Monday, January 26, 2015

Out of the Mouths of Defendants...

     As a courtroom observer, there are times I think I've seen and heard it all. But then a defendant comes along and totally destroys that notion by spouting something shocking or humorous that makes my jaw drop or has me shaking my head in disbelief. 
Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
     On any given day there are numerous memorable comments made by defendants. Here are some recent utterances overheard by 'Mr. Everybody's Business' at the Montgomery County Courthouse:
     It was a trial unlike any other I had covered in county court - the bank robbery trial of Ishaq Ibrahim, who claimed throughout his case that he was a "sovereign citizen." Ibrahim ranted that he didn't consent to the proceedings and that prosecutors had no legal authority to take him to trial. Ibrahim, 28, of Philadelphia, challenged Judge Garrett D. Page's jurisdiction over the trial and suggested he wasn't subject to the laws of government proceedings of the U.S. Ibrahim consistently shouted, "That's not my name," in court when authorities referred to him by his birth name. Ibrahim initially insisted on being addressed by his new names, "sonstar" or "free man." Later, he insisted he didn't have a name.
Convicted bank robber Ishaq Ibrahim/Mercury Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
      Here are just a few of the strangest remarks Ibrahim made, as he was led to and from court by sheriff's deputies in the public hallways during the four-day trial, as I addressed him as "Mr. Ibrahim" and sought his comments on various aspects of the trial and the guilty verdict:

  • "My name is sonstar, for the record."
  • "I don't have a name, for the record. Businesses have names."
  • "My dog calls me 'Ruff.'"
  • "Do you have my permission to speak to me, for the record?"
  • "Are you agreeing that you do not  have my permission to speak to me?"
  • "Are you agreeing that you are infringing on my property by filming me without my permission?"
  • "I have preserved all of my Common Law rights through the Uniform Commercial Code A1-308."
     Finally, at one point Ibrahim, obviously fed up with my addressing him by his birth name, said to me, "Are you okay buddy? You might need a psychological evaluation done. That's not my name, How many times do I have to tell you?"
     Naturally, as Ibrahim's advice that I get a psychological evaluation became common knowledge around the courthouse, it became fodder for lawyers and other courthouse employees I know to chide me endlessly with comments such as, "We've been telling you that for years, Carl."

     Ibrahim was convicted by the judge of charges he was one of the gunmen who entered the Lower Pottsgrove bank he was accused of robbing. Incidentally, numerous spectators at the courthouse commented about how Ibrahim used his sweatshirt to cover the bottom half of his face from the glare of a reporter's camera, much like authorities alleged at trial that he used a scarf to cover his face when he entered the bank to rob it.
Ishaq Ibrahim/Mercury Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
     I am left wondering what Ibrahim will have to say when he's brought back to court later this year for his sentencing hearing. Stay tuned.

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