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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
City Attorney Barisone's Attack on 2 Homeless: Sentinel Smear and Activist Response
A costly and unusual trial to permanently ban two homeless musicians--Anna Richardson and Miguel de Leon--is taking place in Dept. 4 daily costing the city tens of thousands of dollars. The two have been convicted of no crimes in the last year except being visible in public spaces as "eyesores" and responding angrily to
harassment with verbal outrage. The Sentinel's puff-n-poof police fluffer Jennifer Squires has produced another one of her articles which I and Becky Johnson critique. Johnson's critique is taken from her extended comments on the Sentinel's Topix website. Mine, I wrote today. There's also a comment from another anonymous writer off the Sentinel Topix forum that is relevant.
The Sentinel's Tainted Coverage: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_15298719
An Activist's Response: Becky Johnson made this comments on Topix in response to the Sentinel story. My comments follow
Did any of you notice that the police and SENTINEL are not saying "60 citations" anymore, but now it's 20? Could it be that the police LIED to the public when they said they had over 60 citations?
Also, the SENTINEL continues its smear by saying that the couple were "destroying trees, carrying open containers, bathing in a fountain" when the facts of these instances are:
1. DELEON was cited for HURTING THE GRASS when he slept on it
2. ANNA (who does not drink) was cited ONCE for an "open container" when she camped near an empty beer can
3. ANNA was cited for 'bathing in a fountain" when she RINSED HER HANDS in the Town Clock fountain.
This is a witch hunt. It is a huge waste of time and money all paid for with taxpayer dollars.
It is the BARISONE's racking up the bucks for their FRENCH RIVIERA second home at the expense of a miserable, downtrodden homeless couple.
Even if the City wins, they will accomplish nothing.
23 witnesses? HOW MANY are on the city payroll and will be missing REAL WORK while testifying?
One of the expert witnesses will be LINDA LEMASTER, the former chair of the Homeless Issues Task Force of the City of Santa Cruz. She has also served on the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. LEMASTER has been homeless herself three different times in Santa Cruz and is well acquainted with the services available for homeless people and the criteria required to receive those services. Trial continues today at 10AM in dept 4.
What a waste of time and money. All those people who have to take time out of their lives to come and testify. All those hours in an over scheduled courtroom. All those manhours. All because two narcissistic City Attorneys who have no respect for what this is costing us, cannot stop enriching themselves.
Look. It was the BARISONE'S that came up with the highly unusual and expensive decision to charge them with a civil injunction against sleeping in the downtown area. The couple didn't want this! It was completely arbitrary as we are finding from the testimony that lots of other people set up "campsites" (they are REALLY campsites. No tables. No firepit. No smores. just collapsing in a heap next to their meager possessions.
Hardly anyone is "homeless by choice." They don't make enough money to even afford a motel room. ANNA has held several jobs but none paid enough to lift them out of homelessness. They city ticketing their van left and right didn't help either. Then when the City towed their van, they lost the only shelter they had.
I'm not sure if Miguel plans to testify or not, but he told me out in the hallway that the reason he stayed in the arcade behind the Coffee Roasting Company is that he would go in there while it was still open and play his guitar "because the acoustics are perfect there." He told me "the reason I didn't leave when they closed is the Mexicans who came in late at night to clean up liked my music, let me stay, and when they left, locked me in." No wonder police told Bunny's Shoes manager, Michelle Chase, that they could not cite the couple for trespassing!
Ask the Barisone's! THEY are the ones who thought up this injunction (which btw pays THEM handsomely) THEY have subpeoned dozens of officers, public works employees, Parks and Rec employees. Yesterday, SUSAN BARISONE treated us to a long account by a public works employee in uniform and being paid, but not actually "working" to tell us about finding some urine in a parking garage in 2007 that could not be connected in any way to the defendants. Your tax dollars at work!
Anna and Miguel don't camp in the forest. Duh! That's the reason the city is attempting to get this injunction: because they are sleeping DOWNTOWN too much. Also, photos submitted yesterday show that of several campsites depicted, THEIRS was neat and organized.
I have had homeless people camp in my backyard on several occasions. I had a 76-yr-old homeless woman sleeping in my car for a year and a half. She has an apartment now.
Currently, due to the special needs of at least one member of my household , I cannot. Otherwise, I'd be putting people up all the time, just because their situation is so dire. This particular couple, who have never been violent, never charged with theft, don't drink or use narcotics, would be easy to help out.
However, even I don't think that I can solve homelessness this way. I can save a life now and then. YOU, by supporting the sleeping ban, prefer to destroy life instead.
Jesus said "the poor will always be with us" but he didn't say "homeless." Homelessness is a housing issue. we can solve a housing issue by:
1. returning federal HUD funding cut by REAGAN (this was his contribution to homelessnes, NOT closing the mental institutions, which he also did)
2. Get the Vets admin. to house ALL homelesss veterans, regardless of drug/alcohol abuse
3. fully fund the county's adult protective services so indigents who can't care for themselves get a case worker, housing (not shelters), and medical care.
4. pass a law which FINES any property that has been empty for over three months. San Jose has such a law. Not only will it create revenue, it will encourage private property owners to lower their rents so people can live in existing housing and open businesses.
5. make a deal with local hotel owners to giving tax breaks in exchange for allowing homeless people to use their glut of empty hotel rooms in cold, rainy, winter months
6. stop using the armory. its not cheap. its too institutional, surrounded by concertina barbed wire and it robs people of their spirit
7. End the sleeping ban NOW!!!! it is a dark blot on the soul of Santa Cruz.
Neither ANNA nor LITO panhandle. NONE of their citations were for solicitation. They play music for tips which is NOT considered panhandling, but is subject to the non-commercial display ordinances (due to a tip cup or open guitar case).
Also the word "vagrant" implies they don't live here, don't belong here, and are just traveling through. That is not the case. ANNA was born here. LITO (MIGUEL) has lived here for over three years.
I understand that when you label someone... it's easier for you to rationalize a draconian response. ANNA and LITO are our neighbors. They are real people who are doing nothing in particular to draw the ire of the DTA, the CITY, or CYNTHIA MATHEWS who is one of the councilmembers promoting this injunction (and who was in court yesterday).
In fact, I think they resorted to this injunction BECAUSE they couldn't "get" them for panhandling, narcotics, or alcohol. They really don't do much that anyone would object to.
Councilmember CYNTHIA MATHEWS is making the City pay for the legal costs of all of her friends in the DTA. I'm sure she's real popular with many of the store owners.....at YOUR expense!!
And this at a time when the CITY is starved for cash!!
THE SLEEPING BAN, the law under which the two are largely charged with, is Santa Cruz Municipal Code 6.36.010 section a
...To hear the testimony of Ranger John Wallace, SCPD Sgt. Garner,, SCPD Dustin Ross, and Officer Eric Seiley. All we heard was things like "garbage strewn about" "things scattered on blankets, "eyesore" "possessions piled high." City Attorney Susan Barisone told the court that the City "intends to show the extent, unsanitary, or offensive to the senses" their campsite was.
Oh, and the whole trial is ridiculous.
There are 1500 homeless people in the City of Santa Cruz, but City Attorney Susan Barisone has already spent between $50,000 and $100,000 of precious City government dollars to prosecute two homeless people.
Why? There is nothing special about this particular homeless couple. They are the worst ones. They don't drink. They don't use narcotics. They aren't violent. In fact, the testimony says the main complaint is that Miguel gets up grumpy when he's kicked awake and ANNA gave the cops the finger.
Well, that's outrageous!!! They MUST be punished!!! That's certainly $100,000 well spent....if the City wins which is far from sure.
Trial resumes FRIDAY at 9AM in dept 4.
MY COMMENTS (by Robert Norse)
Also Anna Richardson/Miguel de Leon's outrageous Permanent Injunction trial resumes tomorrow (Friday 6-18) at 9 AM or shortly thereafter. The city is spending $50,000 to $100,000 to make sleeping at night in the downtown corridor an immediate jailing offense for the two homeless musicians. These two have never been convicted of any crimes involving violence, theft, drugs, or even panhandling. They have gotten multiple tickets for sleeping--though not in the last year.
Instead of trying them criminally on these charges, City Attorney Susan Barisone is again lumping a whole bunch of accusations and arrests into one Public Nuisance glob and throwing it at them. In this civil injunction procedure, they have no right to an attorney, to chance to appear before a jury, and the standard for conviction is significantly lower ("clear and convincing evidence") than for a criminal trial ("proof beyond a reasonable doubt").
The City is supposed to show that the damage to the City is greater than the damage to the defendants if a "forever" ban on the two from sleeping downtown at night, is issued. Barisone is also trying to expand the physical area of the injunction beyond the downtown and to expand the behavior covered beyond sleeping--though neither Anna nor Miguel have been convicted of any crime in the last year.
Now the City Attorney, perhaps with its eye on the upcoming election or fearful of the wrath of the Downtown Association, is ignoring the misdemeanor provision of the city ordinances (that make almost any two repeated infractions a jailing crime--IF YOU CONVICT THEM AFTER A FAIR TRIAL BEFORE A JURY), and using a slippery civil Injunction process which denies the defendants numerous rights.
Sort of taking a cue from how Bush and Obama have updated the Constitution to remove the rights of suspects being held in Bagram and Guantanamo.
City Attorney Susan Barisone reportedly planned to call 23 prosecution witnesses. So far their testimony has largely amounted to claiming the two defendants and their property are an "eyesore" and so should be subject to criminal penalties.
This is really about the right of homeless people to be present in publics spaces and engage in life-sustaining behavior like sleeping. The trial is likely to go over to Monday and continues in Dept. 4 (Judge Volkman's court).
Attorney Ed Frey's appeal of Robert Facer's case has been postponed until mid-August at the request of the prosecution. Facer was found guilty of sleeping on the beach in the summer of 2009 when there was no legal walk-in emergency shelter available. Santa Cruz's low-intensity war against the poor continues without pause. His case will be heard by a three-judge panel.
ANOTHER WRITER NOTES:
Regardless of the specifics of this case and how we might feel about the homeless issue, we should all be very concerned by the bigger issue that the Constitution is being completely trampled on whenever there is a "trial by judge" instead of a "trial by jury."
A trial by judge has no checks and balances whatsoever. We the People are supposed to try our fellow citizens and judge not only their alleged crimes, but actually judge the law itself against the standard of our Constitutional Protections. That's how we're supposed to stop tyrannical laws from getting out of hand ( such as the marijuana laws that filled our jail with stoners.)
Case in point: Say you want to bring your dog across Lighthouse Field after work and have a beer while you watch him frolic at It's Beach. You could be busted for hundreds of dollars of petty ordinance fines that are in direct conflict to your Constitutional protections and your inalienable right to " liberty and the pursuit of happiness": You can be ticketed for 1. Walking a dog off leash 2. Jaywalking 3. Open container 4. Being on the beach after sunset.
Still think you are living in a "free" country? Walking your dog across the street and having a beer at the beach can cost you as much as rent payment ( excessive fines are also unconstitutional, such as triple fines for drinking a beer outside on 4th July). If I were on a jury for any of those offenses I would not find the accused guilty of a crime, because the ordinance itself is blatantly unconstitutional.
My point is we need informed juries to judge and revoke the unconstitutional laws that we are bombarded with. When we don't draw the line and stand up for the Constitution, we get tyrants like Bush implementing the Orwellian PATRIOT Act, and illegal invasions and occupations of other countries in violations of US and International Law. Let's insist on Jury trials and nip tyranny in the bud wherever we see it.
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MIGUEL DELEON and ANNA RICHARDSON Trial Brief (#1 of 2)
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MIGUEL DELEON and ANNA RICHARDSON Trial Brief (#2 of 2)
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See earlier brief for he Defendants' response...
This is the original brief for the permanent injunction...