Merrick Garland Must Address His Role in Dropping Charges Against Capitol Bomber

Merrick Garland

National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) called upon the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland at his confirmation hearing this Monday about his role in dismissing a misconduct complaint against a magistrate judge who improperly dismissed an indictment against a co-conspirator and fugitive Elizabeth Ann Duke for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings.

On November 7, 1983, radical left-wing members of the Resistance Conspiracy, affiliated with the May 19 Communist Coalition and Weather Underground, bombed the Senate Chambers of the Capitol Building.  Between 1983-1985 they had bombed three military facilities in the area, including the Navy Yard and Fort McNair. 

One of the convicted conspirators, Susan Rosenberg, had her sentence commuted by President Clinton.  Rosenberg took her skills to work for Black Lives Matter.  Her co-conspirator, Elizabeth Ann Duke, jumped bail and has been a fugitive ever since 1985.

On June 17, 2009, the Obama Justice Department alarmingly moved to quash Duke’s arrest warrant and dismiss the indictment, without stating any reasons.  The motion was summarily granted by Obama-appointed Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson who falsely signed the dismissal as an Article III U.S. District Court Judge and falsely stated it was based on reasons given by the prosecutor when in fact no reasons were offered.  

Magistrate Judges, appointed for a fixed term, are authorized to handle preliminary criminal proceedings, such as setting bail, issuing warrants, and accepting guilty pleas, but not to dismiss indictments, let alone by signing the dismissal as an Article III U.S. District Court Judge.

On January 15, 2014, Chief Judge Merrick Garland summarily dismissed a judicial misconduct complaint against Magistrate Robinson for her unlawful action stating it “lacked sufficient evidence to raise an inference that misconduct has occurred,” when in fact the misconduct was clear when the magistrate signed the order as a District Court Judge and falsely stating it was based on reasons given by the prosecutor when the transcript of the proceedings showed no such reasons were offered.

“It’s bad enough that Bill Clinton commuted the sentence of Capitol bomber Susan Rosenberg who now works for Black Lives Matter, but dropping the charges against her co-conspirator Elizabeth Duke who jumped bail is outrageous, especially the way it was done,” said Peter Flaherty, NLPC Chair.

“Merrick Garland has an obligation to explain to the Senate Judiciary Committee why he summarily dismissed a misconduct complaint against the magistrate who falsely signed the dismissal of charges against a domestic terrorist as a United States District Court Judge and falsely stated it was for reasons given by the prosecutor when in fact no reasons whatsoever were given,” said Paul Kamenar, NLPC Counsel. 

“Merrick Garland should also be asked whether as Attorney General he will pursue capital punishment against domestic terrorists such as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon Bomber.” Kamenar added.  The Supreme Court may decide on Monday morning during the confirmation hearing whether to hear AG Bill Barr’s appeal last year that Tsarnaev is not entitled to a sentence rehearing.  President Biden had switched his position on the federal death penalty during the campaign and joined his primary opponents advocating the abolishment of capital punishment for federal capital crimes, including domestic terrorists.

While those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 should be held accountable, the double standard of showing leniency by Democratic presidents and the Obama Justice Department to domestic terrorists who bombed the Capitol is shocking.  In 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on the House floor from the visitor’s gallery above, wounding five members of Congress.  The perpetrators were caught and imprisoned. One was released in 1978; the others were pardoned in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.