Every once-in-a-while a story emerges that distinguishes itself as too-good-to-be-true, but somehow -- the facts seem to check out. Last October, TheBlaze reported on one of these uniquely bizarre stories when we brought you the details surrounding "Zombie Muhammad," an atheist activist who was purportedly attacked by a Muslim during a Halloween parade in Pennsylvania.
While the assault was surprising enough in itself, the court battle that followed was equally unusual (it ended up being dismissed under curious circumstances). The crime was carried out by Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim immigrant. According to numerous media accounts, the defendant didn't know that it's perfectly legal to insult the prophet in America, so when he saw Ernest Perce V dressed in his Zombie Muhammad costume, he allegedly attempted to physically stop the presentation of anti-Islamic sentiment.
After Perce notified a police officer about what unfolded, the situation intensified. Charges were brought before Cumberland County Magisterial District Judge Mark Martin but, despite an admission at the scene of the crime by Elbayomy that he had grabbed Perce's sign and pulled his beard, the judge inevitably dismissed the charges for lack of admissible evidence.
The dismissal, itself, angered some onlookers, but the bigger issue seemed to be Martin's courtroom rebuke of Perce. In handling the case, the judge spoke out against the atheist, telling him that he was wrong for insulting Muslims and, at one point, likening him to a "doofus."
"What you have done is you have completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very very very offensive," Martin told Perce. "If I were a Muslim, I'd find it offensive. But you have that right, but you're way outside your bounds or first amendment rights."
Many saw these comments and the dismissal of the case as evidence that sharia (Islamic law) had crept its way into the courtroom. As a result of supposedly questionable details surrounding the dismissal, on September 10, The Legal Project, part of the Middle East Forum, filed a formal request for an investigation into Martin and his alleged judicial misconduct.
In the document that was submitted to the judicial conduct board, the group, on behalf of Perce, called for the judge's removal from the bench. While Martin has apparently already been reprimanded privately by the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board, the group that oversees judicial action considers the case closed.
Here's footage of the original attack, as posted on YouTube:
"While Mr. Perce is aware that The Board has already issued a private rebuke of Judge Martin, as Mr. Perce is the actual victim in this matter both by physical assault and the deprivation of justice due to judicial bias, he requests that the Judicial Board of Conduct re-examine Judge Martin's misconduct," reads a press release put out by The Legal Project last month. "In our estimation, the severity of Judge Martin’s judicial misconduct calls for the Judicial Board of Conduct to file formal charges which could ultimately remove Judge Martin."
Sam Nunberg, an attorney and the director of The Legal Project, spoke with TheBlaze about this fascinating case and his organization's call for Martin to exit the bench. He said that Perce originally came to The Legal Project for help after the case was dismissed earlier this year, as he was hoping for assistance to ensure that nothing like this would happen again.
"Why would they decide to make this a closed rebuke?," Nunberg asked. "This is one of the most egregious incidents of a shariah law ruling in the U.S. He allowed a defendant to commit a physical assault crime on the basis of Islamic blasphemy laws."
Rather than allowing the judicial board to escape explaining the details of the rebuke, Nunberg is pushing for the nitty, gritty details. While some may dismiss the case as a fringe example of judicial activism run amok, others may defend Martin's actions. Either way, The Legal Project worries about what this could mean for future rulings in the Pennsylvania judicial system.
"Martin has no place on the bench but his term extends to 2018," Nunberg continued.
In its official complaint seeking an investigation of Matin, The Legal Project listed some of the other quotes that purportedly came from the judge during the contentious proceedings:
- “In many other Muslim speaking countries – excuse me, in many Arabic speaking countries – call it ‘Muslim’ – something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society, in fact, it could be punishable by death, and it frequently is, in their society.”
- “Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being.”
- “I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.”
- “This is why we are referred to as “ugly Americans,” because we’re so concerned about our own rights we don’t care about other people’s rights.”
Martin has allegedly served three tours in the Middle East in the U.S. Armed Forces, which is where his knowledge about offending Muslims apparently originated. Some sources claim that Martin is currently overseas serving in the military, once again.
TheBlaze reached out to both Martin's office and the judicial board for comment. While Martin was not available and a woman who answered the phone said he wouldn't be for at least the next year, the board declined to comment. In a separate phone conversation with the judicial board, a representative merely read a statement that declared that he would not be able to comment further on the details of the case.
Despite the fact that TheBlaze wasn't able to reach Martin or any other representatives who were willing to speak about the legal fiasco, some past comments from the judge provide a defense of his judicial actions. In March 2012, Martin defended his decision in an interview with CBN News, claiming that there was not enough evidence to find the defendant guilty.
"Just because you have First Amendment rights that allow you to say something doesn't necessarily mean that you should always say that thing you want to say," Martin told CBN. "What I was trying to do in as quick of a time as I could, (is) educate the victim to try help him understand a little bit about Islam."
The arresting officer, Police Sgt. Brian Curtis, though, was less than content with Martin's explanation -- and his ruling.
"I believe that I brought a case that showed proof beyond reasonable doubt, and the case was dismissed, and I was disappointed," he said.
For now, Nunberg and Perce will avait a final determination, although there is a chance the board may simply ignore The Legal Project's grievance.