Ballwin Man's Nuisance Trial Delayed, Buying Time for Presidential Pardon

Apr 8, 2009 at 7:39 am
click to enlarge Lewis Greenberg and a small sampling of his art. - photo by Kit Kellison
photo by Kit Kellison
Lewis Greenberg and a small sampling of his art.
At 1 p.m. yesterday, Lewis Greenberg, his lawyers, his lucky hat, a small group of supporters and a slightly larger contingent of belligerent neighbors gathered in a Clayton courtroom to determine once and for all whether Greenberg would be allowed to keep the art exhibit he calls The Holocaust Revisited on display in his Ballwin yard.

The only person missing was the judge.

Associate 21st Circuit Judge Lawrence J. Permutter, it turned out, had been delayed by a jury trial involving medical apparatus. (Permutter was observed behind the bench trying very hard to look interested in the prosecuting attorney's description of the production of said medical apparatus.) He sent a substitute, but David Howard, Greenberg's attorney, protested.

Thus the trial was postponed once again -- the Greenberg case has only been wending its slow way through the judicial system for nearly two years now, at a cost of $50,000 to Greenberg and $80,000 to the city of Ballwin -- and everyone will reconvene in June.

Greenberg was, in his words, "a little fermished," Yiddish for discombobulated.

"They should have dismissed my case altogether," he complained. Despite the reassurances of his lawyers (and also friends who had endured jury duty) that the gears of justice grind slowly, he was convinced that somehow Judge Permutter was involved in a conspiracy against him.

"There's a new president now!" he said. "Things should be different. They are violating my First Amendment rights. If Barack and Michelle were my neighbors, we'd get along great."

Greenberg did admit, though, that there might be a silver lining in the postponement. Not only would he be allowed to keep his art up for another two months, he might also get a chance to be on TV.

He had been scheduled to appear on a series on The Learning Channel about neighbor disputes, but that, too, had been postponed. Perhaps by June the producers would be able to come to his trial.

Greenberg has high hopes for his television appearance. "Imagine that in August Sasha and Malia are watching TLC and they see this show about a Jewish guy and his art in the middle of the country. They call in their parents, and Barack and Michelle are so impressed by me and my art that they fly me out to the White House.

"And then, at the end, they say, 'We love your art so much, we'd like you to make a sculpture to put on permanent display in the White House.' It could be in the middle of the vegetable garden. I wouldn't care."