No matter how colorful or diabolical it may be, it is free speech and is afforded protection.”
Eastwood said it would be inappropriate for the court to show the video at trial because he claimed it’s “hyperbolic” and “offensive” and would invoke personal reactions and prejudice in the jury.
He argued that Weinhaus never made any direct threats to officials nor did he try to contact them personally with threats.
“This is public speech on a public forum,” he said. “The speech is published by Google and is still up there. Google has strict guidelines and if it were a real threat, they would have taken it down.”
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks said public servants have a right to fulfill their duties without threat and said the video caused “great panic” among officials in both Crawford and Jefferson counties.
“They changed their parking routines in Jefferson County and Crawford County went on lockdown,” he said. “Everybody took this as a serious threat.”
The video, Parks said, is what sparked events that led to Weinhaus’ shooting and later arrest.
In it, he allegedly made a threat directed specifically at Crawford County Judge Kelly Parker, who is identified in the warrant that officers served Weinhaus at his home off Highway K near St. Clair on Aug. 22, 2012.
“Judge Parker called the highway patrol and asked them for an investigation,” Parks said.
Two troopers went to serve the warrant and when Weinhaus opened the door, they smelled marijuana, according to Parks. They then seized computers, a small amount of marijuana and some pills found to contain morphine.
On Sept. 11, 2012, highway patrol officers were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Weinhaus when they said he went for a gun. The officers shot Weinhaus several times, critically injuring him.
Weinhaus, 46, was charged with interfering with a judicial official, two counts of felony assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of armed criminal action, felony resisting arrest, a felony drug possession charge and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Eastwood also made a motion to sever the charges against Weinhaus, meaning to bring each charge to trial separately, citing the argument that the events leading up to the shooting were unrelated and took place weeks apart from one another.
But Sutherland disagreed and denied that motion.
“This is a sequence of events even though they are separated by several weeks,” Sutherland said. “It is appropriate to try them together.”
Eastwood had a couple of small victories at the hearing. Although he won’t be able to refer to Weinhaus as a victim during the testimonial phase of the trial, he can use the term in closing arguments. He also was granted a motion to disallow testimony from Weinhaus’ neighbor, who was to testify that he saw Weinhaus target practicing prior to his confrontation with police.
“It is not against the law to target practice,” Sutherland said.
Another motion was informally brought before the judge by Weinhaus’ attorney who argued the state shouldn’t be allowed to introduce the contents of Weinhaus’ car when he showed up at the gas station to meet with police officers on Sept. 11, 2012. Eastwood said the car contained “shotguns and other things.”
“Since there were no charges of unlawful possession of weapons, it could cause prejudice,” he said.
Parks said that evidence would show the defendant’s “state of mind.”
“It shows the defendant came loaded for bear,” he said.
Sutherland said he would rule on that motion sometime before the trial since it wasn’t submitted in writing.