After Trump Issued Threats, Abigail Jo Shry “Came after” Judge Tanya Chutkan

As noted, Judge Tanya Chutkan lifted the stay on the gag she imposed on Donald Trump. In her opinion lifting the stay, Chutkan laid out how Trump’s garden variety attacks on Joe Biden were fair game under the gag, but his specific attack on Mark Meadows in conjunction with the Jack Smith prosecution was not.

Two of Defendant’s social media posts since the Order’s entry illustrate the comprehensible difference between the statements it permits and those it proscribes. First, on October 20, 2023—after the Order was entered, but before it was administratively stayed— Defendant stated:

Does anyone notice that the Election Rigging Biden Administration never goes after the Riggers, but only after those that want to catch and expose the Rigging dogs. Massive information and 100% evidence will be made available during the Corrupt Trials started by our Political Opponent. We will never let 2020 happen again. Look at the result, OUR COUNTRY IS BEING DESTROYED. MAGA!!!3

This statement asserts that Defendant is innocent, that his prosecution is politically motivated, and that the Biden administration is corrupt. It does not violate the Order’s prohibition of “targeting” certain individuals; in fact, the Order expressly permits such assertions. Order at 3.

By contrast, on October 24, 2023—after the Order was administratively stayed— Defendant stated:

I don’t think Mark Meadows would lie about the Rigged and Stollen 2020 Presidential Election merely for getting IMMUNITY against Prosecution (PERSECUTION!) by Deranged Prosecutor, Jack Smith. BUT, when you really think about it, after being hounded like a dog for three years, told you’ll be going to jail for the rest of your life, your money and your family will be forever gone, and we’re not at all interested in exposing those that did the RIGGING — If you say BAD THINGS about that terrible “MONSTER,” DONALD J. TRUMP, we won’t put you in prison, you can keep your family and your wealth, and, perhaps, if you can make up some really horrible “STUFF” a out him, we may very well erect a statue of you in the middle of our decaying and now very violent Capital, Washington, D.C. Some people would make that deal, but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them, but who really knows? MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!4

This statement would almost certainly violate the Order under any reasonable definition of “targeting.”5 Indeed, Defendant appears to concede as much, Reply in Support of Motion to Stay, ECF No. 123, at 10 n.3 (“If the Gag order had been in effect, President Trump would have been unable to [make the statement].”)—and for good reason. The statement singles out a foreseeable witness for purposes of characterizing his potentially unfavorable testimony as a “lie” “mad[e] up” to secure immunity, and it attacks him as a “weakling[] and coward[]” if he provides that unfavorable testimony—an attack that could readily be interpreted as an attempt to influence or prevent the witness’s participation in this case. The plain distinctions between this statement and the prior one—apparent to the court and both parties—demonstrate that far from being arbitrary or standardless, the Order’s prohibition on “targeting” statements can be straightforwardly understood and applied.



5 Because of the administrative stay on the Order, this statement is not before the court. Before concluding that any statement violated the Order, the court would afford the parties an opportunity to provide their positions on the statement’s meaning and permissibility.

Since Chutkan lifted the stay, Trump has made six attacks on his failing social media platform, four complaining that the prosecution against him wasn’t initiated three years ago (under Bill Barr?!?! at a time when Bill Barr was still corruptly shutting down prosecutions of Trump and his people?!?!?!), before the conspiracies charged against him started, and two attacking Judge Chutkan.

All of these attacks are perfectly permissible under the gag.

While Chutkan’s staffers are covered by the gag, she specifically excluded Joe Biden and herself from the gag.

Because Chutkan is excluded from the gag, I thought it worth reviewing the specific circumstances of the threat Abigail Jo Shry made against Judge Chutkan, which as I noted first got raised in the government’s opposition to staying the gag.

Such risks are far from speculative here, the Court found, given uncontradicted facts submitted by the Government showing that when the defendant “has singled out certain people in public statements in the past,” it has “led to them being threatened and harassed.” ECF No. 103 at 66-67.1

1 Shortly after being assigned to the case, the Court itself received a racist death threat explicitly tied to the Court’s role in presiding over the defendant’s case. See United States v. Shry, No. 4:23-cr-413, ECF No. 1 at 3 (Criminal Complaint) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2023) (caller stating, among other things, “‘If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, b***h. . . . You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it.’”). This incident, like many of the others the Government cited, was widely publicized and surely well known to the defendant.

That is, it first got raised explicitly in the opposition to lift the stay.

Not stated anywhere in this filing is that when DOJ said Shry made her threat against Judge Chutkan and Sheila Jackson Lee “shortly after” Judge Chutkan was assigned to the case, they mean Shry made the threat on August 5, one day after Trump issued his, “if you come after me” threat, which was included in the initial motion for a gag (the consideration of which, remember, John Lauro succeeded in stalling for ten days).

Trump followed that attack with more, including several almost identical to the ones he used overnight, except that they swapped out Jack Smith (who is covered under the gag) for Joe Biden.

When DOJ first moved for a gag on September 5, Shry remained detained pretrial, based on the findings that she had repeatedly made increasingly serious threats in the previous year.

Defendant has been criminally charged four times in the past year for engaging in similar conduct. On September 20, 2022, she was convicted in two separate cases (misdemeanor resisting arrest and misdemeanor criminal mischief) and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. Recently, on July 11, 2023, she was charged with misdemeanor threat causing fear of imminent serious bodily injury. It is alleged that she committed the instant offense while on bond for the July 11 incident, less than one month after it occurred.

Defendant suffers from major depression and has a long history of substance abuse. She denies using any illegal substances for the past year. However, according to Defendant’s father, she excessively drinks beer daily. Defendant lives with her boyfriend, but he is presently charged with a family assault against her. Defendant has two children, ages 17 and 19, who currently live with her parents.

Defendant’s father, Mark Shry testified at the detention hearing. Mr. Shry believes that Defendant is a non-violent alcoholic. He testified that she sits on her couch daily watching the news while drinking too many beers. She then becomes agitated by the news and starts calling people and threatening them. Mr. Shry stated that his daughter never leaves her residence and therefore would not act upon her threats. He has agreed that Defendant can reside with him and Defendant’s mother, and he would serve as a third-party custodian.

Defendant’s aggressive and threatening behavior has continually escalated during the past year as evidenced by her criminal conduct in four separate cases.

But by the time DOJ resubmitted the motion on September 15, Shry had been released to home detention with an order to get mental health and substance abuse treatment.

In less than 24 hours since the stay, Donald Trump has shown a fine-tuned ability to continue to issue threats even as he adheres to the letter of the gag, just like I used to legalistically adhere to my seventh grade Geometry teacher’s rule against chewing gum in class by simply not chewing the gum in my mouth.

But there are thousands — maybe millions — of Trump supporters with mental health problems out there, sitting on couches, getting worked up about what they see on Fox News.

And as this gag gets appealed all the way to SCOTUS, Judge Chutkan has chosen to entrust her own safety from threats like Shry’s to the US Marshals, not to any gag.

Update: Fixed some points where I said the opposite of what I meant wrt lifting or staying the gag.

77 replies
  1. davetheresurrector says:

    Typo? I stubbed my toe on first para second sentence. “In her opinion lifting the gag”… that should be “stay”, right? Thanks.

    Hope I remembered my handle.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Do not add a URL if you did not enter one with your first comment. The comment system doesn’t recognize either the username or email address you used on this comment; be sure to use them each time here on out. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Um, that was a main point of this post, with the same document 124 you linked to already in Marcy’s first paragraph.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        …and I got the day wrong.

        I’d blame cognitive decline but it was more likely just abject sloppiness. Or maybe both. I do long for the 5 minute edit feature.

  2. wasD4v1d says:

    I wish we could stop referring to Trump’s ‘failing social media site’ because it rests on the false assumptions that it is a social media site, or that it’s intended to make money. As evidenced be screenshots of it I see everywhere, it is a highly successful channel that pumps itself directly into journalists’ heads for amplification. It is massively successful at this, it’s only real task. (My 2c.)

    • NickBarnes says:

      It originally had two purposes, the second (and I suspect the most important) being to sell itself to a SPAC for a ten-figure sum. Unsurprisingly the SPAC was allegedly incompetent and corrupt and the whole deal drew the attention of the SEC etc, so it seems unlikely that DJT will be able to cash out for billions.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        There’s another aspect of that platform that might mean as much to him as the unfiltered MAGA megaphone he gets from it — and which might even count to him as being as valuable as his lost SPAC-flip: it’s an enormous, comforting and reinforcing security blanket for his omnivorous ego.

        He’s not in the public sphere there, so he’s much more insulated than he would be on Xitter, to the point that the comments are overflowing with Trump-love fervor and -revenge porn. The net result for him must be like 10,000 Ivankas saying “I love you daddy” and 500 Ray Cohns saying “Grab ’em by the balls and twist like hell!” — simultaneously and 24/7. That is what his irreparably damaged psyche craves.

        From his POV, that dynamic is the operative definition of the first word in “social media.” If you’re the smouldering, toxic husk of a human that DJT is, you can’t put a price on that.

    • emptywheel says:

      The failures of the SPAC led Forbes ot kick Trump off the top billionaire list.

      I’m going to continue to call it a failing social media site.

      • BobBobCon says:

        Trump is also getting a small fraction of the audience he had on Twitter, as well as much less empty-brained media rebroadcasting of his posts.

        It’s bad economically and politically for him because he needs a lot more than what he’s gotten out of it.

        • Maureen A Donnelly says:

          and we know on the basis of the six failed businesses (and counting) he flails while failing bigly. We keep watching it happen. what a time to be an old lady. i thought i’d chill out in the land of the retired. thanks for everything Dr. Wheeler.

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    • dopefish says:

      Probably my favorite of the many empty promises
      made by DJT in 2016:

      “I will be so presidential,” he said, “you will be so bored. You’ll say, ‘Can’t he have a little more energy?'”

      Fast-forward to August 2023:

      “THERE IS NO WAY I CAN GET A FAIR TRIAL WITH THE JUDGE ‘ASSIGNED’ TO THE RIDICULOUS FREEDOM OF SPEECH/FAIR ELECTIONS CASE,” Trump wrote in one of three all-caps posts Sunday morning on Truth Social.


      And then today:

      I called Bill Barr Dumb, Weak, Slow Moving, Lethargic, Gutless, and Lazy, a RINO WHO COULDN’T DO THE JOB. He just didn’t want to be Impeached, which the Radical Left Lunatics were preparing to do. I was tough on him in the White House, for good reason, so now this Moron says about me, to get even, “his verbal skills are limited.” Well, that’s one I haven’t heard before. Tell that to the biggest political crowds in the history of politics, by far. Bill Barr is a LOSER!

      So much for Presidential decorum. /sigh

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    From Chutkan’s order, a frequent refrain when assessing the work of Trump’s attorneys:

    Defendant’s other claims also disregard the record.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        I’d sum up page 3 of that opinion as the judge telling Mr. Lauro that sticking his fingers in his ears, and loudly saying, “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!” isn’t going to work.

        I’m not a lawyer, but I’d think that having the judge quote your words directly from the transcript to show you where you missed your opportunity to dispute a key factual point might just sting a little bit.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A pithy retort from Chutkan, critiquing the vagueness claim Trump’s lawyers throw at the court, like so much half-cooked spaghetti, to suggest that legal terms of art are as broad as the most complete general dictionary can make them.

      And a cardinal rule of interpretation is that context matters; “a word is known by the company it keeps.”

    • SteveBev says:

      See also footnote 2 for judicial dispatching of an ineptly raised and ultimately meritless argument.
      Noting failure of Defendant to squarely argue in the original opposition to the government motion for the order, he now raises the question of his audience’s right to hear his speech. And noting that the closest he came to citing authority was an unrelated ‘see also reference’ to Ford case.
      But in any case, the argument doesn’t fly because : the Court addressed Ford and distinguished it; and the argument doesn’t alter the fundamental position that the 1st amendment right of a defendant or his listeners may be curtailed to preclude statements which which pose grave threats to the integrity of judicial proceedings.

  4. PeteT0323 says:

    I believe that the most effective thing Judge Chutkan can do when Trump violates her order is to accelerate the trial.

    Granted, I do not know that she can given the time line or whether doing so increases the likelihood of a successful appeal should Trump be convicted.


    • CharleyCarp says:

      I think moving the trial date up is pretty unrealistic. As with any case, there are a series of intermediate deadlines, designed to make sure that things that need to be done to protect the process and the rights of defendants get done, in time for them to be done and reacted to, and these also would have to be changed.

      Also, I’m sure that Judge Chutkan has a pretty full schedule with all the other cases in front of her.

      Up until the schedule was set, it would have been possible to be on a faster track. Now, though, it’s pretty hard. And there’s no point in giving TFG any additional procedural arguments for appeal.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s not just about what else is on her calendar. Chutkan is limited in how much she can accelerate the calendar in Trump’s case, owing to pre-trial motion practice.

      • P’villain says:

        Holding tight to the schedule every time Lauro et al. try to delay things would be good enough for me.

  5. JeoparDiva says:

    It took me a second to understand your 7th grade workaround — I thought, “how was she chewing the gum if it wasn’t in her mouth?!” Lol.

    • emptywheel says:

      God I was a shithole in 7th grade. BUt in my defense I was bullied by the mean girls, my clothes were mocked by the rich girls, and I had an enormous chip on my shoulder about being forced to go advance track in math.

      Thus the pettiness about chewing gum rules.

      • ToldainDarkwater says:

        I recall very similar interactions with other boys in 7th or 8th grade (8th was worse than 7th) which were more physical in nature. Not that I was some prince or moral role model.

        As an adult, I have spent my life in highly mathematical fields, appreciating and valuing the women in those fields, while wondering about their scarcity. Because of this, I find your comment quite interesting.

      • ColdFusion says:

        Middle school is hell on earth, for everyone. Everyone has surges of new hormones, insecure about everything, and most try to put on a brave face, which sadly, means they were often putting someone else down in front of others.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        I was more stumped by your geometry in 7th grade. I was barely introduced to algebra then. And I never had the guts to take advanced classes, nor was I forced to. I hung out with other poor working class kids, like me. We didn’t even have a car. But I was very aware of classmates who were unkind. So, I sympathize with how uncomfortable that situation would have been.

        Fortunately, when I finally had geometry in 10th grade, I loved all the angles and logic, so much so that I won an award in it that year, along with an award in gymnastics. That was my G year: Gum, Geometry, Gymnastics. They kept at bay all the chaos that engulfed my life then. Very therapeutic. I’m not so sure how useful they’ve been other than giving me a bit of confidence. But I’d say that’s something.

        • Epicurus says:

          You might try a fascinating book by Jordan Eilenberg titled Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, And Everything Else. The imaginary discussion among Allison Riggs, who represented the League of Women Voters in opposition to a gerrymandering map before the Supreme Court, and members of the Court is priceless.

        • still noromo says:

          (Rayne, username change in accordance with your note last weekend. My “clever” use of special characters was apparently too much. Apologies.)

          My dad was a math teacher. Conversation around the dinner table tended toward word problems: “If a hen-and-a-half lays an egg-and-a-half in a day-and-a-half, how many eggs would one hen lay in one day?”

          And, no, the answer isn’t “one”.

          [Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum and username convention. /~Rayne]

          • pH unbalanced says:

            Mathematically the answer is 2/3 of an egg per day, but I’d rather express that as “the time to produce an egg is1.5 days”, since fractional days exist, but fractional eggs don’t.

          • Ewan Woodsend says:

            You should ask chatGPT. It gives fun answers.

            I asked last year ago, ‘if a concerto is played by an orchestra of 30 musicians in 90 minutes, how long would it take 10 musicians to play the concerto?’ And received an amusing porportional answer (I think now it has caught up on that particular case).

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I still don’t get the gum thing. But I’ve never really gotten gum. I’ll be ruminating on this the rest of the (too early!)* night.

      *Yeah, I know it gets worse next week. I hate Daylight Savings Time.

  6. Matt Foley says:

    1. He keeps saying the judges and DAs hate him and are out to get him.
    What’s his point? Judges and DAs are supposed to hate criminals and to want them punished.

    2. He keeps getting it backwards. He’s using his election to commit “TRIAL INTERFERENCE!”.

    • ExRacerX says:

      ” Judges and DAs are supposed to hate criminals…”

      “Hate”? Pretty sure that’s not a job requirement.

      • Ebenezer Scrooge says:

        To be more accurate: “judges and DAs [who are running for elective office outside of big blue cities] are supposed to hate criminals”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It helps sustain a conviction on appeal if judges and prosecutors do not display personal animus against a defendant. And before conviction, nobody is a criminal.

        • Matt Foley says:

          Yes; I suppose one could also argue Nixon was not a criminal. Told us he wasn’t. Never convicted. Pardoned by Ford.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Like Trump and his lawyers, you could argue anything. Doesn’t make it true or factual or legal.

            Social consequences are one thing: they’re handed out all the time. Legal consequence require a process that your arguments give as much credence to as Trump.

      • bmaz says:

        It is not a requirement per se, but it is a constant. And they pretty much think anything they are fed by cops constitutes a “criminal”.

        • ExRacerX says:

          I respect your experience in this area, bmaz; certainly that sort of judge/prosecutor does exist—and perhaps there are even too many of those—but a that’s still quite a monolithic characterization. With all your years of experience, I have to imagine you’ve encountered judges and prosecutor that don’t fit that description, no?

          • bmaz says:

            Not really, no. That is their life, and the paradigm works mostly. Until it doesn’t. But that is what the judicial system is for, to overcome the normal assumptions and paradigms. It is not perfect, but it mostly works. Defense attys are the same way in that they presume the opposite, and are trained and paid to do so.

            I often urge people to go to real trial courts and see what they do. It is different than most here probably think. 99.9% of what happens in law is not the very few hot button cases discussed here, but rather day to day justice. It is the worst system in the world except for all the others.

            • ExRacerX says:

              Thanks. Apart from the time in the ’90s when the local police charged me with possession/intent to distribute cocaine that was actually upholstery soap (good times!)—my experience in the criminal court system has been limited to testifying and advocating in animal cruelty, hoarding, dog & cockfighting cases. I know a few DAs & local prosecutors and fewer judges, but certainly not enough to form a firm opinion about them as a collective. That said, some of them seem to be good people.

              • bmaz says:

                Most of both I’ve dealt with are indeed good people. I socialize with them to this day, though not as much as I used to (Covid and age took their toll). But professionals settle into their roles; some more than others. That is okay.

Comments are closed.