Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Prosecutor tries to delay Tampa trial because of eclipse. Judge quotes Carly Simon in ruling

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TAMPA — A federal agent wanted to travel north to view Monday's total solar eclipse. So last week a prosecutor asked a judge to postpone a trial in which the agent is supposed to testify.

In a three-page missive which is as artful and erudite as it is legally procedural, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday, denied the request.

Merryday's order makes references to, among other topics, Greek history, the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and the popular 1972 Carly Simon song "You're So Vain," to ultimately say that the trial must proceed as scheduled.

"When an indispensable participant, knowing that a trial is imminent, pre-pays for some personal indulgence, that participant, in effect, lays a bet," the judge wrote. "This time, unlike Carly Simon's former suitor, whose 'horse, naturally, won,' this bettor's horse has — naturally — lost."

The judge's order came in the case of Joseph Bishop, who is fighting a federal firearms charge. Last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin R. O'Donnell asked for a delay in the case. She explained that a key witness, Chad Horst, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, had plans to travel out of state to view the solar eclipse.

Merryday noted that such a celestial event "understandably occupies a provocative and luminous place in history and art."

Among other citations, the judge quoted the lyrics to Simon's hit song, which speak of a trip to see a solar eclipse.

Well I hear you went to Saratoga

And your horse, naturally, won

Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia

To see the total eclipse of the sun

Nevertheless, Merryday concluded that one agent's desire to see an eclipse did not merit postponing Bishop's trial.

"The solar eclipse is no longer mysterious, supernatural, foreboding, or ominous (or even 'total'; owing to the solar corona, the darkness of a 'total' eclipse is only partial)," the judge wrote. "An eclipse is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula (although some contend for an earlier discovery)."

Here is the full text of the judge's order.

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