After Chicago activist is barred from courthouse during Smollett trial, judge issues statement saying he didn’t intend to ban anyone

A Chicago activist and writer was barred from attending George N. Court. Layton’s two-day criminal trial during Jussie Smollett’s trial last week.

The judge issued a statement late Friday night within an hour of the Tribune reporting that activist and rapper Bella Bahs (Black Ancestors Here Healing Society) was told on Tuesday that she was not allowed into the courtroom or courtroom.

Cook County Judge James Lane contacted the newspaper through a spokeswoman and explained his position in an email.

“For clarity, Your Honor. James Lane did not intend to prevent anyone from attending the courtroom, but requested that the person concerned not be in the front row,” read the e-mailed statement. “The court is open to the public, and is subject to COVID-19 precautions that limit the number of people in the courtroom to 57.”

BAHHS told the Tribune newspaper last week that she was asked to leave the courtroom shortly after giving an interview to reporters in the lobby of the building.

BAHHS sat in the front row of the courtroom in Linn with the Smollett family on Tuesday during the morning testimony, then a Smollett media representative asked her at lunch if she would be willing to speak to reporters in the courtroom lobby.

She agreed and then returned to testify in the afternoon. Later that afternoon, a media representative told her that the judge wanted her to leave the courtroom. BAHHS said she was escorted out of the courtroom. When she returned Thursday to attend the trial again, she was again escorted out of the building.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement that Lane issued a “verbal” order barring an “individual seated in the courtroom lobby from the George Inn Criminal Court Building. Representatives had escorted that individual outside in compliance with the order.”

BAHHS said she felt physically threatened and violated by being turned away because the guards were armed.

BAHHS’ ban from the courtroom came after Lane issued an oral directive to lawyers not to speak to the media. The request is not detailed in writing.

BAHHS said it had not spoken to Smollett’s defense attorney about her statements to the media beforehand. She told the media representative what she intended to say.

When asked by the Tribune about the remarks, BAHHS said she told reporters that while she didn’t know Smollett as someone visiting a story, she knew “CPD is that kind of department.”

Within hours, she was told she could not be in the courtroom. BAHHS told Tribune at the time that she believed it was because of her opinions.

“I guess he didn’t want me in this courtroom because of my political views,” she said.

BAHHS, who was born Ambrell Gambrell, grew up in the Austin neighborhood and is a rapper, artist, and writer who has interviewed Cook County attorney Kim Foxx and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for TRiiBE, a digital media platform covering the Black experience in Chicago. .

She is the founder of the Sister Survivor Network, an organization focused on the impact of imprisonment on black women and girls, an abolitionist activist who seeks to replace the criminal justice system with non-law enforcement resources that address the roots. The causes of the crime.

Linn was contacted in the middle of Friday afternoon by Tribune to ask questions about the matter and the fact that BAHHS had been removed from the courtroom. He did not respond to the statement until a little before nine in the evening

However, Lynn addressed his concerns about the media on the day BAHHS was removed after Special Prosecutor Dan Webb alerted him to some “journalistic issues”.

Lane responded first that the lawyers agreed that they would not make comments or statements to the press.

“It’s not a foreclosure order; it’s just an agreement between lawyers.

Lynn went on to say he was aware of “statements made in the lobby” and then reported “describing himself as an activist”.

Lin also said, “No one will transmit the infection of this trial.”

BAHHS, accessed late Friday night, said she did not think it was a misunderstanding, and noted that Lynn had not addressed her directly about any of it. She said that attributing what happened to a misunderstanding also absolves “anyone from accountability”.

“My right to access the public space as a member to vote and pay taxes from the public has been violated,” she said.

BAHHS, before Lane released its statement, said her removal was particularly troubling because it threatened to limit and harm the public’s understanding of court proceedings.

“It’s about who is going to testify to these public trials,” she said.


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