National

Attorney refuses to remove Black Lives Matter pin, taken into custody

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – An attorney was removed from court and taken into custody after a judge declared her in contempt for refusing to take off a Black Lives Matter pin.

Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich said Attorney Andrea Burton was in contempt of court for refusing to remove the pin in his courtroom as instructed. Burton was sentenced to five days in jail, but she has been released on a stay while an appeal is underway.

Burton will stay out of jail during the appeals process as long as she obeys Milich’s order not to wear items that make a political statement in court. If she loses her appeal, she will have to serve the five days in jail.

Milich said his opinions have nothing to do with his decision.

“A judge doesn’t support either side,” he said. “A judge is objective and tries to make sure everyone has an opportunity to have a fair hearing, and it was a situation where it was just in violation of the law,” he said.

The Youngstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said its legal counsel is monitoring the case closely as it may violate Burton’s civil rights.

A statement issued Friday from Youngstown NAACP President George Freeman, Jr.questioned whether Burton had violated the law. He has contacted the national NAACP’s legal office for assistance.

“We will do all that the NAACP Youngstown can do to ensure that Attorney Burton’s Constitutional rights are not being violated,” he said.

Attorney and community activist Kim Akins said she is worried about what happened.

“No one wearing an American flag button, no one wearing a crucifix or a Star of David would be removed, so why this particular statement bothered him so much is bothersome,” she said.

The judge said his ruling is based on Supreme Court case law in which a judge can prohibit symbolic political expression in courtrooms, even if it’s not disruptive.

“There’s a difference between a flag, a pin from your church or the Eagles and having a pin that’s on a political issue,” Milich said.

Legal analysts say judges have free reign when it comes to what’s said, or worn, in their courtrooms.

“The judge has the right in any circumstance that they think that some issue or matter will be disruptive to the court or a distraction to the court, they can ask that individual to remove that object,” said Matt Mangino.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said he didn’t know enough about the particular case to comment on it, but in general, judges are given a wide latitude in determining what can be worn in a courtroom.

“There have been cases in the past when people have been given contempt of court for refusing to comply with a judge’s order to remove an article of clothing that may have a message on it. Many times this has been done to retain the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Brickner said via email Friday.

Brickner said, however, a judge’s restrictions on what people may wear must be reasonable and fairly applied.

When contacted Friday, Burton and her attorney refused to comment on the case.

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Shoe art by Kokomo native stolen from northern Indiana museum

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) — A shoe by an Indiana native was stolen Saturday from a northern Indiana art museum.

South Bend Museum of Art is seeking help to find the thief of a shoe from the piece titled “Welcome Knives,” part of an exhibit by Kokomo native Chris Francis that’s traveled to other U.S. museums. His work has been described as wearable architecture.

The shoe disappeared between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday while the museum was open. The museum staff and city police are reviewing surveillance video from the Century Center to gain a lead. South Bend’s show called “Chris Francis: Modern Bespoke 21st Century Shoe Art” is in the downtown Century Center through April 5.

Francis, who grew up in Kokomo and now lives in Los Angeles, said in a statement that he was “saddened to be informed that someone has chosen to steal the piece ‘Welcome Knives’ from the exhibition. The shoes exhibited are all documented and catalogued works of art that have shown in many museums. Every shoe in the exhibition is one of a kind, with no others in existence making them very different than shoes we find in stores.”

Francis has created shoes for runway shows and for celebrities, including Lady Gaga and the members of Kiss and The Sex Pistols.

His work was displayed late last year on the Purdue University campus.

Anyone with information was asked to call the South Bend Police Department at (574) 235.9201 or contact the South Bend Museum of Art via email at info@southbendart.org, or through the museum’s social media accounts: Facebook, @SouthBendMuseumofArt; Twitter, @southbendart; Instagram, @southbendart.

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