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Baskett and Barisone Bludgeon the Bums: Shoring Up the Sleeping Ban in a Court Trial
Robert "Blindbear" Facer, defended by attorney Ed Frey, got the official kick-in-the-ass from the highly paid city attorney and an appointed judicial stooge, in another case of "there ain't no sleepin'--for the homeless--in Santa Cruz".
THE BASKETT DILEMMA
I regularly encourage victims of the Santa Cruz City anti-homeless laws to disqualify Commissioner Kim Baskett, who is the default blackrobe who will hear infractions such as "sitting in the forbidden zones" in any business district, sleeping after 11 PM at night, or holding up a "spare change?" sign after dark. (Fines are $100 or more for each of these 'offenses'.)
Baskett is the fine-generating official in the basement of the County building, whose chambers have recently been graced with two bailiffs searching people for penknives and other weapons of mass destruction.
This offensive procedure, while standard and unnecessary practice in the court building adjacent for years is a relatively new intrusion on everyone's privacy in the basement. Now SCPD victims get mugged twice--once by cops invading their privacy with anti-homeless tickets, then by bailiffs (sheriff's deputies) with invasive searches when they given the assembly-line judicial reaming by Baskett and her fellow judges.
BEWARE THE SYMONDS
One can "ding" or disqualify Baskett (or any other judge--though you only get one disqualification) by going to the Infraction Window (now located on the main floor of the County Building as you ever from the breezeway). There you write a brief note saying "Under 170.6 CCP, I believe Commissioner Baskett is prejudiced. I swear I believe this under penalty of perjury. I move to have Baskett removed from my case and ask that another judge hear my case." This will result in your case being kicked "upstairs", i.e. to a real judge rather than a referee or commissioner.
Upstairs judges are more likely to be aware of your right to such things as discovery, audio recording, demurrer motions, and constitutional arguments, though no friends of the poor--for sure.
Unfortunately this journey may put you in the hands of the shamelessly biased Judge Ariadne Symonds of Department 1. Symonds has taken over the bench in Dept. 1,--one of the two departments you're likely to find yourself in if you disqualify Baskett. A former militant D.A., Symonds is both ignorant of the law and prejudiced in favor of police and prosecution. Baskett, on the other hand, under past criticism, has actually been improving in advising defendants of their rights, and prides herself on being "nice". You could also be sent to Department 2, where there's a new judge who I've heard little about.
Symonds is eccentric, capricious, and pro-actively pro-prosecution. See, for instance, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/06/08/18600978.php .
BAFFLED IN BASKETTLAND
The trials of John Kealy for "sitting on the lip of a planter" in front of New Leaf Market and Robert "Blindbear" Facer for "sleeping outside after 11 PM" were held yesterday before Commissioner Baskett. To her credit, she moved both trials upstairs because the recording equipment was not working in her usual Dept. 10. She also made no objection to attorney Ed Frey making a personal recording and to me making a media recording for broadcast on Free Radio Santa Cruz. Some of the trial will be played tomorrow 6-8 PM and Sunday morning 9:30 AM to 1 PM at 101.1 FM and then archived at http://www.huffsantacruz.org .
Three cops and the head of the City Attorney's office--John Barisone--showed up to argue for the prosecution against pro-bono defense attorney Ed Frey. Shanna McCord was there for the Sentinel. And there were about ten homeless supporters there, including a rep. from attorney Jonathan Gettleman's office. Gettleman was the attorney who defended Anna Richardson, who now has the honor of being enjoined from falling asleep at night downtown on pain of immediate jail, thanks to John Barisone's good work.
Officer Warren claimed he'd seen Kealy sitting on the cement lip of the planter (where folks customarily sit) and had warned him many months before. Kealy said Warren had never warned him and that he had "begun to sit", but stopped when warned by fellow sitters, who got up as Warren approached. Warren ticketed only him, though Kealy reported others had been sitting. Baskett found Kealy guilty and sentenced him to an $80 fine, translated to $35 community service fee and, as i remember it, 10 hours of "Community Service".
SHUTTING DOWN THE SLEEPING BAN DEFENSE
In the Facer case, attorney Ed Frey presented evidence (two declarations from long-time service providers Paul Lee and Paul Brindel--see http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/28/18598906.php ) that summer emergency shelter was not available from the Homeless Services Center, as is widely known. Barisone objected that the documents weren't specific to the two June dates when Facer was ticketed.
In 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Jones case ruled that police citations of homeless people for sleeping in Los Angeles were "cruel and unusual punishment". Since police knew there was no shelter available and that the citations would be dismissed by a "necessity" defense, it was simply an endless treadmill of harassment which amounted to punishment without trial. A year or so later, L.A. agreed in a settlement not to cite its homeless for sleeping at night if they were 10' away from storefronts unless and until 1250 units of supportive housing were built. San Diego followed suit with even broader protections. Fresno backed off harassment of its homeless encampments. Richmond and Laguna Beach changed their laws. And lawsuits against the Sleeping Ban proceeded in Sacramento, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.
In Santa Cruz both the ACLU and City Attorney Barisone did nothing to bring the city's laws into the 21st century. Councilmember Coonerty insisted there was nothing wrong with the Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban (see http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/14/18461204.php ).
Homeless Service Center [HSC] managers have advised there is NO summer emergency shelter at night for walk-in homeless clients, and hence no way to avoid the Sleeping Ban criminal penalties since sleep is a necessity. Attorney Frey tried to get Commissioner Baskett to take "judicial notice" of the fact that it was common knowledge that there was no emergency walk in shelter during the months the Armory was closed (May-October), and specifically when Facer was ticketed in June of 2009. Both Barisone and Baskett must be aware of this fact, but admitting it means sealing the doom of the Sleeping Ban.
Baskett volunteered that she regularly dismissed Sleeping Ban citations if victims brought a letter from the HSC stating there was no shelter that night. However, to my knowledge, there was no emergency shelter any night throughout the summer (except when former director Doug Loisel suspended the rules and allowed homeless people to come in out of the rain and sleep on the HSC property at night for three nights this October). The Paul Lee loft was full. This has been true for years. (In the summer of 2001, HSC managers routinely sent people to the homeless-run Camp Paradise to the chagrin of City Council and police)
Baskett's song-and-dance routine of requiring homeless people to get a form letter from the HSC--when it's sworn testimony there is no such shelter--maintains the fiction that there's shelter on some nights--a fiction that allows police to continue ticketing under the Sleeping Ban. This however is a lie and a destructive one. It does let Barisone pretend to be making reasonable arguments and Baskett to pretend to be making reasonable decisions.
THE REAL RESPONSIBILITY
Before City Attorney Barisone spent hundreds of dollars of city time and money on this case, it was his responsibility to contact the HSC to find out if on those two June nights when Facer was cited for Sleepcrime, there actually was==through some fluke--any space there, and if so, did police offer it to Facer? Police regularly suggest people "contact the shelter" (which is, of course, futile). Naturally acknowledging this reality opoenly would blow the game for the cops, city attorney, city council, and downtown association around the Sleeping Ban. Commissioner Baskett's job is to keep this machine running smoothly. Attorney Frey declined to let this happen.
Frey tried to put numerous facts on record, or clarify that Baskett wouldn't do so. Baskett, however, refused to rule whether she would take "judicial notice" of the shelter situation, of the fact that sleep is a necessity, and numerous other propositions that Frey brought forward, looking to an appeal. She said she'd informally acknowledge some of this, but not say whether she'd take "judicial notice".
Some speculated that Baskett was simply unsure of the law and didn't want to expose her ignorance. Some feared Baskett would cite Frey for contempt because he refused to back down as she kept trying to "move the trial along" without answering the crucial judical notice questions yes or no. When Frey insisted for the appeals record, Baskett ended the trial, apparently shocking even veteran police apologist Shanna McCord, if one could judge by the expressions on her face. Frey had respectfully, but insistently, demanded that Baskett make a statement for the record that could not be shmoozed or elided. Baskett ran for the exit. As did Barisone.
Nothing, however, appeared in the Sentinel this morning. Perhaps that's because the verdict and sentencing is set for 1:30 PM today either in Department 10 (Baskett's usual court in the basement of the County Building) or Department 1 (where she held the trial yesterday), the first courtroom as you pass the metal detectors. Tune in to Free Radio tomorrow night 6-8 PM for an update.
Folks who have sleeping ban citations should get in touch with HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) at 423-HUFF. If any one is interested in starting a Tent City this winter, please call.