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Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Court Victory for Whistleblower!

Judicial Watch Victory: Federal Court Allows Lawsuit to Go Forward over Magistrate’s Firing for Comments on Released Rapist’s Murder of His Victim
Court Hears Our Appeal Regarding FBI’s January 6 Communications with Banks
Judicial Watch Files Brief in Support of Legal Challenge to Abortion Drug
DHS Invites State Sponsor of Terrorism to Tour U.S. Maritime Security Facilities

 


Judicial Watch Victory: Federal Court Allows Lawsuit to Go Forward over Magistrate’s Firing for Comments on Released Rapist’s Murder of His Victim

Judicial Watch had a major First Amendment court win in an important case involving life and death.

A federal judge ruled that our lawsuit can go forward on behalf of former Virginia Magistrate Elizabeth Fuller against officials in the Office of the Executive Secretary of Magistrate Services for firing Fuller in violation of her First Amendment rights.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Patricia Tolliver Giles of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, came in the lawsuit we filed in March 2022 (Elizabeth Fuller v. Karl R. Hade, et al. (No. 1:22-cv-00218)).

On October 19, 2021, Fuller was fired from her position as magistrate after commenting to the Alexandria Times as part of a discussion about the publicly available outcome of her own 2020 complaint against a bondsman named Man Nguyen.

The judge’s order states that the court “finds that [Fuller] has sufficiently alleged a First Amendment violation to survive a motion to dismiss.”

[Fuller’s] comments to the Alexandria Times facially concern a matter of public interest. [Fuller’s] comments concerned the murder of Ms. Dominguez, which had received media attention and “fueled public debate about lenient law enforcement and bail practices in the Commonwealth of Virginia and nationwide.” Ms. Dominguez’s murder was even discussed by then-Virginia Delegate, now Virginia Attorney General, Jason Miyares during a floor debate on bail reform in the Virginia General Assembly. In her comments to the Alexandria Times, [Fuller] appeared to express her discontentment with the actions of Bouaichi, Nguyen, and the Circuit Court Judge, and her belief that Ms. Dominguez’s death was “entirely preventable if anybody in the process had been doing their job effectively.”

On or about January 13, 2020, Ibrahm Elkahi Bouaichi was arrested and indicted by a grand jury for burglary with the intent to commit murder, abduction, sodomy, strangulation, and rape of Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez. Notwithstanding the seriousness of these charges, the Alexandria Circuit Court released Bouaichi on a $25,000 bond in April 2020. Less than four months after his release on bail, Bouaichi, on July 29, 2020, reportedly drove to Ms. Dominguez’ residence in Alexandria, Virginia and shot and killed her outside her apartment complex.

We pointed out in our initial complaint:

In the immediate days following the news reports about Ms. Dominguez’ murder, [Fuller] learned from a police officer in the citizen lobby of the magistrate’s office that the vehicle and gun reportedly used by Bouaichi to murder Ms. Dominquez belonged to the surety bail bondsman, Man Nguyen, who posted the $25,000 bond for Bouaichi’s release in April 2020. On information and belief, bondsman Nguyen and the officer struck casual conversation while they were waiting in the citizens lobby when Nguyen said it was his gun and car that Bouaichi used to murder Ms. Dominguez, and that he had let Bouaichi stay at his house while he was away on vacation. The officer subsequently relayed the information to Plaintiff as part of casual conversation among friendly colleagues, outside any hearing or proceeding.

On August 6, 2020, Fuller, in her personal capacity, filed a complaint with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, alleging that Nguyen violated rules and regulations of his licensure as a surety bail bondsman. On September 1, 2020, Nguyen’s surety bail bond license was suspended and revoked as a result. Fuller understood that this concluded the matter.

More than a year later, the Alexandria Times disclosed the contents of Fuller’s complaint and other information obtained through a third party’s Freedom of Information Act request regarding Nguyen’s involvement and subsequently approached Fuller for comment about the complaint in October 2021. Fuller commented as follows:

  • Nguyen came to work in the days following the murder, nearly boasting and joking about the fact that the gun and car belonged to him and that Bouaichi had stayed at his home.
  • “[Bondsman Nguyen] was telling this officer about what happened and almost bragging about it. The officer said to me, ‘You will never believe what he just said to me.’” “So I said, ‘I’ve got to do something about it.’”

Five days after this story was published on October 7, Fuller was placed on administrative leave, and she was fired on October 19, 2021 for violating Canon 3, Section B(6), which states: “[a] magistrate shall abstain from public comment about a pending, impending or concluded proceeding in any court or magistrate’s office.”

In early November 2021, Fuller filed a grievance appealing her termination and asked for reinstatement, which was denied.

We argue that Fuller’s firing was retaliation for protected speech and that the judicial canon used to justify her firing doesn’t apply to comments made about a public filing made in her personal capacity:

At all relevant times, [Fuller] was engaged in constitutionally protected speech when she made the comments to the Alexandria Times, which undeniably addressed matters of public concern.

***

[Fuller] enjoys the right to freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This includes the right to comment to the Alexandria Times on [Fuller’s] public complaint filed in her personal capacity about the misconduct of a bondsman and its outcome, and the system’s failure to protect a rape victim.

Simply put, Ms. Fuller embarrassed Virginia officials over their deadly soft-on-crime bail policies. As the court noted, our client commented on a serious public safety matter of widespread public interest. The lawsuit will now proceed to discovery and we hope, ultimately, to trial.

“I am so proud that Judicial Watch was so gracious to represent me before the federal court to secure this important victory for my First Amendment rights. This ultimately is not simply about whether or not I have a job, but about an innocent rape victim who unjustly and needlessly lost her life. It gives me hope that her story continues to be heard through this case independent of the outcome,” Fuller said.

 

Court Hears Our Appeal Regarding FBI’s January 6 Communications with Banks

As the actions of the government on January 6, 2021, come under increasing scrutiny, we are pursuing what appears to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans by the FBI.

A hearing was held (audio) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday, March 10, 2023, in our FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for records of communication between the FBI and several financial institutions about the reported transfer of financial transactions made by people in DC, Maryland and Virginia on January 5 and January 6, 2021(Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:21-cv-01216)).

The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel: Circuit Judge Wilkins, and Senior Circuit Judges Rogers and Tatel. An audio of this morning’s hearing can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/live/Hfa6qg4SEyA

We filed the appeal in November 2022, challenging a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision allowing the FBI to withhold records of communication between the FBI and several financial institutions about the reported transfer of the financial transaction records.

We asked for:

All records of communication between the FBI and any financial institution, including but not limited to Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Discover, and/or American Express, in which the FBI sought transaction data for those financial institutions’ debit and credit card account holders who made purchases in Washington, DC, Maryland and/or Virginia on January 5, 2021, and/or January 6, 2021.

In our brief we argued:

This appeal arises from what appears to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. Substantial and compelling evidence demonstrates that the FBI sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, D.C. area on January 5 or 6, 2021. This would include many thousands of persons living in the Washington, DC area, including possibly members of this Court.

In our appeal, we pointed out that the lower court was mistaken when it upheld the FBI’s Glomar response (neither confirming nor denying the existence of records) because the FBI previously acknowledged the existence of the records in multiple ways. For instance, court records filed in support of a criminal case include the FBI’s statement of facts that provides the defendant’s address, which was obtained through “his Bank of America account and recent Expedia transactions.”

In another case, the FBI “confirmed that it obtained records from PNC Bank and discusses in detail the multiple ways that it used the financial data.”

Additionally, “financial records obtained from JP Morgan Chase bank corroborate [the defendant] used a credit card issued in his name to purchase gas and food en route to Washington, DC …”

We cited two additional cases where the FBI describes in publicly available court records its use of financial records in the January 6 investigation.

We concluded:

[Judicial Watch] more than adequately demonstrated that the FBI may have sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, DC area on January 5 or 6. If so, this would be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request to investigate this should not be blocked by a meritless Glomar response.

We will be sure to update you when the appeals court rules.

 

Judicial Watch Files Brief in Support of Legal Challenge to Abortion Drug

Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of Texas-based Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM) in its lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration over the FDA’s approval of the controversial abortion drug Mifeprex (Mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486). In our brief, we describe the FDA’s approval process as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with the law.”

We filed the brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division in the case of Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (No. 2:22-cv-00223-z).

Judicial Watch  points out the Clinton administration’s use of political pressure to force the drug through the approval process:

The evidence uncovered of [the FDA’s] true motivation for their decision to approve Mifeprex is eye-opening and shows the [Clinton] administration and FDA applying political pressure on not only international corporations, but on international governments – all for a drug to kill prenatal human beings. The evidence also shows the intricate political and corporate machinations spent in the service of promoting a drug that has nothing to do with women’s health. [The FDA] pressured both Roussel, a French company, and Hoechst AG, the German pharmaceutical company and majority shareholder of Roussel, to bring the abortion pill to the U.S.

***

In a November 15, 1993 letter from Donna Shalala, HHS Secretary to the White House, she states that “Dr. Kessler [FDA Commissioner] and I have taken steps to persuade Roussel Uclef and Hoechst to change their position.”

***

The [Clinton administration] and the FDA were willing to place political pressure on two foreign governments [France and Germany] to accomplish the task of approving an abortion pill. This was not a life-saving medication or a drug that cured cancer. This was a drug which was being sought for one purpose and one purpose alone: the intentional death of prenatal humans. And for what reason? The ability to satisfy a financially and politically powerful group of abortion advocates.

Our brief explains that the FDA improperly weakened safety restrictions regarding Mifeprex over the years:

In a congressional hearing after the 2000 approval of Mifeprex, the FDA asserted that it chose to approve mifepristone [and] to maintain more stringent safety restrictions on the drug…. This included the requirement that the drug be administered “by or under the supervision of a physician” who met several qualifications.

***

[H]istory shows that in the first decade of post-approval use, the FDA increased Mifeprex safety requirements. [Emphasis in original] … Yet, despite these very public safety concerns, the [Obama] FDA significantly revised the Mifeprex labeling and REMS in 2016 and reduced the safety requirements. [Emphasis in original] These changes included significantly altered dosage, removal of the follow-up medical visit, removal of the requirement to take the drug in a doctor’s office, and expansion of the use through 70 days gestation. Also of significance and concern, the FDA modified the REMS [Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy] to require reporting of only deaths attributable to the drug. No longer would hospitalizations, transfusions, or other serious adverse events need to be reported.

***

In 2021, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool, abortion proponents, led by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “(ACOG”), sued the FDA to dispense with the REMS in-person medical visit as a prerequisite for obtaining Mifeprex and permit the drug to be mailed…. With the pandemic declared over by President Biden on September 18, 2022, the foundation of concern for in-person medical visits should have ended. Instead, the FDA maintained its temporary suspension and continued permitting Mifeprex to be mailed. Then on December 16, 2022, the [Biden] FDA permanently removed the [Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy] requirement for any in-person medical visits.

Our brief alleges that the FDA, in approving Mifeprex, did not demonstrate as required under law, (1) pregnancy was a “serious or life-threatening illness” or a “disease,” and (2) that the drug “provided a meaningful therapeutic benefit to patients over existing treatments.”

The chemical abortion drug would never have been approved but for pro-abortion politics. Pregnant mothers and their unborn children will continue to be harmed and maimed unless the courts require the FDA to follow the law.

In an effort to appease pro-abortion activists, the Clinton FDA hastily approved the abortion pill on September 28, 2000. We immediately filed a FOIA request and then battled the government in court to force the release of documents pertaining to the decision to approve the drug. We successfully obtained over 9,000 pages of records and then fought the agency over withheld records.

In May 2006, we released a special report containing documents that shed light on the Clinton administration’s push to get the abortion drug to market in the United States.

In 2007, we received 175 pages of documents pertaining to the abortion pill RU-486 that had previously been withheld by the FDA. According to the records, the China-based Hua Lian Pharmaceutical Company manufactured RU-486 at the time of approval. This seems to be the first official document confirming that the abortion drug had been manufactured in China. The records also indicated the extent to which the pro-abortion lobby was involved in the approval process. For example, one of the trials used by the FDA to justify its decision was conducted by Dr. Suzanne Poppema, president of the National Abortion Federation. Another trial was performed by Dr. Daniel Mishell, a senior scientist for RU-486’s then-patent holder, the Population Council.

In October 2022, we also sued HHS for records regarding drug stability test results, new drug applications and related materials of the abortion drug Mifeprex well as requests for reviews and assessments of the manufacturing facilities DANCO and GenBio where the abortion pills are produced.

We will report back to you as court events warrant!

 

DHS Invites State Sponsor of Terrorism to Tour U.S. Maritime Security Facilities

Here’s a jaw-dropping acknowledgement that Biden administration has placed ideology over national security.. Our Corruption Chronicles blog reports that Cuban officials were granted special access to sensitive facilities:

As if the Mexican border crisis were not sufficiently compromising national security, the Biden administration invited officials from a communist country that appears on the government’s list of state terrorism sponsors to tour sensitive U.S. maritime security facilities. The bizarre secret jaunt was scheduled last week to grant a delegation from Cuba’s Border Guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs access to the nation’s Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as port facilities in Wilmington, North Carolina. Cuba appears on the State Department list of terrorist nations along with Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Cuba has a long history of providing advice, safe haven, communications, training, and financial support to guerrilla groups and individual terrorists, according to the State Department. Furthermore, Cuba maintains close and collaborative ties with designated state sponsors of terror such as Iran and North Korea and the communist island harbors multiple fugitives who committed or supported acts of terrorism in the United States.

It makes no sense for any administration, Democrat or Republican, to grant an adversary with a history like Cuba’s access to essential Homeland Security facilities, especially at a time when the country is getting slammed with unknown foreigners entering illegally in droves. Apparently, the excursion was part of the International Port Security Program, which seeks to reduce risk to U.S. maritime interests, including American ports and ships, and facilitate secure maritime trade globally in partnership with global maritime trading partners. “Through international port visits, the discussion and sharing of port security best practices and the development of mutual interests in securing ships coming to the United States enhance both U.S. port security and the security of the global maritime transportation system,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s description of the program.

However, none of that should apply to Cuba, which also harbors dozens of fugitives and terrorists from American justice. Among them is Joanne Chesimard, who appears on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list and is also known by her Black Panther name of Assata Shakur. Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted by a jury of the 1979 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. With the help of fellow cult members, she escaped from jail and fled to Cuba. Chesimard is among the targets of bipartisan legislation introduced last year to force Cuba’s communist government to extradite more than 70 fugitives receiving safe haven on the island. “It is unacceptable that the Cuban regime continues to harbor criminals responsible for committing heinous acts in the United States, including terrorist bombings, murdering American police officers, hijacking planes, and trafficking arms,” said Democrat Bob Menedez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when the bill was introduced. The veteran lawmaker added that “the families of the victims of these fugitives, including many in my home state of New Jersey, have spent decades unable to find closure and see justice done as a direct result of the Cuban regime’s actions.”

Thanks to his Republican Senate colleague, Marco Rubio of Florida, the recent Coast Guard tour was cut short and the Cuban delegation only visited port facilities in North Carolina. In a letter to the president Rubio demanded that the visit be canceled and that Biden provide an explanation for sharing the nation’s security protocols with a foreign adversary. The senator reminds the commander-in-chief that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism for its broken commitments to cooperate with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and its continued support of the Maduro narco-regime in Venezuela, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia. “Both of these foreign terrorist organizations carry out attacks against civilians and engage in narcotics trafficking that bring cocaine, fentanyl and other drugs to our shores,” Rubio writes. “It is unconscionable that you would allow security operatives from Cuba – a State Sponsor of Terrorism that actively cooperates with narcotics traffickers, China, Russia, and Iran – the opportunity to access sensitive national security installations and maritime security protocols.”

Until next week,


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