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Judge denies Navarro ask for new contempt of Congress trial

A federal judge declined Peter Navarro’s request for a new contempt of Congress trial after the former Trump adviser claimed the jury in his trial last year was prejudiced by protesters outside the courthouse.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled Tuesday that Navarro would not be granted a new trial because he did not prove that the jury was prejudiced by lingering Jan. 6-related protesters during the jury’s brief outside break shortly before they issued a verdict.

Mehta also determined that Navarro’s counsel knew about the jury’s potential exposure to protestors before its verdict was issued but waited to see if the jury would rule in their favor before raising concern. Because of that, they waived it as grounds for a new trial, he wrote.

“A defendant cannot learn of alleged improper external influence on the jury, remain silent and gamble on a favorable verdict, only to complain afterwards that a new trial is warranted because the jury was unduly prejudiced by that outside influence,” Mehta wrote. “That is precisely what occurred here.”

Navarro’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, had argued that the jurors were exposed to protestors toting Jan. 6-related signs, after prosecutors had linked Navarro to the circumstances of that day.

But after reviewing videos from outside the courthouse, Mehta found that the jurors only interacted with each other and the court security officer who took them outside.

“No one directed any words or displayed any signs at them. No one approached them,” Mehta wrote. “Moreover, the scene itself was relatively placid. There was no indiscriminate yelling or chanting. No one held a sign above their head. There were no activities resembling a ‘protest.'”

The court security officer, Rosa Roldan Torres, told a similar story when asked to take the stand last year over the alleged improper exposure. She testified that the jurors removed their juror tags before heading outside on break and were not approached by anyone during that time. She also said she was present the whole time they were outside, which Mehta noted was about eight minutes.

It’s not uncommon for protestors to congregate around the federal courthouse in Washington, blocks away from the Capitol, where high-profile political cases are often heard. Former President Trump’s arraignment on election interference and seditious conspiracy trials, along with verdicts and sentencings of members of the extremist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers related to Jan. 6 brought significant buzz.

Navarro was convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in September for refusing to abide by a subpoena served by the House committee that investigated the events of Jan. 6. The first charge pertained to his failure to produce documents, and the second was for failing to appear for a deposition.

The onetime Trump adviser told reporters after his conviction that prosecutors’ suggestion of his “association with J6″ is why he was found guilty and that he expects his case to reach the Supreme Court because of the questions it raises about executive privilege for high-ranking White House staff.

“I am willing to go to prison to settle this issue. I’m willing to do that. But I also know that the likelihood of me going to prison is relatively small because we are right on this issue,” Navarro said at the time.

Navarro is scheduled to be sentenced next week. He is the second former Trump ally to face contempt of Congress charges, after ex-White House adviser Steve Bannon was convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress last year and sentenced to four months in prison, which he has not yet served.

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