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Indybay Feature

SleepCrime Prisoner Faces Four Years in "Lodging" Trial

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
10:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Event Type:
Court Date
Robert Norse
309 Cedar PMB #14B Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Location Details:
701 Ocean St. Dept. 2 10:30 AM - noon
1:30 PM to 4:30 PM

Trial will continue Wednesday and Thursday as needed.

"GroundZero" Gary Johnson, as I call him, goes to trial on four counts of PC 647e for which the maximum penalty is one year per count.

A flyer describing the background is included.

See also "System Failure: Report on the Trial of Gary Johnson" at

Attorney Ed Frey reported that Judge Gallagher in a special pre-trial hearing decided he would allow Gary to wear his jail jumpsuit as he requested--he's now been in jail in Watsonville for 2 1/2 months awaiting trial on $5000 bail.

Gallagher then reversed rulings he'd made in an earlier trial of the same defendant on the same charges (protest sleeping outside the courthouse). Though before he'd allowed the use of a "necessity" defense to claim the right to protect others from an imminent evil (a sort of political necessity defense), Gallagher said he wouldn't allow it this time.

Nor would he allow Gary to argue that he had the necessity to sleep, unless he agreed to testify that he would accept shelter if offered.

In Los Angeles and San Diego, no individual testimony is required of homeless people that they have sought and can't find a shelter bed on any particular night. Those cities, like Santa Cruz, have no shelter for the overwhelming majority of their homeless community.

Unlike Santa Cruz, that fact has forced them to acknowledge that people have the right to sleep on the sidewalk at night within certain limitations.

The prosecution reportedly has a dozen police witnesses ready to testify. The defense was prepared to document the lack of shelter space, the necessity of sleep for health purposes, and the necessity of political protest. It's not clear what the defense will be allowed to argue.

Opening statements have already been made and the prosecution will open its case at 10:30 AM. Depending on the length of the prosecution testimony, the defense may begin in the late afternoon around 3:30 PM or 4 PM.

Free Gary Johnson !
Added to the calendar on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 9:21PM
by Robert Norse
I was unable to attend the trial because I was excluded from the courtroom as a prospective witness.

Still my understanding is that Judge Gallagher is seeking to severely restrict defense testimony. New witnesses will not be allowed.

Witnesses slated already (including myself, Becky Johnson, Linda Lemaster, Steve Pleich, and Paul Lee) will not be able to testify to the shelter shortage in Santa Cruz, nor to the "necessity to protest" to protect the health and lives of others threatened by the Sleeping Ban and Lodging Law.

Judge Galllagher has ruled out the "necessity defense" as far as Gary's need for shelter goes, because in a previous trial last year, Gary reportedly said he didn't or wouldn't apply for shelters. I believe the issue of his willingness to go isn't relevant if the reality is that there is no shelter space to go to. But Gallagher apparently won't allow that line of questioning.

Santa Cruz in the winter has only the Winter Armory Shelter Program as emergency shelter, and it's not really available as a walk-in program, but rather has lots of requirements.

These include photo ID, early arrival excluding those who work during the day, couples stopped from sleeping together, a confined environment that burdens Vets with PTSD, exclusion of those who use medical marijuana (even with cards), no provision for vehicular parking or walk-in, a reportedly unhealthy environment where one person coughs and everyone gets a cold, since all are confined in a single room, no provision for much in the way of backpacks (and no storage space at the Homeless [Lack of] Services Center), to name only a few of the problems.

Recently there have also been reports of couples excluded arbitrarily by authoritarian monitors, including a pregnant woman and an elderly woman.

None of this, I'm told, will be able to go before the jury.

Santa Cruz unlike more 'conservative"cities like Los Angeles and San Diego also makes it a crime to sleep outside at night--hence Gary Johnson's protest in the first place and his sign "Sleep is not a crime".

Since Linda, Becky, and I have "criminal" cases pending in court, the D.A. has warned our attorneys that she will cross-examine us to get incriminating evidence in our respective cases, prompting all of our attorneys to vigorously urge us not to testify. Becky and I are charged with going into the vacant bank at 75 River St. or being on the lawn outside (along with hundreds of others) which the D.A. calls "conspiracy to trespass and vandalize, felony vandalism, and trespass"--though we are reporters and there is no evidence of vandalism.

The ongoing charges (with our Preliminary Hearing on April 16 in Dept. 6) means we have to weigh the damage likely to be done to our own cases versus the possible good that can come from our testimony, given the highly limited nature of the testimony that Judge Gallagher will allow. See "Teddy Bear Troubles" at & "Bogus Attack on Journalists..." at

Linda faces a struggle to defeat a"sitting on the courthouse steps at night to protest the Sleeping Ban" charges from August 2010 with the PeaceCamp2010 protest. See "THERE WILL BE BLOOD..."at .

Given the judge's hostile and prejudicial attitude towards our testimony and the determination of the D.A. to attempt to discredit it, defense testimony is likely to be severely limited in any event.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) will be meeting tomorrow at 9:30 AM (half an hour earlier than usual) at the cafeteria in the basement of the County Building (the American Cafe) so as to be ready to go to court at 11 AM when proceedings begin. It's looking like some or all of the three of us may not be testifying given the circumstances.

Comments (Hide Comments)
by brentugly
I can't get to the court at this time but I really wish I could to support this fearless brother.
He not only slept out on some of the coldest nights of the year and without a blanket, he has been in jail for months defending the right to do so.
This guy is a champion for this type of personally involved activism.
He didn't have lots of support like the OSC camp or even Peace Camp 2010 but he still slept right there night after night even after a barrage of tickets. Truly inspiring and hardcore!!
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