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15 Jun, 2021 00:57

US federal judge charges MARSHALS amid row over refusal to reveal Covid-19 vaccination status

US federal judge charges MARSHALS amid row over refusal to reveal Covid-19 vaccination status

A federal judge in South Dakota is on the warpath against the US Marshals service that provides courtroom security, accusing them of ‘kidnapping’ and criminal contempt after they refused to disclose Covid-19 vaccination status.

On Monday, US District Judge Charles Kornmann fulminated for nearly an hour at the courthouse in Aberdeen, as Justice Department lawyers and two of the Marshals he wants criminally prosecuted took notes. 

“This was such an outrageous thing to do,” the judge reportedly said, according to the Washington Post, referring to the incident last month when a female deputy refused to tell him if she was vaccinated – and took the three defendants with her when Kornmann ordered her to leave the courtroom.

“When you move someone against their will, that's kidnapping,” Kornmann said. “I don't care who you are.”

“Nothing like this that we could find has ever been done in this country. If it is the marshals’ position that they can override court orders, they are badly mistaken,” he added.  

Kornmann wants obstruction of justice and criminal contempt charges levied – not against the female deputy, but against the Marshals Service chief of staff John Kilgallon in Washington, DC; as well as Daniel Mosteller, the marshal for the District of South Dakota and his chief deputy Stephen Houghtaling. He gave the federal prosecutor until Friday to do so, or he would appoint a prosecutor who will. The trial date is already set: September 13.

The feud goes back to March, when Kornmann sent a letter to the Marshals demanding to know if the people working in his courtroom were vaccinated. 

“We are not talking about politics or conspiracy theories. We are talking about science and protecting all of us who serve the public here as well as the jurors, lawyers and parties who come to this building,” the judge had written. “If you are refusing to take the vaccines, I want to know that so I can decide what further action is required on my part.”

“I had always thought that the principal responsibilities of the Marshals Service was the protection of the federal judiciary,” Kornmann added. “As it stands now, they could well be the most dangerous people in the courtroom.”

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Mosteller responded in April that the Marshals Service would not be providing the vaccination status information to the court. The service said it did not know the individual deputies’ vaccination status. Another letter, from Kilgallon, said the USMS was down to 69% of their strength and any court order mandating deputies to be vaccinated “may negatively impact the ability of courts to conduct their business when such security is required.”

Current rules for South Dakota courthouses say that everyone not fully vaccinated must wear a facemask. At Monday’s hearing Kornmann and his staff did not wear masks – suggesting they’ve had their shots – while the marshals and the DOJ attorneys all did. 

Kornmann noted during the hearing that his own staff had “suggested” that the deputy who left the courtroom with the suspects might have “planned” the stunt in advance. 

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Kornmann also touched on Saturday’s decision by his colleague Lynn Hughes in Texas, ruling that the Houston Methodist hospital had the right to mandate vaccinations, even with the jabs currently classified as emergency-use only by the US regulators.

He also called the marshals arguments “disingenuous” and called one of them “simply false” – specifically, the explanation that one of the defendants taken from the courtroom was a murderer. The defendant had a prior manslaughter conviction and was in court for a relatively minor probation violation, Kornmann argued, according to the Post.

Born in 1937, Kornmann was nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1995, after 30 years in private practice in Aberdeen. Between 1963 and 1965, he was the executive secretary of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

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