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Pendulum Pushing Pedestrian Pilloried by Police Then Pardoned
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com )
Tuesday Apr 14th, 2009 7:49 AM
A month or two ago Lather Wieland was ticketed by Sgt. Bush for violation of MC 9.50.020--Conduct on Public Property--for setting in motion the large brown pendulum art sculpture in the long planter in front of Rosie McCann's and the Pacific Trading Company. He faced a fine of between $100 and $300 for this "crime" of pushing the pendulum. Lather lives in his vehicles with his wife Alice and their dog.
Lather was scheduled to go to trial tomorrow--Tuesday April 14th at 1:30 PM in Department 10--the Traffic Court. He planed to have witnesses testify that he wasn't warned, as required by the code section; that other tourists and kids pushed the pendulem while Sgt. Bush watched and were ignored; that there is no sign prohibiting pushing the pendulum; and that there is reasonable doubt as to whether the public property involved (the pendulum) is "not designed or customarily used for that purpose" (i.e. pushing).

Department 10 is Commissioner Kim Baskett's court. She's a former County Counsel worker, who has an amiable manner, but tends to favor the police.

I advise people to disqualify her using a 170.6 CCP motion (the code allows you one disqualification of a judge without stating why except that you believe s/he is prejudiced). You can do this either by going to the infraction window about a month or more after you get your infraction ticket (it takes that long at least to get on the computer), or by appearing in front of her and saying you want your case transferred to a court with a real judge.

In either case, infractions are heard in front of judges with no jury and no lawyer (unless you get one to volunteer or pay one). If the charging officer doesn't show up, you win--provided you don't let the judge (or Baskett, if you haven't disqualified her) trick you into allowing the case to be continued (as she's done in the past).

I received a phone call from Lather late on Monday night, the night before his trial. In a letter he received today, which was not there the day before, Sgt. Bush, at the last possible moment, announced he was dropping charges against Lather "in the interests of justice."

That phrase, though it sounds nice, actually means "he's probably guilty but we're being nice." In fact, the charge is really being dropped because of "insufficient evidence". This, as I understand it, as a stronger basis for "not guilty" and might help any subsequent civil lawsuit for damages against the City of Santa Cruz and the SCPD.

Further, Bush admits in his letter to Lather that he never warned him, so there was actually no probable cause to issue the citation in the first place. Which further sets the scene for a civil lawsuit, if any attorney is so inclined. Or perhaps a small claims suit against Bush if Lather wants to do it himself.

Bush put Lather through the tension and anxiety of a court trial and a large fine, required him to stay in town to wait for trial with all the costs involved, and then on the last possible day, moved to dismiss charges.

Justice Santa Cruz style.

Lather's willingness to stand up is an important action considering the almost mechanical and routine police/host misconduct downtown (a label which covers both the laws they enforce against sitting, sparechanging, etc. as well as their creation of "new crimes" by simply telling people to "move along").

As the downtown crackdown on homeless folks, youths, and performers intensities, fighting absurd laws that justify (and ratify) bad police actions becomes all the more vital.

I'll also be discussing Lather's case on my Thursday Free Radio Santa Cruz show at 101.1 FM (and http://www.freakradio.org) 6-8 PM on Thursday April 16.

Please post any downtown incidents that you have seen or experienced. There's also a new blog being created (still in its rudimentary stages at http://santacruzcopwatch.blogspot.com/ which can be used to report police incidents. If anyone wants to work on this blog, please contact me.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Sentinel's Take on the Pendulum-Ticket RacketRobert NorseWednesday Apr 15th, 2009 4:18 PM
Sculptor Comments on Pendulum ProblemBrent AdamsTuesday Apr 14th, 2009 12:29 PM
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