Judge criminally charges 3 U.S. Marshals after one refused to reveal vaccination status in his courtroom

ABERDEEN, SD– On Monday, June 14th, a federal judge in South Dakota criminally charged three U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) officials with contempt of court and obstructing justice in connection with a marshal who refusal to reveal her COVID-19 vaccination status to his court.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that in March, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann attempted to require all courthouse employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

In response, U.S. Marshal Daniel Mosteller, who leads the agency in South Dakota, told Kornmann that would not be attainable since USMS was not requiring its marshals to be vaccinated.

Mosteller also told the judge that the marshals would not be disclosing their vaccination statuses to the court. Then on May 10th when a deputy marshal brought the first defendant of the day into Kornmann’s courtroom, the judge asked the marshal if she was vaccinated and she refused to answer the question. 

Due to her refusal to answer, Kornmann asked her to leave the courtroom. Kornmann said that the deputy left the courtroom under protest and initially attempted to take the defendant she was escorting with her. 

Instead, she left the defendant in the courtroom and a replacement marshal who was in the courthouse and fully vaccinated was then found to sit in the courtroom.

That hearing went just fine, but when it was time to bring the next defendant into the courtroom, Kornmann learned that the marshal he had ejected from his courtroom had left the courthouse with the in-custody defendants, acting on orders from her supervisor. 

The remaining hearings scheduled for that day were eventually conducted virtually with the judge and defendants in separate rooms.

Courthouse documents showed that U.S. Chief Deputy Marshal for South Dakota Stephen Houghtaling called Kornmann, telling him that the rest of the defendants for the day had been removed from the courthouse because USMS did not feel the courtroom was secure with only two deputy marshals in the room.

Houghtaling also told the judge that the marshals were not required to disclose their vaccination statues to third parties, including judges. In response, Kornmann ordered Marshals Mosteller and Houghtaling and USMS Chief of Staff John Kilgallon to appear before him on Monday, June 14th.

Reportedly, the hearing with the judge lasted more than an hour. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys Leah Brownless Taylor and Josh Gardner appeared to represent the USMS officials at the initial hearing. However, all three marshal employees were also securing criminal defense attorneys to represent them.

At the hearing, Kornmann stated that he reviewed the facts and argument presented thus far and has determined that the marshals not disclosing their vaccination status was wrong. He also called the argument made by the general public that individuals have the right to choose not to get the vaccine as “nonsense.”

He went on to call the arguments made by USMS “frivolous” and “bogus,” including the assertion that the officials could not be held in contempt because the order did not refer to them. Kornmann said:

“That is bogus. They engaged in a conspiracy.”

Kornmann added that the supervisors’ job was to obey and execute orders of the U.S. District Court and said their actions caused defendants to miss hearings without any warning given to their attorneys or the court. He said:

“This was such an outrageous thing to do.”

Later, Kornmann categorized the marshals’ actions as either kidnapping or holding the defendants hostage. He said:

“Nothing like this has happened in the United States.”

During the hearing, he offered the USMS officials an opportunity to resolve the case. Kornmann suggested they each make an apology, an admission of wrongdoing, and pay a $5,000 fine. However, none of the supervisors chose that option.

None of the officials entered a plea during the hearing and Kornmann scheduled a trial date of September 13th for all three. Reportedly, the officials were released on their own recognizance, but the judge ordered Mosteller and Houghtaling to remain in South Dakota and he ordered Kilgallon to remain in the United States.

Kornmann gave the U.S. Attorneys Office of South Dakota until Friday, June 18th to take up the case, saying that if they did not do it by then he would get another prosecutor to do it. 

The Marshals Service operates under the DOJ, an executive branch agency, but it is tasked with the protection and enforcement of federal courts. Federal law grants the Marshal Service “final authority regarding security requirements for the judicial branch.”

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Where’s the media? U.S. Marshals close 131 missing child cases in ‘Operation Not Forgotten’

April 10th, 2021

BALTIMORE, MD – A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice detailed the success of an operation led by the U.S. Marshals that saw the recovery of collectively 131 missing children through various investigations launched and collaborations with local law enforcement agencies in Maryland.

The effort that saw the numerous missing children’s cases resolved closed was dubbed as “Operation Not Forgotten,” which was reportedly a collaborative effort initially launched by the U.S. Marshals in Maryland.  

This 60 day operation was said to have resulted in the recovery of 18 previously missing children and also the self-return of 11 other children. However, U.S. Marshals with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies were able to locate an additional 102 children that had previously been reported missing.

The effort was reportedly led by U.S. Marshals personnel from the capital area regional fugitive task force and the district of Maryland, with some additional support coming from two U.S. Marshals district offices based in Washington.

Additional law enforcement agencies that assisted with the expansion of this operation included the Maryland State Police, Montgomery County Police Department, Prince Georges County Police Department, Baltimore County Police Department and the Baltimore Police Department.

Overall, according to the agency’s press release, there were over 30 investigators that collaborated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Maryland Department of Human Services – Child Protective Services to help locate these missing children.

Said effort to help locate missing children is not the first iteration of Operation Not Forgotten, as a similar endeavor occurred back in August of 2020 in Georgia where 39 children were collectively recovered.

U.S. Marshal Johnny L. Hughes of the District of Maryland provided the following statement regarding the operation’s success:

“Children are a Blessing and are America’s future leaders. We must always protect their innocence and defend them from physical and sexual abuse by predators and unscrupulous individuals.”

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner extended sincere accolades toward the efforts employed by the U.S. Marshals and the law enforcement agencies that collaborated with them in this endeavor:

“We commend the U.S. Marshals Service and their law enforcement partners for their leadership and tireless work in finding children and bringing them home. 

“Everyone in the community must prioritize child safety and preventing victimization, including through mentoring and other supportive programs to help at-risk children and their families.

“Our office will always aggressively pursue and prosecute those who prey on young people, and we are pleased to support efforts like this operation.”

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Back in March, Law Enforcement Today shared a report regarding another operation that saw several children recovered in Texas. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TX – Following a month-long operation focused on recovering missing and/or exploited children in North Texas, the Department of Justice announced that 31 children were safely recovered as a result of the efforts on March 17th. 

The effort was dubbed as “Operation Missing in the Metroplex”, according to the DOJ, and consisted of federal agencies partnering with law enforcement agencies in Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie to locate missing and exploited children. 

Both the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals were said to have led the operation while it was ongoing. 

Acting U.S. Marshal Quintella Downs-Bradshaw delivered the following comments with regard to the operation’s success: 

“To observe law enforcement partnerships and community concerns culminate into such a successful recovery outcome is rewarding. Victims should know they are not forgotten, there is hope and a way to return home.”

A total of 31 children were recovered during the effort, having been reunited with friends, relatives or with legal guardians. At least seven of the children were said to have been girls aged between 13 and 17 that were rescued from sex trafficking scenarios. 

According to the DOJ, the agency records over 420,000 reports of missing children every year. 

Dallas Police Department Chief of Police Eddie Garcia delivered comments on the operation as well, saying the following: 

“We are grateful to be a part of a coalition of extraordinary law enforcement agencies who were dedicated in reuniting these children with their loved ones. It is our hope that each of them will be able to put this traumatic experience behind them and move forward to have a happy and productive life.”

Arlington Chief of Police Al Jones also delivered comments on the operation, noting that the victims recovered are representative of the state’s “most vulnerable” population: 

“These kids and teens represent some of our most vulnerable populations where adults try to prey on their innocence. We will not rest until every child is located safe and someone is held accountable.”

Fort Worth Police Department Chief Neil Noakes mirrored the sentiments shared by Chief Jones, saying: 

“We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partnerships in locating missing children and reuniting them with their families. Human trafficking is a serious issue and we will not rest until our most vulnerable population are safe.”

While the DOJ announced the recovery of said children, the agency didn’t relay whether there were any arrests linked to the operation as of this writing. 

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Author: Jenna Curren


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