LOUIE GOHMERT: Federal Venue Laws Must Be Made Fair

Louie Gohmert Louie Gohmert is a former United States Representative from Texas' First Congressional District.
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The Washington, D.C., primaries have provided devastating evidence that former President Donald Trump and his supporters should never be tried before a jury in the District of Columbia. 

We already knew from the presidential results of 2020 that only 5.4 percent of D.C.’s general election voters supported him and his platform. As of this week, we now know that of the tiny pool of voting D.C. Republicans, two-thirds of them do not support him, as President Trump received only 33.3 percent of the REPUBLICAN votes in Sunday’s contest. If that is indicative of the share of Republicans the media has turned against Trump inside the beltway, then it means that even the five percent who voted for him in 2020 would now be about three-and-a-half percent. 

The leftist media and social media that hold sway in D.C. have done a remarkable job. A federal judge in the District would have to be quite ignorant of the demographics or be so politically partisan that he or she wants to jump on one side of the scales of justice to make sure the fix is in. It even seems that the D.C. judicial partisanship may have become so extreme and so dominant, that the beltway judges feel they are doing the country a favor, just as Nero did when fiddling while Rome burned. 

The actual rule in federal criminal cases is the following:

Rule 21. Transfer for Trial

(a) For Prejudice. Upon the defendant’s motion, the court must transfer the proceeding against that defendant to another district if the court is satisfied that so great a prejudice against the defendant exists in the transferring district that the defendant cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial there.

A judge who cares about the law and the Constitution, must follow the law regarding transfer of venue. Some judges suggested during my years on the bench that it is helpful on this issue to put yourself in the place of the defendant and ask, “Do I have any hope of getting a fair trial in this county or city?” That is not the legal standard, but it does give a sometimes helpful perspective.

In D.C., a fair-minded judge should not have to look far past the avid and shrill anti-Trump voters there to know that neither President Trump nor any active supporter of his could get a fair trial in the District of Columbia. The fact that no D.C. federal judge has acknowledged that “so great a prejudice” against President Trump or anyone deemed to be acting as a supporter “cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial there” is strong evidence that those judges also should be recused because of their blinding bias. 

There is now a superb report out with data analytics on just how prejudiced the D.C. jury pool is when it comes to President Trump and Jan. 6 by simply using social media data.

If a fair-minded candidate were to be elected president with even half-hearted civil-rights-oriented majorities in Congress, a critical bill that should be passed is the “Matthew Lawrence Perna Act of 2024” recently filed by Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Tayler Greene. I am so very grateful for her continuing the fight for civil rights of all those who may be prosecuted unfairly in D.C. and elsewhere. That bill was also filed in 2022 by the former prosecutor, judge and chief justice who is writing this article.

Matthew Perna was a sweet, gentle, caring soul who had been a hero to animal lovers with a heart for helping other people. He did walk through the Capitol on Jan. 6 after being pushed in through an open door by a crowd, but was seen encouraging Capitol police who did not seem concerned with his either his entrance or his short walk. The politically driven federal prosecutors overcharged Matthew, and Matthew pleaded guilty just to end the long nightmare. 

Footage of his walking through the Capitol staying between the ropes could have helped him, but it wasn’t released until after he died. One more case of the federal DOJ violating the law by failing to furnish potentially helpful evidence to a defendant. Matthew was told by his attorney that the DOJ would surely be recommending probation or months in jail, but no prison. When the DOJ sought to delay things so they could add a terrorism enhancement and pursue a potential nine-year prison sentence, it overwhelmed his gentle soul. He hanged himself. His loss is tragic; so is an arrogant, imperious, politically motivated federal Department that is supposed to be about “Justice.” 

If the Matthew Perna bill had been the law in 2021, Matthew’s case would have been handled in his own federal district before a true jury of his peers. 

Also consider that if the Jan. 6 defendants were Democrats who had not committed any act of violence but were in jail for protests in a 92-95 percent Republican town, every single Democrat would be demanding that a bill allowing transfer of venue be passed. The difference would be that they would be joined by many Republicans who are concerned about civil rights and fairness across the board and across the aisle. At this point in our history, it is calamitous for American citizens and the continuation of our republic that civil rights is not a bipartisan issue. 

Louie Gohmert is a former nine-term congressman from Texas and a Senior Fellow for Political Statesmanship at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.