The trial for Elston McCowan and Perry Molens, former SEIU members accused of attacking Kenneth Gladney in a parking lot, kicked off today. They are only charged with a misdemeanor, so the trial won't be a big to-do, and the prosecution has already rested their case after about four hours. I haven't seen anything that has changed my previous skepticism about the tea party story claiming that "union thugs" McCowan and Molens started mercilessly beating Gladney.
The entirety of the prosecutions case against Molens and McCowan is the testimony of Gladney, Sandra Himes, and John Mirelli (previously known as "towel man"). Apparently, the prosecution was not comfortable with having Harris Himes as a witness, which supports some of my previous speculation.
Gladney's testimony was the most damaging to the prosecution's case. For starters, Gladney appeared in a neck brace, which brought back memories of him showing up at a tea party rally in a wheel chair despite the fact that he was running around with no obvious discomfort immediately after the altercation took place. The defense lawyer said that Gladney's neck brace, which he was wearing because of surgery for a herniated disc, had nothing to do with the altercation, and Gladney did not challenge him on that point, so I assume it's true. But this opened up a criticism from the defense lawyer who asked Gladney why he showed up at the tea party rally in a wheelchair. Gladney said, basically, that it was hot and he was on medication and "they didn't have folding chairs or lawn chairs." Ouch.
The defense lawyer also pointed out that Gladney had repeatedly claimed in the past that he was "handing out flags for free." But this seemingly is in contradiction with his claim that he went to the rally to "make money" by selling buttons and flags. The defense lawyer suggested that Gladney said this because he thought it would make him appear more sympathetic, just as showing up in a wheelchair would make him appear more sympathetic.
A more important problem for Gladney was that his previous descriptions of what happened did not match his current testimony. He previously had claimed that Elston McCowan, a black minister, had called him the n-word. In today's testimony, he now claimed that Perry Molens, a white man, also called him the n-word, which would be a strange detail to leave out of all of his previous interviews. More importantly, he had previously claimed that 4 different people "attacked" him, yet now he clams only two. He also claimed that he "never said a word" to McCowan, which I'm pretty sure is at odds with his previous interviews. And finally, his story of the altercation provided no explanation of why Elston McCowan was seen lying on the ground at the beginning of the video And all of this was despite the fact that he told the defense attorney that his memory today was as good or better as immediately after the incident happened.
The second witness was Sandra Himes, wife of Harris Himes. Though the initial police report implied that she had seen Gladney attacked, she admitted (as I had noted previously) that she did not see how the fight started. She claimed that she saw all three of them "tussling," but of course the real question is who instigated the fight so it's strange that she's so confident that it was McCowan's fault. She, like Gladney, quite strangely could not account for why Elston McCowan was seen on the ground at the beginning of the video. She apparently seemed to suggest that she saw them tussling, then somehow did not see 30 seconds of the altercation including the moment when McCowan was on the ground, then returned immediately after the video started and tried to break them up. Finally, she claimed that she only heard one thing: Elston McCowan saying clearly "you son of an n-word" to Gladney. Neither of the other two witnesses for the prosecution heard this precise phrase, and McCowan and Gladney claim that McCowan did not use the n-word, though he did call Gladney an "Uncle Tom" because Gladney was selling buttons of Obama in white face.
Which reminds me of another point. Both Himes and Gladney claim that there were no buttons of Obama in white face, and the prosecution seems to be making a big deal about that point. All I can say at this point is good luck with that one.
Finally, the last witness, "towel man" John Mirelli, who was seen in the video screaming "you're going to jail!" at McCowan, Molens, and others in the initial video (while holding a white towel), claimed that he saw the beginning of the fight. He said that he wasn't at the event for political reasons, but "just wanted to know how health care reform would effect his company" which conflicts with a lot of video of him at the rally earlier arguing the tea party line. In fact, I'm pretty surprised that the defense attorney didn't bring up the fact that Mirelli can be seen in a previous video having to be held back from an altercation with another guy in an SEIU shirt (6:44 mark). Mirelli's story wasn't quite coherent, in my opinion. He claimed that Molens and McCowan were "standing over Gladney" punching and kicking him, and that Molens then "lost his blalance and fell backwards." However, the original video shows Molens losing his balance and falling backwards only after pulling Gladney backwards when Gladney was standing over McCowan. Is Mirelli saying that Molens lost his balance twice and fell over both times? Cause that would be pretty improbable.
Also not mentioned was David Brown, the employer of Gladney who tried for many months to serve as his spokesperson, who allegedly referred to Gladney as "his gravy train."
One last thing I just remembered. Gladney claimed that though the tea party paid for him to travel with them on speaking tours, he never "asked anyone for money or assistance." Actually, Gladney explicitly used Andrew Breitbart's websites to ask people to contribute to the "Kenneth Gladney Trust Fund" via Bank of America.
So. as is obvious, I have a lot of concerns about the case that the prosecution presented. I can't claim to know what the jury thought about what happened or what the defense will look like, but right now I don't see any conclusive evidence supporting the prosecution's case, and certainly not the Grand Tea Party Conspiracy that Obama ordered "union thugs" to beat up random people at town halls.
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