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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
System Failure: Report on the Trial of Gary Johnson
The crime the prisoner was accused of was sleeping on the park bench in front of the County Courthouse. I sat there in awe and disbelief that our government was wasting so much of our tax dollars and police time prosecuting a homeless man with nowhere to sleep at night while allowing real criminals in the banking system to steal peoples' homes through foreclosure fraud and many other real crimes against our society.
SYSTEM FAILURESanta Cruz County Courthouse Friday the 17th of February 1:30 pm Department #2.
With hands and feet shackled the prisoner shuffled into the courtroom led by the Sheriff Deputy. There were another four Deputies present besides the District Attorney, Deputy District Attorney, Judge and Court Reporter. The crime the prisoner was accused of was sleeping on the park bench in front of the County Courthouse. I sat there in awe and disbelief that our government was wasting so much of our tax dollars and police time prosecuting a homeless man with nowhere to sleep at night while allowing real criminals in the banking system to steal peoples' homes through foreclosure fraud and many other real crimes against our society. This outrageous spectacle of injustice is a flashing warning light to us all that this system is in failure mode.
See " Sleep Criminal Again in Court" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/02/16/18707536.php for some of the legal pleadings involved.
About ten supporters attended. There was subsequent discussion of the hearing on Free Radio Santa Cruz by Becky Johnson archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb120219.mp3 (about 3 1/2 hours into the audio file).
The hearing lasted for nearly an hour. Much of it saw Judge Gallagher debating with attorney Ed Frey. Gallagher seemed to be playing the role of prosecution attorney, a claim repeatedly made by Frey. Gallagher kept insisting that sleeping on a bench had "destructive" environmental impact, that one could "sleep during the day", and that law was not vague and was a reasonable regulation of time, place, and manner.
PC 647e's reads "Every person who...lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it...is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor" "Lodges" is nowhere defined in the penal code regarding this section.
Three deputies twice-removed an older woman in the back row for some sort of silent gesture of solidarity with Gary Johnson ("no communicating with the prisoner) over her anguished protests. When the woman protested that she simply wanted to attend the hearing as a member of the public, Judge Gallagher recessed proceedings until the brown-shirted bailiffs strong-armed the woman out of the courtroom, even though Gallagher had given no instructions to that effect and proceedings had not been disturbed prior to the bailiffs demanding the woman leave.
Gallagher again held that the state 647e law under which Johnson has been held for a month and a half is not unconstitutionally vague and does not unreasonably impact the First Amendment protection. Gary was arrested for sleeping on a bench in front of the courthouse on repeated nights with a sign near him with such messages as "MC 6.36.010, PC 647e A Legacy of Cruelty" and "Sleep is Not a Crime". His protest was designed to highlight both the criminalization of the homeless and the crackdown on peaceful political protest around the courthouse.
In December, Chief Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello, without any action or specific authorization from the Board of Supervisors, established a nighttime curfew on the entire courthouse/county building grounds, apparently in response to the peaceful nightly General Assemblies of Occupy Santa Cruz.
Various activists have been arrested for simply being present with protest signs there after 7 PM and declining to leave when ordered to do so by sheriffs. (See "Courthouse Steps Now Free Speech-Free at Night..." at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/12/09/18702196.php).
Those arrested or cited got court dates, but when they went to court, some missing work to do so, they found there were no charges. Some suggested that the prosecution noted a provision of the state trespass law exempts First Amendment activity and were worried the charges were actually unconstitutional. Others suggested that prosecutors were just biding their time, intending to charge later, and simply using the threat to discourage subsequent legal but forbidden public assembly.
Johnson was originally arrested for violating the same trespass statute (PC 602), but the charges were changed into the anti-lodging law 647e when he appeared in court.
Gallagher again denied Johnson release on bail (currently $5000). Contact Ed Frey for more info and to be put on Gary's visitor list. Gary can be contacted by mail at 100 Roundtree Lane, Watsonville, CA.
A transcript of the proceeding should be interesting. A transcript of a prior demurrer hearing for the same defendant facing the same anti-homeless 647e code section b efore the same judge can be found at http://www.beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2011/03/peace-camp-six-jan-21-2011-hearing.html .
A prior hearing on the constitutionality before Judge Rebecca Connolly is described at http://www.beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2011/03/judge-rebecca-connolly-rules-647-e-not.html .
Radio interviews with Gary Johnson and additional comment: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/01/05/18704208.php?show_comments=1#comments
Earlier update: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/01/11/18704560.php . http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/01/05/18704165.php