Cindy Sheehan at the White House in 2006.

The D.C. Circuit today granted presidential scourge Cindy Sheehan a new trial on charges that she violated a National Park Service regulation in September 2005 by protesting on a White House sidewalk.  As the court said:

We reverse and remand for a new trial . . . because appellant [Sheehan] was convicted of a crime that does not exist and prevented form offering a viable defense.  There is no strict liability under [the National Park Service regulation].  Yet, the Magistrate Judge allowed the Government to prosecute the case against Ms. Sheehan on the erroneous premise that the disputed regulations imposed strict liability for her alleged expressive activity, and sustained the prosecutor’s objections when appellant sought to advance a defense based on her knowledge and intent.  As a result, appellant’s conviction is based on errors of law that eliminated the prosecutor’s burden to prove mens rea and barred the appellant from presenting a defense on that issue.  We are therefore obliged to reverse and remand for a new trial.

United States v. Sheehan, No. 07-3002, slip op. at 3 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 11, 2008).  On remand, the court instructed, Ms. Sheehan can offer evidence that she didn’t know the protest permit didn’t extend to the White House sidewalk or that she needed one at all.

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