Granted probation for “disruption”

By Dave McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware

“Bring them home, bring them home!” This is what Green activist “zool” Zulkowitz from New York was arrested for chanting during a public hearing chaired by senator Carl Levin (D-MI) in April. He was charged with “Unlawful conduct in Congress, specifically disruption of a Congressional hearing” This summer zool was granted probation before judgment in a Washington, D.C. courtroom.

The Senate Armed Services Committee was hearing testimony from General David Patraeus, when zool voiced his opposition to the continued wars. zool, calling himself a “full-time trouble-maker” when he is in Washington, has attended many similar congressional hearings. At the Patraeus hearing, protesters wearing costumes and holding signs filled the courtroom. Levin allowed for some protest, a tactic frequently employed by committee chairs in the face of a hostile witness. After Gen. Petraeus evaded Levin’s question of when the troops could be brought home several times, zool stood up and chanted. zool said it was several minutes before he was arrested.

“When I stood up, I knew full well that I was not allowed to stand up, that I would be removed and there was a good chance I would be arrested and go to trial. But what is left for a citizen to do? The American people have been making a case against the war since before shock and awe. In 2006, Democrats were elected on the promise of ending the war and they have done nothing. In the hearing, no one represented the anti-war sentiment of the people. So the only branch of government left to us is the courts and I was ready to face jail in order to say what the people couldn’t say at the hearing.”

Since the potential penalty was up to six months in jail and a $250 fine, a defendant could get a jury trial for this charge. According to his attorney, Anne Wilcox, “zool was preparing to have a jury trial, around issues of the length and loudness of the ‘disruption’, as opposed to other interruptions that occur during a congressional hearing (bells ringing, press activity, etc.).” Wilcox added that although it wasn’t really part of a legal defense, zool planned to raise the issue of whether his elected officials were actually “representing” him.

At the last minute, rather than go through a jury trial, the court offered him a diversion offer to basically table the case for six months. During that time if the defendant does not get re-arrested, and if he fulfills all conditions, the case is dismissed. “This makes it easier for all concerned, and means that zool did not risk a six-month suspended sentence, lengthy probation, fines, etc.,” said Wilcox. As for zool, he accepted the plea on the condition they remove the order to stay away from hearings, allowing him to continue being a “troublemaker.”