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Judge Cheats, Forced to Step Down in Ricardo Palmera Case

by Angela Denio |
March 29, 2007
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Washington, D.C. - In an intense start to the second trial of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera, the presiding judge, Thomas F. Hogan, was forced to step down March 26, thus ending his involvement in the Palmera case. Participants in the International Day of Action to Free Ricardo Palmera were present in the courtroom and hailed this turn of events.

Judge Hogan presided over Palmera’s first trial, where Palmera, the peace negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), faced injustice after injustice. In the end Judge Hogan’s cheating finally caught up with him.

At a March 19 pretrial hearing it was revealed that the judge and prosecution had secret dealings with one another. After the first trial ended, Judge Hogan had allowed the prosecution to speak to the jury foreperson about the mistrial. Their request was sealed, meaning the defense was never told that this was happening.

Paul Wolf, a lawyer closely observing the trial, explained what happened, “There was so much cheating going on, the prosecutor was simply unable to keep track of it. Last week, while arguing that the defense was trying to ‘politicize’ the case, Ken Kohl, the lead prosecutor in the case, referred to [an] ex parte interview of the jury foreman. For Kohl, this was a fatal mistake. Not only Mr. Kohl, but the judge himself was caught breaking the rules.” In demanding that Judge Hogan recuse himself, U.S. public defender Bob Tucker told the court that the unmerited partnership of the judge and prosecution against Palmera had, “cast a cloud over the fairness of this [judicial] system.”

In his farewell to the court, Hogan said that he was forced to step down because of the intense public interest in the case of Ricardo Palmera.

On the day of the trial, ten protesters demanding Palmera’s freedom were sitting in the courtroom. Solidarity actions against the trial were held all over the globe - including Argentina, Peru, Sweden, Germany, New York and San Francisco.

One of the protesters, Doug Michel of Students for a Democratic Society, explained that he came out to the trial because, “We support the call to free Ricardo Palmera. His trial is unfair and he is grossly mistreated. The U.S. has spent nearly $5 billion on Plan Colombia, and we say no to this U.S. intervention.” Between the scandal in Colombia and the protests around the trial, things are only getting worse for the entire spectacle of ‘legitimacy’ around Plan Colombia.

After the trial, Tom Burke, spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera stated, “The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is already preparing to protest the next trial of Ricardo Palmera. We look forward to professor Palmera putting U.S. aggression and war on trial for a second time. These trials only get more bizarre - solitary confinement, no freedom of the press, no witnesses for the defense, no visits from friends, family or supporters, handpicked government lawyers, the judge and prosecutor caught cheating. If the U.S. runs their dirty war in Colombia the way they run Palmera's trial, it is no wonder they are losing.”

This is a great victory for Ricardo Palmera and all of those interested in the wellbeing and sovereignty of the Colombian people. Judge Hogan had already earned himself the nickname of the ‘crazy judge’ after he took out ads in Latin American newspapers demanding that the leadership of the FARC present themselves in his D.C. courtroom.

A new judge is assigned to the Palmera trial, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is preparing another round of protests . The movement to free Ricardo Palmera can only continue to grow.