In Tampa protester trial, judge delays decision on state’s motion to ban discussion of free speech

Citing new evidence, the argument about the motion is pushed to next month.

click to enlarge Defendant Jamie Bullock with friends and allies outside of Hillsborough County courthouse. - Justin Garcia
Justin Garcia
Defendant Jamie Bullock with friends and allies outside of Hillsborough County courthouse.

This morning, over 30 people gathered inside Courtroom 61 of Tampa’s Hillsborough County Courthouse for a hearing about the trial of three protesters who marched down Dale Mabry Highway last Fourth of July.

The main topic of discussion for the day was a “Motion in Limine” filed by State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office (SAO13) last week, which seeks to limit what the protesters' defense team can discuss in court. The motion would limit the right to speak of protesters' “right to free speech,” their constitutional right to assemble, police conduct at protests, along with several other key issues related to the defense team’s case.

Assistant State Attorney Danielle Villamil told the court that the main point of the Limine was to remove any evidence, especially video evidence, that wasn’t relevant to the defendant’s charges. 

But the motion’s first two lines do not discuss video evidence, but rather constitutional rights and the peaceful nature of the protest.

“What the motion says is, it’s OK to just throw out the constitution,” Michelle Lambo, an attorney for two of the defendants told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “And the police plowing into those kids as they marched down the street is relevant to the case, they brutalized those kids. They’re (the SAO) trying to keep out all the facts that don’t help them.”

Rather than debate the motion on the spot, Judge Mark D. Kiser set a new hearing date for the motion on Sept. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Kiser’s reasoning was mainly because new video emerged just last week from a police officer’s body-worn camera that was only recently turned over to the defense by the state, so more time is needed to review the video by the defense team.

SAO13 said it cannot comment on the motion or the trial while it is ongoing. 

The defense argues that photos and video from that day, including police footage, show that the police were the aggressors as the protesters marched peacefully last Fourth of July. It also brought the question to the court of whether or not the charge of blocking a roadway was a criminal or a civil violation, which will also be discussed on Sept. 13.

Two of the three protesters facing charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies might now go to trial, depending on what unfolds in the case proceedings over the coming days. The trial is tentatively set to begin on Oct. 6. 

Outside of the courtroom, defendant Jamie Bullock broke into tears and leaned on a friend as her supporters looked on. Outside, she cheered up as her friends encouraged her.

“I’m feeling more anxiety the longer this stretches on,” Bullock told CL outside the courtroom. “But I know I’m innocent. And everyone who supports me knows that too. That’s all that matters.”

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About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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