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Ohio Sedition Trial (7 ): 1989

The Long Road To The Verdicts Begins

The jury selection process began on April 21, 1988, but because of the reluctance of so many people to get involved in what promised to be such a lengthy trial and various other delays, it was not until January 10, 1989, that the trial proper began. Raymond Levasseur, recognized as the leader, chose to represent himself in court, and from the outset freely admitted that he was a revolutionary while denying that he was a criminal or racketeer. Williams's defense was based on essentially the same position although he did not choose to adopt such a defiantly revolutionary stance. But Patricia Levasseur's defense was to be quite different. One of her attorneys, William Newman, in his opening statement, said:

Proof will not be shown that she ever robbed a bank, cased a bank or drove a getaway care. It did not happen. She wasn't a bomber, a bank robber, or an attempted murderer.

Rather, said Newman, whatever she did was simply out of dedication to her family:

She did everything you'd expect from a caring mother. She enrolled her children in school, took them to doctors' appointments … baked cookies for PTA meetings … grew a garden.

Newman also attacked the government's use of charged terms such as "underground," "safe house," and "cell" designed to prejudice the jury:

Underground? She only joined her husband to be away from the eyes and ears of the government. She didn't live in a safe house. She lived in a home. It wasn't a cell. It was a marriage.

The government called witness after witness—eventually adding up to almost 200—and introduced some 1,700 pieces of evidence. But much of the evidence and testimony was less than convincing. A teller from a bank in Maine that the government alleged had been robbed by members of the UFF, for instance, could only testify that a ski-masked robber had stuck a revolver in her ribs; she could not identify any of the three defendants on trial.

Among the major pieces of evidence were several notebooks in which were recorded the group's concerns and plans; Patricia Levasseur's lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, used a novel argument in her summation to the jury, claiming that at least her client—with three young children underfoot—could not be implicated with this:

Many of you on the jury know what it is like to raise children and you will understand that the women of this group were the primary caregivers. The children would have fought and needed feeding, and diaper changes, and they would have cried.… There would have been a lot of preoccupation with children in this sort of group. Yet none of this is reflected in the notebooks.

In the end, Raymond Levasseur, in summing up his own case for the jury, tried to justify the actions of his "brigade" by a historical analogy:

Martin Luther King said there is nothing wrong with a traffic light that says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through the red light. He added that people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Ohio Sedition Trial (7 ): 1989 - The Underlying Crimes, Raising The Stakes, The Long Road To The Verdicts Begins, Expensive Acquittals And Mistrials