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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Arts + Action | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and PrisonsView other events for the week of 11/20/2012
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Thanks to Brent and other supporters who showed at this afternoon "court trial" of what Briana probably accurately described as "harassment tickets".
BRIANA V. WARREN
She was charged with four infractions. Displaying merchandise with her dog nearby, having her dog tethered nearby, soliciting with her dog nearby. Three of the citations were from Officer Warren, who Briana (and others including street musicians London Laidlaw and Ricardo Lopez) has accused of selective enforcement and focused harassment. The fourth was from Sgt. Bush, who was with Officer Warren. Briana suggested Warren turned over the citation opportunity to Bush to avoid the appearance that he was engaging in a campaign against Briana.
Briana also noted that harassment by Officer Warren increased after Commissioner Basket had assured Briana that Warren would be "subpoenaed" for the hearing. Since I've never heard of a judge doing that, I think Basket may have been saying that if Warren wanted a conviction, he would have to be there. But perhaps Basket, hearing Briana's passionate story, did subpoena him.
The presiding court official--usually Commissioner Kim Basket--was Judge John Gallagher. Gallagher is infamous for his tortured and prejudicial findings in the PeaceCamp2010 trials and the review of PC 647e, the broad anti-lodging law used to crush the protests and push the protesters (both at PC2010 in 2010 and in Occupy in 2011).
According to the bailliff, "Grim Gavel" Gallagher, as I call him, was subbing for Basket, who was on vacation. He showed unusual fastidiousness in applying the reported Americans with Disability Act protection for service animals and those who have them. Specifically, he was in agreement with Briana that a person with a service animal is exempt from the noxious Downtown Ordinances that targets homeless people by banning "soliciting with a dog".
Briana presented evidence from the HPHP (Homeless Persons Health Project)--as she described it--indicating that her pooch was a service animal. After spending 10 minutes silently reading over city codes and laws, Gallagher ruled she was not guilty on three of the four counts (the ones involving a dog). Gallagher didn't go so far as to caution Bush and Warren to stop harassing folks with service animals downtown.
Bush responded resentfully that Briana didn't have her service animal in court--so apparently it wasn't so necessary a companion. Briana retorted that the dog needed to have his shots and she had just gotten the money together to get them.
Not guilty on all the dog charges.
THE MOVE-ALONG LAW CONVICTION
In the last citation, another Warren Special, Briana was charged with "not moving along every hour". She claimed she'd been harassed three times that day and told to move for violating the various Forbidden Zone ordinances by hostilapitlaity" worker Denise Miller. When she angrily protested the last contact (saying she'd been told to move after being there fifteen minutes), Miller called Warren, who cited her.
She was fined $321 for the "crime" of sitting with her henna tattoo's (a service she was offering) in a spot no one said they needed to use, for a period of time that was (Briana insisted) 1/4 of the "allowed" time.
Gallagher agreed to convert the fine into 32 hours of Community Service (whimsicallly called "Community Slavery" by other victims of this process). That would include a cost of $50-100 fee, most likely--to line the pockets of Community Options
the non-profit poverty pimps that feed off these bogus fines.
It looked like Gallagher may have been unaccustomed to sitting in on infraction trials, and so bent over backwards to be cautious and judicious. He did ask for legal opinions from the police officers (and got an erroneous response that only dogs for the blind were considered 'true' service animals)--which he shouldn't have done. Police officers are supposed to only testify as to what they've seen and heard, not provide hearsay testimony of what others said, give "the City Attorney's" view, etc. If the City wants to have a city attorney involved, they can--and have in several of my cases--sent one around.
The Move-Along law was last seriously challenged in the Steve Argue case back in 2003. See "Victory For Free Speech in S.C." at http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/200.Victory%20For%20Free%20Speech%20in%20S.C.%28pictures%29=4-2004.pdf & http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/201.Victory%28cont.1%29=4-2004.pdf & http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/202.Victory%28cont.2%29=4-2004.pdf . Argue won, but City Council made small modifications in the law and unconstitutional enforcement continues. The current law badly needs another challenge.
I recorded Briana's commentary on the trial and well as the trial of a marijuana smoker, Maxwell Green, from out of county.
Green showed up in a white shirt and tie (Briana was outfitted in a dress and blouse for the occasion). Officer B. Clark, who ticketed him, was also there. He declined the opportunity to drop charges. Gallagher in a move unusual for infraction court had offered both prosecution and defense the chance to drop their charges or plead guilty respectively in the half dozen cases there--one cop actually did.
Clark apparently has no problem imposing his DrugWar views on medical marijuana patients who light up. He falsely claimed it was illegal to medicate in public, according to the defendant. (SB 420, according to the wikipedia entry, "disallows marijuana smoking in no smoking zones, within 1,000 feet (300 m) of a school or youth center (except in private residences), on school buses, in a motor vehicle that is being operated, or while operating a boat."
Green reported afterwards that he was on the levee smoking at a place where there were no "No Smoking" signs visible. He presented his medical marijuana card. (However Santa Cruz, unlike San Francisco, makes no exception for medical marijuana smokers in No Smoking zones) He noted that Clark approached in an aggressive and--what sounded to me like--an abusive manner, grilled him, ran him for warrants, and said he was ticketing him for medical marijuana--it turned out to be for smoking in a no smoking zone. Clark's parting words, according to Green--testifying in court under penalty of perjury--were "If I see you again, I will throw you in the drunk tank for five hours.
He was found guilty, but given a much reduced fine of $20.
Another woman who was harassed by a park ranger for having alcohol at a picnic site, when she said she'd been told at the gate it was okay at the tables but not at the beach, came all the way down from S.F. to fight her case after posting the bail/fine.
Gallagher found her guilty but returned all the money.
I will be broadcasting some interviews with Briana, Green, and this woman Thanksgiving evening 6-8 PM on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.3 FM and http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/ . The show archives at http://radiolibre.org/brb/ under the date 12-11-22.
ADVICE FOR POLICE VICTIMS
Future Friendly (but non-lawyerly) advice to those who want to take their infractions to trial:
Get a copy of the law under which you are charged and study it carefully. Try to determine the various elements of the crime that the police are required to prove. Talk with Homelessness Legal Assistance Project worker Steve Pleich at 831-466-6078.
Bring a friend with you as support and ask to be able to have that person sit with you while you go through your hearing.
Make a motion to make an audio recording of your trial, either for personal use (California Rules of Court Rule 1.150d and 1.150e) or for broadcast. Have a series of questions to ask the police officer in advance concerning what he said and did. Have your documents and witnesses ready.
Take care to ask the cop only those questions you're likely to know the answer to. You are most like to win if you can show Reasonable Doubt using the cop's testimony alone.
You do not have to testify yourself, but instead can make arguments as to why there is reasonable doubt that you are guilty by pointing out that all the elements of the case are not proved. You can only testify if you wish, call witnesses, etc.
Don't expect justice or fairness from these judges. But exposure of police abuse in open court can be a deterrent.