Juror fined $11,227 after googling ICE officer's peculiar uniform patch

A juror was held in criminal contempt and fined more than $11k for researching his case online. The man, named as Stephen Miele, told other jurors of his findings, leading to a mistrial after one of them reported it to the judge. The size of the fine is reportedly "extreme" and "unprecedented".

The Burlington County man was among 12 jurors serving on the trial, which was overseen by U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden. Before and during the trial, the jurors were told repeatedly, both in writing and verbally, not to conduct any research about the case.

Media coverage I've read on this tends to step beyond the journalistic voice to remark how "stupid" the juror was, which is true enough. However, few of the news items point out the trial context: a lawful permanent resident who allegedly hurt an ICE officer with a mysterious "union" patch on his uniform while being arrested by him.

In the underlying criminal case Meile was empaneled to decide, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's office alleged that Ruiz-Quezada resisted arrest when ICE officers came to his home in December 2017 to execute an administrative arrest warrant and initiate immigration proceedings. Ruiz-Quezada, a lawful permanent resident, contended that he was not resisting arrest but merely reaching for a coat because it was early in the morning and he was dressed in pajamas. One ICE officer experienced a hand injury in the scuffle inside Ruiz-Quezada's house. He was indicted for assaulting a federal officer.

The juror suspected the patch was not a real union patch.

During trial, jurors had been shown a photograph depicting a patch on an ICE officer's uniform. There was a suggestion that the patch was a trade union logo. Meile, a retired pipefitter, didn't think it was.

The juror's profession has led to wide speculation that the ICE officer wore a "Pipe Hitters Union" patch, a popular insignia among the far-right street thug set, and that prosecutors falsely suggested it was a pipefitters union patch.

As unacceptable as it is for jurors to conduct their own research, it would be quite something if the extremity of the punishment in this case turned out to involve the exposure of a courtroom falsehood. But we don't know what the patch was, or who said what about it: it is all speculation.

I was a court reporter for years and if there's one thing I recommend to y'all more than not doing crimes and not talking to cops it is this: avoid serving on juries. Don't fall for noble hogwash they tell you, they're not even paying you minimum wage to believe it.