Rev. Pinkney Barred from His Appeal Hearing

Posted June 12, 2009

On June 8, Reverend Edward Pinkney’s case was brought before the Third District Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tim Holloway, who has represented Rev. Pinkney since 2006, was joined by several attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, among them Michigan ACLU Legal Director Michael Steinberg. Nearly 50 of Pinkney’s supporters filled the courtroom to capacity while dozens more, including this reporter, waited outside.

Reverend Edward Pinkney and his wife, Dorothy Pinkney

Meanwhile, Reverend Pinkney himself was barred from attending the appeal hearing. Although the Michigan Supreme Court had granted him bond pending appeal, it was left to Berrien County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Wiley to set the bond amount. Until Rev. Pinkney could produce $10,000 in cash, Wiley ruled that he be electronically tethered and kept on 24/7 lockdown in his home.

When Steinberg on behalf of the ACLU protested Wiley’s harsh ruling and insisted that the defendant had a right to attend his own appeal hearing, the Berrien County judge stonewalled. According to Steinberg, among the reasons Wiley gave for refusing to let Rev. Pinkney appear at the appeal hearing in Grand Rapids was that “he has a criminal record.” It should be noted that criminal records are quite common among people appealing felony convictions.

Two briefs were filed at the June 8 hearing. The first, presented by Tim Holloway, called for Rev. Pinkney’s 2007 conviction by an all white jury to be overturned.

After a mistrial in 2006 on trumped-up charges of electoral fraud, Rev. Pinkney was convicted in March 2007 for the crime of delivering to a polling place an absentee ballot that did not belong to him. Under Michigan law, touching another person’s absentee ballot is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. (For more information on Rev. Pinkney’s trial, see “Framing Rev. Pinkney,” ATC 128, May-June 2007)

The second brief, presented by ACLU attorney Jim Walsh, related to an additional sentence imposed upon Rev. Pinkney for an article published in the November/December 2007 issue of the People’s Tribune newspaper. In the article, Rev. Pinkney paraphrases the Book of Deuteronomy:

Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.

Interpreting this Biblical prophecy as a direct threat to his fellow judge’s personal safety, Judge Wiley sentenced Rev. Pinkney to an additional three to ten years in prison for his article.

Addressing Rev. Pinkney’s supporters after the hearing, Steinberg summarized the ACLU team’s arguments on behalf of Rev. Pinkney – that, under the constitution, “a person can’t be thrown in prison for expressing his religious beliefs and for criticizing a judge.” He went on to call it a “tremendous miscarriage of justice” that Rev. Pinkney was not allowed to be present at his own hearing.

A written decision on both motions is pending.

Rev. Edward Pinkney, “Corrupt judge denies new jury trial in Pinkney case.”


3 responses to “Rev. Pinkney Barred from His Appeal Hearing”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Pinkney I commend you for standing up to Judge Wiley! You are one of the only people I know with the courage to stand up for what is right. Have you heard the news that Wiley himself has broken the law. Not just then but now, currently. I judge that is sworn in to uphold the law was found guilty of his own convictions. I am not sure of the actual events that occured but He was to be placed on teather and suppoasidly couldn’t drive. There are several rumores going around. I am not one to gossip, My point being is when is enough enough and how do we go about have him taken off the stand??? He is no longer upholding the law himself how can he judge anyone else if he can’t abide by the same laws as he expects us to abide by.

  2. Dianne Avatar

    Just an update on Rev. Pinkney, who won a reversal of imprisonment for a supposed parole violation the middle of July. Yet here it is almost a month later and he is still under house arrest and paying $105. per week for the electronic tether he must wear!

  3. Dianne Avatar

    The Michigan Appeals Court handed down its decision the week of July 13. According to a statement issued by BANCO (see below) Rev. Pinkney, who was even unable to attend a hearing on his own appeal, won his appeal on parole violation:

    Rev. Pinkney won the Probation Violation — Free Speech — issue (violating his probation by writing an article). He spent over a year in 8 Michigan prisons because the powers in Berrien County wanted to remove him, albiet illegally.

    All of Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley’s decisions are rescinded by the Appeals Court. This includes the decision to imprison Pinkney.

    As for the voter charges, the Appeals court denied Pinkney a new trial. The decision states that Berrien County committed 13 errors which were “harmless.” Rev. Pinkney says that all of the errors were, in fact, harmful.

    Pinkney feels good about the decision, which will allow him to continue the battle with the Berrien County Courthouse.

    The decision states, in part:
    Judge Butzbaugh agrees that the paraphase of Deuteronomy 28 is not defensible as anything other than hyperbole and that the paraphase could not serve as a lawful basis for revoking defendant probation.

    [Yet Wiley sent Pinkney to prison for a threat, and revoked his probation.]

    To the extent the prohibition of defamatory and demeaning behavior impinges on defendant’s First Amendment rights, the prohibition was not proper as it was not directly related to defendant’s rehabilitation nor to the protection of the public.

    Because the prohibition was not proper, the trial court abused its discretion in revoking defendant probation, the order revoking defendant probation is reversed.

    Rev. Pinkney available by phone and email: 269-925-0001, (please sign petition)