In November of 2011, I covered the story about the October 11th, 2011, assault on Ernest Perce, a member of the “Parading Atheists of Central PA,” by a Muslim man. Since then, this story has gained national coverage. There is a new development, though. First, a brief overview. You should understand right away that the assault occurred during the Mechanicsburg, PA, Halloween parade, where there were many others dressed up in various costumes. Nothing unusual about that, it happens every year. The only difference was the costume Mr. Perce was wearing – a zombie version of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. Note that Mr. Perce had obtained all the necessary documents, permissions and clearances from the City of Mechanicsburg. His participation in the parade was legal, as was his Constitutional right to dress up as whatever he wanted to, even if it was offensive.
Along comes Mr. Talaag Elbayomy, a devout Muslim who was offended by Mr. Perce’s costume. This was Mr. Elbayomy’s right. However, his rights did not include assault and battery upon Mr. Perce. At that moment, Mr. Elbayomy became an alleged criminal. I say alleged, even though there were witnesses and incriminating video, because our legal system demands someone be innocent until proven guilty.
This should have been a no-brainer…
However, it wasn’t. Enter Judge Mark Martin, who – in spite of witnesses, testimony (unallowed) by the Police Officer on the scene, and audiovisual evidence, said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Mr. Elbayomy of the summary offense. It was basically one man’s word against another’s, the judge said. This, of course, is not only inaccurate, but a gross violation of Mr. Perce’s civil rights and a plethora of his legal rights.
In the initial complaint, Mr. Perce claimed Mr. Elbayomy tried to take his “Muhammad of Islam” sign, saying,
“He grabbed me, choked from the back, spun me around to try to get [my “Muhammad of Islam” sign] off that was wrapped around my neck,” (ABC 27 News).
Here’s the video taken during the attack
A storm of controversy has erupted over this, and here is why. Mr. Elbayomy filed a counter-complaint that alleged Mr. Perce was the instigator in the attack, even though Perce never laid a hand on Elbayomy.
However, the Police Officer at the scene, Sgt. Brian Curtis, stated that Mr. Elbayomy admitted, at the scene, to grabbing Mr. Perce’s sign, pulling on his fake beard. At this time, Curtis charged Elbayomy with harassment.
Why did Judge Martin throw out the charge?
According to a transcribed audio recording on YouTube of Martin’s remarks (later re-transcribed for clarity by the National Review Online), Judge Martin told Mr. Perce that,
“What you have done is you have completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very very very offensive.”
Judge Martin continued:
“If I were a Muslim, I’d find it offensive. But you have that right, but you’re way outside your boundaries or first amendment rights. This is what, and I said I spent about seven and a half years living in other countries. when we go to other countries it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as ugly Americans this is why we are referred to as ugly Americans, because we are so concerned about our own rights we don’t care about other people’s rights as long as we get our say but we don’t care about the other people’s say.”
Here’s a video of ABC News27’s coverage
Here’s a video of the actual trial
This is obviously a grossly inappropriate comment coming from the bench, and even Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, agrees. He said,
“…wherever Martin’s religious leanings may fall, the greater issue is that his legal views seem grotesquely out of place. There are legitimate uses of the culture defense. However, when it comes to free speech, that is not just our controlling constitutional right but the touchstone of our culture. I view this as an extremely troubling case that raises serious questions of judicial temperament, if not misconduct.”
Since last October, Mr. Perce has received literally hundreds of death threats. Perce states,
“People have said that they would kill me, rip my eyes out, run me over, shoot me and then laugh at me, since I have blasphemed Muhammad. They say I will be found out and hung in front of my family.”
Enter “The Legal Project”
The Legal Project, which is part of the Middle East Forum, is assisting Mr. Ernest Perce V concerning the judicial misconduct Judge Mark W. Martin.
In a nutshell
The Legal Project is stating that the Judicial Board is the last administrative resort that Mr. Perce has against Judge Martin. Otherwise, the Judge’s term lasts until 2018. It is because of the egregious actions of Judge Martin, The Legal Project has requested that The Judicial Board consider all possible sanctions, including sanctions, reprimand or removal of Judge Martin.
While Martin’s behavior is not indicative of how the Pennsylvania court system works, the fact that it was not properly addressed – nor the Judge properly reprimanded – leaves the door open for future judicial misconduct of this kind.
Judge Martin has a duty to adhere to the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having sworn to discharge the duties of his office with fidelity.
The final words of The Legal Project’s press release says it very succinctly,
“Judge Martin’s ruling was an egregious assault on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. He used his bench as a bully pulpit to enforce Islamic anti-blasphemy laws, show special deference to a defendant because he is Muslim, and allow a crime to be perpetrated because he didn’t agree with the victim’s Constitutionally protected speech. It fails credulity for the Board to allow Judge Martin to complete his term, which does not expire until 2018.”