Tag Archives: courts

Booking Fees and Incarceration Costs; The Latest Revenue Generation Tools For Money Hungry Governments

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider the legality of a couple of new methods the police and courts have devised to generate revenue for the State. Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Kentucky, have begun implementing fees and “incarceration cost” reimbursement charges against those who are arrested as a way to raise money for police and governmental budgets.

Much like their earlier forerunner to policing for profit, asset forfeiture and seizure laws, these fees are not based on a conviction and many times those subjected to them don’t even end up having charges filed against them. Another similarity is that the process for recouping them are either non-existent or so difficult or expensive that it generally makes it not worth the effort and most people simply allow the theft to stand.

Of course, that’s the point, since the policies have nothing to do with justice, but rather are solely intended to raise revenue for the State and its enforcement structures.

Via the New York Times:

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

“There is some legwork involved,” the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. “They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven’t been found guilty.”

The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for “maintenance” of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided “for the convenience of the inmates,” who might find it hard to cash a check.

Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court caseschallenging the Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

Mr. Carvin said the county’s motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. “Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County’s in order to bridge their budgetary gaps,” he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. “But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money.”

“Providing a profit motive to make arrests,” he said, “gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests.”

Obviously, these debit cards with their outrageous fees are anything but convenient. Also, while it’s beside the point from the start, the notion that an arbitrary fee based on no crime having been committed is valid because in the eyes of the courts it is not a large fee represents a unnecessary and undue hardship for many poor people that are barely making it on what they have already.

Andrew Henderson Meets with Minn. Chief Over Previous Police Intimidation For Filming

Andrew Henderson Police ReportRecently, Ademo posted about an interaction Andrew Henderson, a CopBlocker from the St. Paul area in Minnesota, had with a police officer who had tried to intimidate him because he was filming near a police station. This happened shortly after the St. Paul Police Department held a seat belt enforcement campaign that was really just a thinly veiled opportunity for revenue generation.

Knowing that many police themselves don’t wear seat belts when driving, Andrew decided to go down to a location near the police station and film to see how many he could find disregarding the rule that they had just placed such a heavy emphasis on for regular citizens. Not surprisingly, he had no problem whatsoever spotting officers hypocritically ignoring the seat belt law.

Not long after, an employee of the St. Paul Police Department, Officer Alba-Reyes, drove up to where Henderson was filming. During the interaction between Alba-Reyes and Andrew (which can be viewed in its entirety in the video below), the officer misstates several laws, including that he has a right to detain Henderson for filming and that the public sidewalk is actually private property. He then threatens to arrest him “if he continues trespassing on private property.”

About a month later, Andrew had a meeting with St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith concerning this incident and the behavior of that officer. This included several inconsistencies and omissions within the official police report that was filed by Alba-Reyes. However, it apparently didn’t include an update on the St. Paul Police Department’s investigation into whether public sidewalks are in fact public or private property. (Make sure you check out Andrew’s YouTube channel for lots of great informative videos.)

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while…

Posted by Andrew J Henderson on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Below is Andrews summary of that meeting via a Facebook post:

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while recording police officers from a public sidewalk.

  • Officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report that I was using a “bypod”, which I was not. I do not own or have ever used a bipod. The pictures he took would have proved this.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes seemed to believe that I do not have access to the Saint Paul Police policy manual, though it is publicly available at: http://www.stpaul.gov/DocumentCenter/View/70740.
  • Once I was threatened with arrest if I did not leave, I immediately walked to my vehicle and drove home, and did not continue to film vehicles as officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report, the video can be found here: https://youtu.be/J9P-4kV7Z9k.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes never turned in the pictures he took of me to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault as he is required to under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13, and did not include them in this report.
  • There was a dashcam in the police vehicle as indicated in the report, but officer Alba-Reyes either did not turn it on or decided to not upload the content to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault.

The encounter can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/ONQXJjY_Yfk?t=4m38s (Also embedded below – editor)

Chief Smith understood my concerns, but could not give me answers as to why Officer Alba-Reyes report was not entirely factual or what happened to the photos he took of me.

I encouraged Chief Smith to adopt a policy regarding citizens filming law enforcement officers as recommended by the Department of Justice (http://www.justice.gov/…/spl/documents/Sharp_ltr_5-14-12.pdf), in addition to submitting a couple of policies to him and his staff from other agencies such as the District of Columbia Police Department (https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/GO_304_19.pdf) and the Department of Homeland Security (http://mocek.org/…/2…/06/DHS-FPS-Bulletin-HQ-IB-012-2010.pdf), as well as case law about citizens First Amendment right to document law enforcement personnel engaged in their public duties (http://media.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/10-1764P-01A.pdf), and to better train officers on engagement with those who chronicle police occurrences.

I hope Chief Smith will take this opportunity to transition and advance with this paradigm shift in policing.

Click banner to learn more about filming the police

Click banner to learn more about filming the police

Reliance on Traffic Ticket Revenue Has Left Nevada Supreme Court Broke

Back in March, Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty warned state legislators that the NV Supreme Court coffers were bare, due to a drop in revenue from traffic tickets. A decrease in the amount of tickets being issued by law enforcement state-wide had left the courts $700k over budget this year and facing another $700k shortage next year, for a $1.4 million total shortfall. In Nevada and other states, the state supreme court is funded by assessment fees added onto the fines for traffic citations.

Hardesty made sure lawmakers knew he wasn’t fooling around with an ominous threat to take everyone’s ball and go home if they didn’t find some way for taxpayers to pay up:

NV Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty

Justice James Hardesty

“If this is not addressed by May 1, the court will not have sufficient cash to operate,” Hardesty said in his testimony to lawmakers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I believe the legislature has a constitutional obligation to fund the judicial branch of government. Do you want me to close the judicial branch of government at the state level on May 1?”

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s past May 1st and Nevada still has a functioning Supreme Court. That’s because the state legislature passed NV SB469, which provided $600k in “emergency” funds to hold them over for a little while longer. There are, of course, larger issues beyond an unpredictable budget that are created by the propensity for government agencies and courts to use traffic and other citations as a revenue generation source.

NV Courts Revenue GenerationThe first and most obvious being that it creates a perverse incentive for lawmakers to pass laws based solely for that purpose and for police to enforce laws based on that priority. The reliance on drug seizure funds for local police departments, the huge growth in the War on (Some) Drugs, and the resulting human rights violations that have resulted are well documented at this point.

The less apparent and visible result involves the continued erosion of the premise that cops are here to “protect and serve.” Hardesty himself states that the budget crunch is a result of a change in priorities by police across the state. The Las Vegas Review Journal takes it a step further stating:

“the number of tickets written by law enforcement agencies around the state has been declining steadily, partly because state troopers have focused on violations more likely to lead to crashes…

Part of the reason, police said, is the NHP Strategic Plan’s emphasis on violations that could cause crashes, including distracted driving and driving under the influence. Police also believe enforcement and the Zero Fatalities education program have changed drivers’ behavior, while completion of some major highway projects has made traffic move better.”

When an emphasis on safety over revenue generation and a perceived improvement in driver’s behavior and road conditions is seen as a problem, then that’s actually a problem. Further, when the general population’s interaction with the police and courts trends increasingly toward negative and unnecessary harassment, it doesn’t help the already battered reputations of departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

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Recently, the entire Las Vegas Constable’s Office was dissolved with one of the bigger reasons behind that being the corruption caused by tying revenue to citations. The biggest scheme consisted of an assessment fee attached to tickets issued to people that didn’t change their car registration within 30 days of moving from another state. A 2012 modification in that law increasing the amount of fines and decreasing the amount of time allowed to change registration, which was itself passed explicitly to increase revenue, also allowed constables to collect a commission on the assessment fee.

The fact that those ticketed had to pay the assessment fee even if they were actually within the allotted 30 days, led to constables spending the majority of their days trolling through parking lots and apartment complexes looking for anyone with an out of state license plate. As you might imagine, it didn’t exactly endear them to new residents or others within the community. Nor did the unauthorized traffic stops that they began making to bring in even more cash.

Revenue Generation Through CitationsAs already noted in a previous post, the Las Vegas Municipal Courts also recently came under fire for their “money hungry” ways. Among those criticisms was that the courts were putting revenue generation before safety by allowing people that were actually a threat and prone to violence to pay fees rather than go to jail. They also were accused of charging excessive fees to non-violent offenders with financial difficulties in order to keep them paying over long periods of time. (See the video below for an illustration of the loan-shark style scam that traffic tickets now represent.)

Not surprisingly, when you make the funding of government dependent on harassing and stealing from the citizens what you end up with is a government whose main function is to find new and worse ways to harass and steal from those citizens. The equally unsurprising aftereffect is to create a citizenry that sees government as nothing, but a den of thieves. When positive behavior is seen as a bad thing because it makes funding that government more difficult, then that assessment of them is pretty valid.

Las Vegas Metro Cop Joins the Growing List of Police Pedophiles/Rapists

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

On Wednesday (May 27, 2015), Patrick Taylor turned himself in on charges involving child pornography, stemming from a March 19th raid on his house after investigations by the LVMPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Internal Affairs Bureau. According to Metro, he is being charged with a single count of possession of child pornography and two counts of distribution of child pornography. In spite of the seriousness of those charges, he has been released without bail after his initial court appearance at the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas, which took place Wednesday morning. The only conditions being that he promise not to contact his victim or to access the internet or social media.

Anybody that has been paying attention in recent times undoubtedly has noticed that one of the many crimes on the rise within the ranks of police officers are sex crimes. It’s getting rare when even a week goes by that CopBlock.org isn’t posting a story about a cop being caught using their position to rape or in some other way sexually exploit someone. In fact, this isn’t even the only time in recent history that a Las Vegas cop has been caught, as the LVRJ’s article about this case points out.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Taylor isn’t the first Metro officer to face child porn allegations in recent months. Metro officer James Henry, 37, pleaded guilty in December to one count of possessing a visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a child. He was sentenced to four years on probation in April. Henry was originally charged with 10 counts of child pornography possession. Prosecutors said several images were found on an online storage account that belonged to him.

The 12-year department veteran was arrested in October after an investigation into child pornography on his Google cloud account. Henry worked as a patrol officer in Metro’s Convention Center Area Command, which includes the Strip.

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

In addition, there is the case of the woman, who was sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas court marshal (see video below) and then arrested for reporting it to a judge (that ignored her complaints), a detective, who assaulted the hooker he was visiting (while on duty and driving his police vehicle) after she increased the price on him, and that’s just within Las Vegas in recent times. As you can also see by the quoted LVRJ article above, Taylor’s child porn predecessor, James Henry, only received probabtion for his crimes and exploitation against children. Yet another example of the lack of accountability that these cops have come to expect from the “Justice System” and, no doubt, one of the explanations for this influx of criminals in general within the police departments nationwide.

Sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas Court Martial; then arrested for reporting it:

St. Paul, MN Police Launch Investigation into if Sidewalks are Public or Private Property

Andrew Henderson

Recently, a post on CopBlock.org detailed how Andrew Henderson, a CopBlock member from St. Paul, Minnesota, was detained and harassed by the police there while he was filming as part of a test to see how many cops actually wore their seatbelts. Andrew had decided to do so after the St. Paul Police Department held a massive campaign to stop and ticket people for not wearing their seatbelts. He wanted to show the hypocrisy of the police, who are well known for not wearing seatbelts themselves, and for whom one of the leading causes of on the job deaths (far exceeding those of violence from suspects) is car accidents.

After he had documented several police cars and the police officers inside, none of whom were actually wearing seat belts, he was subsequently detained, questioned, and forced to show ID by Officer Armando Abla-Reyes. Officer Abla-Reyes incorrectly informed him that he could be detained for filming in public and also incorrectly stated that the sidewalk he was standing on was private property, threatening to arrest Henderson for trespassing, if he didn’t leave the area.

Now according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the massive attention that video caused has prompted the St. Paul Police Department to launch an investigation into whether sidewalks are public property (spoiler: they are):

“It brought up a question: What is public, what is private?” Sgt. Paul Paulos, a St. Paul police spokesman, said Wednesday. “What we’ll also do is reach out to the city attorney’s office to get a finer definition…”

City Attorney Samuel Clark said Wednesday that his office is working with the police department “to clarify the rights of way applicable to the sidewalks around the public-safety buildings in the area…”

Paulos said Wednesday the department will provide more instruction to officers about the area around the police department, and what is public and what is private.

Minnesota Police Public Sidewalk Private Property

None of those arrows are pointing at private property.

So, they’re going to get to the bottom of that thing the Supreme Court already decided decades ago. In the meantime, there’s a lot of hyperbole from the head of the police union about how much police are under fire these days and how it’s a reasonable threat worthy of detaining someone for filming the police or public buildings. However, as already stated the leading cause of on duty deaths for police, by far, are car accidents and, contrary to the other blatant lie in the article that “99.9%” cops wear their seatbelts, the fact that police often don’t wear them is a big contributor to that. Of course, if they weren’t out generating revenue by giving other people tickets for that very same behavior, that would be their problem.

Hopefully, they’ll get that whole public/private thing figured out soon, though. That way they join the rest of us in the 21st century.

Andrew Henderson’s original video:

Nevada Cop Block Members Sue LVMPD for Chalk Arrests/Harassment

Chalk is Temporary, Murder is Forever

Chalk is Temporary; Murder is Forever

Lawsuit Filed Over Intimidation Arrests

Earlier today (Sept. 26, 2014), four people associated with Nevada Cop Block and the Sunset Activist Collective filed a civil rights lawsuit over arrests by the LVMPD in August of 2013 during anti-police brutality protests in which drawing on sidewalks with “sidewalk chalk” was labelled as graffiti, as well as a pattern of harassment by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, both before and after those arrests, designed to intimidate us into ending our advocacy for victims of police brutality in the Las Vegas area.

The federal lawsuit filed by attorneys Maggie McLetchie and Robert Langford on behalf of Ballentine, Catalino Dazo Jr., Gail Sacco, and I (Kelly W. Patterson), was reported this afternoon in the Las Vegas Review Journal which includes these details of the lawsuit (some of the links within the quoted content have been added by me):

“Four activists who express themselves with sidewalk chalk filed a civil rights lawsuit Friday against the Metropolitan Police Department.

According to the federal lawsuit, the department has engaged in ‘a policy and practice of deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of individuals engaging in peaceful protests

‘Plaintiffs have been improperly arrested, cited, and harassed for engaging in free speech,’ the complaint alleges…

According to the lawsuit, the Police Department has allowed its officers to harass, cite, arrest and search the plaintiffs ‘for peacefully writing in water-soluble chalk on a public sidewalk’ that Las Vegas police officers had instructed them to write on.

The document claims these actions violated the plaintiffs’ ‘constitutional rights to free speech, expression and assembly, rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and unlawful arrests, and substantive and procedural due process rights.’

Additional state tort claims in the lawsuit include false imprisonment, negligent training and supervision, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress

Las Vegas police began harassing protesters on May 1, 2013, according to the lawsuit, and three of the plaintiffs were cited during a protest at the department’s headquarters on June 8, 2013…

On that date, the lawsuit alleges, Sgt. Mike Wallace approached the three protesters and told them that writing with chalk on the sidewalk constituted graffiti. He then detained them on the sidewalk for about 45 minutes, according to the lawsuit…

During two demonstrations in July 2013, protesters used washable colored chalk to write critical statements of police on the sidewalks outside the department’s headquarters and in front of the Regional Justice Center.

Police said it cost city workers $1,500 to clean up the chalk using power washing equipment.

As a result of the July protests, Ballentine, Patterson and Dazo were charged with gross misdemeanor counts of placing graffiti on property and conspiring to commit a crime.

Police arrested Ballentine and Patterson on Aug. 10, 2013, while they were walking to the department’s headquarters to chalk, according to the lawsuit

Ballentine spent three days at the Clark County Detention Center, where he was denied his medications and suffered from anxiety, according to the lawsuit, and Patterson spent four days at the jail.

The charges were later dropped. District Attorney Steve Wolfson said new evidence showed that courthouse marshals had directed the protesters to chalk in a specific location outside the justice center.

‘There wasn’t expressed permission, but there was implied permission to use the chalk on the sidewalk outside the courthouse,’ Wolfson said.

But McLetchie said the district attorney fails to understand that “the Constitution forbids the government from requiring prior permission before you engage in First Amendment-protected activity.”

According to the lawsuit, the citations issued in June 2013 and the arrests made in August 2013 were designed ‘to chill future speech.'”

The full Review Journal article can be read here.

Further Reading

Still stands

Still stands

I’ve been advised by our lawyers not to comment in detail on the case while it is active, but you can read pretty much every article ever written about the case right here. (It actually progresses from the most recent stories to the latest. So, if you want to start at the beginning you have to backtrack to the last page.)

As I said, I won’t be doing any extended commentary on the case in this post. However, I will point out that I made Metro and Sheriff Gillespie a very reasonable offer (see the picture to the right) early on during the protests that I don’t believe they ever even considered accepting and still haven’t shown any real interest in to date.

Also, I think it’s amazing that the main cops involved in these ridiculous arrests are named “Mike Wallace, Chris Tucker, and Lt. Liberty.” I’m tempted to think they are just making up names at the LVMPD.

Free Screening of “If a Tree Falls” Sept. 12th in Las Vegas

September's Radical Movie Night Features a Free Screening of "If a Tree Falls"
September’s Radical Movie Night Features a Free Screening of “If a Tree Falls”

Sept. “Radical Movie Night”

September 12th marks the debut of Las Vegas’ own Radical Movie Night, hosted by the Sunset Activist Collective, co- Sponsored by Nevada Cop Block and Food Not Bombs Las Vegas, and officially endorsed by the Las Vegas A-Cafe. This will be a monthly free showing of either a documentary or a movie with significant social value. The main purpose of Radical Movie Nights will be to connect local community members and encourage active participation within the local community by those within it to promote and empower those wishing to make positive grassroots-based improvements where they live and within their personal workplaces.

The location where Radical Movie Nights will take place is The Sci Fi Center, which many locals already know from its longstanding tradition for showing independent movies and cult classics that are often not available in a large screen setting. (Disclaimer: the Sci Fi Center is not actually involved in the Radical Movie Nights, outside of permitting us to use it as a venue for showing movies.)

In order to coincide with actions against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (for more info about the AETA and local actions in response to it, see:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/07/animal-enterprise-terrorism-act_n_5659893.html) beginning in September, the first movie that will be shown is ” If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” a documentary about the Earth Liberation Front, in general, and one of its members, Daniel G. McGowan, who was characterized as a terrorist by the US government after his arrest for environmental activism actions, in particular.

Radical Movie Nights in Las Vegas will take place every second Friday at the Sci Fi Center

Radical Movie Nights in Las Vegas will take place every second Friday at the Sci Fi Center

The movie, which was nominated for an Academy  Award and won numerous other awards, shows the history and personal reasons why those involved in the ELF actions did what they did and how they became “radicalized,” during previous less militant actions. In addition it addresses issues involving the declaring activists, who never actually harmed or ever tried to harm people, terrorists, based solely on property damage.

However, it also interviews and discusses the perspective of the targets of those actions and the effects they had on them. As a result, it is a fairly even handed presentation of the facts involved, which allows viewers to decide for themselves who was right or wrong and why.

 

About the Movie (via http://www.ifatreefallsfilm.com/):

“In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front– a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

For years, the ELF—operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country.

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of this ELF cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.

Part coming-of-age tale, part cops-and-robbers thrilller, the film interweaves a verite chronicle of Daniel on house arrest as he faces life in prison, with a dramatic recounting of the events that led to his involvement with the group. And along the way it asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism.

Drawing from striking archival footage — much of it never before seen — and intimate interviews with ELF members, and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word “terrorism” had not yet been altered by 9/11.”

Call Flood Request for Brian Sumner Arrested for Filming Cops *Update*

Update: Charges Dismissed Against Brian Sumner

Brian Sumner’s Case was Dismissed. (Thanks to a Little Help from Some Freinds.)

Brian Sumner has reported via the FaceBook event page that his charges were dropped He also stated:

“Its all thanks to you. I wish everyone of you could have seen the DAs face. My lawyer told me that she wasn’t sure if the DA was going to inner (sic) the agreement. I’m going to take that as it was a very successful phone bomb. You all have my heart, and our voices will be heard.”

Thanks to everyone that managed to call. Remember, call floods have been very effective at putting pressure on police departments and courts to release people being charged with bogus crimes based on retaliation or intimidation motives. Always call if you can.

 

 


Brian Sumner wrote the article included below regarding how “obstruction” charges are often used to punish and attempt to discourage people involved in Copwatch or Cop Block related activities. This is done much the same way that “resisting arrest” is often used to prosecute people who have been arrested, even when the actual excuse for arresting them is thrown out or dismissed, as a way of intimidating them.

Brian is a local activist and copwatcher from the Fresno area. Within a relatively short time he’s made quite a few videos and been involved in several major actions in and around Fresno seeking police accountability as part of the Fresno Liberty Movement. As a result, he has become a target for retaliation by local police and other government employees. In one such instance (not the one in the video included below), he was charged with obstruction simply for filming the arrest of another person from a distance. He will be starting trial for this “crime” today, Sept. 10th 2014, and has asked (via a FaceBook event) that people call the DA to show their support and ask that they drop those bogus charges:

“Brian Sumner was arrested for obstruction of justice while filming a routine traffic stop in Clovis, Ca. Please call the DA’s office as many times as humanly possible and ask them to drop the charges. Brian will begin his first day of trial at 1:30 pm 9/10/14. Vanessa Wong is the DA prosecuting the case against Brian. The phone number to her office is (559) 600-3141. Any and all support will be greatly appreciated. #NoVictimNoCrime #PhotographyIsNotACrime #CopBlock #CopWatch #Solidarity”

“Obstructing” is “Resisting” for Cop Watchers

We have all seen a youtube video where a cop demands ID, or for someone to go with them, and when they refuse the cop threatens them with resisting arrest. Even though no crime was committed beforehand…  If you have not seen one of these videos click the link below.


Threatened with resisting arrest.


 

I FILM COPS!

I have been filming the police for around a year and a half now, and it has slowly just become apart of who I am. I was just out of the military, and dealing with the poor taste it left in my mouth. I had been Listening to the Adam VS the Man podcast, reading The Free Thought Project, and watching everything CopBlock.org was putting out. I had joined the military to serve, and well lets just say my service was more of a disservice.

The visible wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan these “Wars on Terror” were being flaunted along with 9/11 as major reasons to draft such legislation as the Patriot Act, or NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) to create such organizations as the NSA, and the TSA. While the US military eroded rights, and lowered the living conditions in the middle east, the US government was  systematically removing rights, and lowering the standard of freedom in the USA.

I was drawn to activism and civil disobedience because it was an in your face act of rebellion, and when you do something like block a freeway, chalk up a police station, or take over the streets with a group of people, and the authorities just have to let you do it due the critical mass its very liberating to one’s soul. You make connections, and form bonds with each other much like in the military.

One thing I have noticed is cops don’t take kindly to an unknown person walking up and sticking a camera in their face. Luckily for me, I could care less what a cop wants. Too many times there is no objective record, and cops take advantage of people, or worse hurt them. The supreme court ruled that it is the job of police to enforce the laws, not protect people. With that in mind does it make a little more sense why there are so many victimless crimes?

Police often tell me that my presence is an obstruction of their investigation, they usually try to defend it with “I’m cool with you filming, just from over there, Officer safety, and all” or something along those lines. In reality what the cop is trying to do is place you in a position where you are less likely to capture what he is doing, and/or saying. I have been threatened with arrest for this crime known as “Obstruction of Justice”  on many different occasions. I recently made the connection between resisting arrest, and Obstruction of Justice.

If I am not harming anyone, and I am filming from a distance that I deem is reasonable for both mine, and the officers safety, and if I am not engaging the officer in any unwanted dialogue how can I be obstructing justice, or interfering with his investigation? Is he claiming that my presence with a camera is somehow hindering him from doing his job? Or is he afraid of what the camera will see? Regardless the situation remains where unquestioned obedience to an authority figure, possibly a complete stranger, can and will land  you in cage, even worse you can end up with a criminal record.

The same can be said with resisting arrest. As we saw in the video link above the man was eating a meal at a fast food restaurant. When the man did not want to leave his meal, and go with the officer he was threatened with arrest for resisting arrest. How can your only crime be not wanting to have an interaction with a complete stranger? Does it make sense that you can literally be arrested for refusing to go somewhere with someone who claims authority over you?

Police now can detain and arrest you for not wanting to talk to them. At the same time police can detain and arrest the people who would film these arrest’s in order create an objective record, if they do not follow the orders of a the police officer. I will now share a personal experience from 2 nights ago with the Clovis, Ca police department.


Clovis police officer, and local hero Jesus Santillon, threatened me with arrest for filming him while he detained, and later arrested a homeless man with a bicycle.


This video also may serve as an objective comparison of the behavior of  cops while in certain uniforms. The officer with the tactical vest, and the military haircut was the one to make contact with me, and cry about “officer safety” in an attempt to get me to alter my position.  While the police officer in his regular uniform was very patient, and kept to the matters at hand.

Notice also that even the nice cop was telling me what to do. Officer Santillan was telling me to move, the other person involved Officer Shermanti was telling me that no one threatened me, and the supervisor was telling me to keep my opinions to myself, and to do whatever complete strangers with guns tell me to. In retrospect thats actually not that bad of advice… If a complete stranger came up to me with a gun and told me what to do. I would probably do it. Unless it was a cop. Then I would probably film it.

I hope you also noticed that none of the cops really listened to me, they all just made excuses for each other, and talked at me in a manner that made me feel more like a subject to them. In other news, Officer Jesus Santillan was awarded a hero medal for 80 DUI arrests, and singlehandedly making up 21% of the DUI arrest for Clovis PD.

Hero Cop Jesus Santillan

 “A Clovis police officer was given a California Hero Award on Saturday at the 16th annual Statewide Law Enforcement and Community Recognition Event in Sacramento, said Janet Stoll-Lee, spokeswoman for the Clovis Police Department.

Stoll-Lee said Officer Jesus Santillan arrested 80 drunken drivers during the graveyard shift in 2013, which accounted for 21% of the department’s total DUI arrests. Santillan worked on DUI checkpoints, AVOID task forces and saturation patrols in Clovis.

The event, which is sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, recognizes law enforcement officers and community leaders throughout California for their efforts to stop drunken driving.”

National Jury Rights Day in Las Vegas – Sept. 5th

Sept. 5th is Jury Rights Day

Sept. 5th is Jury Rights Day

A History of Jury Rights Day

People across the country will be celebrating Jury Rights Day September 5th. On this day in 1670, Quaker William Penn of London was arrested for the “crime” of preaching his personal religious beliefs. Penn pled not guilty and subsequently argued against England’s Conventicle Acts, which outlawed the practice of religions other than the Church of England.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge instructed the jurors to find Penn guilty. However, the jurors’ refusal to enforce a bad law led to the court jailing them for contempt and withholding food and water from the jurors. This became known as “Bushel’s Case” because of Edward Bushel, the jury foreman’s refusal to pay the fines, which had been charged to the jurors.

Afterwards, some of the jurors appealed their fines and imprisonment.  A higher court confirmed the right of the jurors to base their verdict on their best judgment and conscience.  Even though there was a law against freedom of religion, the high court held that juries could not be required to enforce any law they thought was wrong.

Jurors can judge guilt based on both facts and the validity of the law itself.

Jurors can judge guilt based on both facts and the validity of the law itself.

This higher court ruling created the precedent that jurors cannot be punished for their verdict.  It also set a foundation for our rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

This ruling confirmed important protections for the jury, and firmly established the right of the jurors to refuse to accept bad government laws. This method of rejecting bad laws is called jury nullification or jury veto.  Through jury nullification, people can control their government by refusing to allow immoral laws to be enforced.

Resulting common law concepts firmly uphold the fact that Jurors cannot be punished for rendering or refusing to render a certain verdict. Nor are jurors are required to give any reason for the verdict that they render or justify it in any way. The fundamental right of Jurors to render their verdict based on conscience is basic to the preservation of Justice, in a free society.

William Penn later came to Colonial America and founded Pennsylvania.  Jurors continue to have the authority to nullify bad laws.  This authority is our peaceful protection to stop corrupt government servants from violating our rights.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the history of Jury Rights Day.

More information about jury nullification and jury rights in general can be found at the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA.org)

Schedule of Events in Las Vegas:

Friday ~
10:00 AM Pre-event flyering/outreach
10:30 AM Press Conference
11:00 AM Presentation about Jury Rights

Monday –
8:00 – 11:00 AM We will be handing out information about jurors rights and jury nullification to people going into the court.

Las Vegas will be holding several events that weekend.

Las Vegas will be holding several events that weekend.

Jury Rights Day Events in Las Vegas

The right to trial by jury is not as well respected as it should be or as our founding documents require. In clear violation of the plain text of our founding documents, several criminal defendants, perhaps even a majority of defendants, in Nevada are illegally denied their right to trial by jury. And, in those cases where juries are impaneled, the courts systematically confuse and mislead jurors as to the nature of their service on a jury. A jury trial is a check and balance on unaccountable entrenched government. It began as a check on royal power. It is still needed as a check on the power of the state. A litany of groups and individuals will gather at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas the weekend of September 5th in honor of Jury Rights Day.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Friday 10:00 a.m. , September 5th

A press conference will be held on the steps of the Regional Justice Center, 200 S Lewis. (View map to location) Representatives from several groups will speak on the importance of the right to trial by jury to them and their organization. Groups represented include, Nevada Cop Block, Southern Nevada Watchdogs, Patient to Patient, Compassion Nevada Consulting, Cindy Lake candidate for Clark County Commission, Jim Duensing candidate for Clark County District Attorney and the Fully Informed Jury Association, T. Matthew Phillips a Civil Rights Attorney.

Friday 10:30 a.m., September 5th

An educational presentation at the RJC will be made by Jim Duensing, local attorney and candidate for District Attorney in Clark County. The presentation, geared towards the several homeschooled children attending, will also be enlightening to adult members of the public and press alike. All are invited and encouraged to attend this presentation covering the history and and nature of the right to trial by jury.

Monday 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., September 8th

Volunteers will be distributing informational handouts provided by the Fully Informed Jury Association, www.FIJA.org at the Regional Justice Center. These handouts will educate and remind the public about the nature and importance of the right to trial by jury.

Free Know Your Rights Seminar in Las Vegas Thurs. Aug. 28

Attorney Stephen "Bowtie" Stubbs, who hosts free Know Your Rights seminars in Las Vegas.

Attorney Stephen “Bowtie” Stubbs, who hosts free Know Your Rights seminars in Las Vegas.

This coming Thursday, August 28th (2014), at 7:00 PM; Las Vegas area attorney Stephen Stubbs will be giving a free “Know Your Rights” seminar. The seminar will take place at the Leatherneck Club of Las Vegas, which is located at 4360 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89102 (view map to location). If you are on Facebook, you can RSVP here at the event invite.

Among other things, this seminar covers people’s rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That includes the right to freedom of speech and the extent and limitations of that freedom. In addition, the First Amendment also provides for freedom of the press, which applies to citizens ability to film persons, including government officials and the police, while they are performing their duties in public.

While discussing the Second Amendment right to bear arms, Stubbs covers Nevada law relating to open carrying of firearms, as well as the limitations, licensing requirements, and process for such that the State of Nevada places on the concealed carrying of firearms. He also breaks down the different restrictions and prohibitions placed on non-firearm (knives, clubs, brass knuckles, etc.) weapons by state and local law.

Am I Being Detained or Am I Free to Go?

Am I Being Detained or Am I Free to Go?

Another significant part of the seminar involves what the police can and cannot do in relation to searches, seizure of property, and detention of people based on the Fourth Amendment.  That includes the requirement for reasonable suspicion to believe that someone is about to commit a crime, has committed a crime, or is in the process of committing a crime in order to justify detaining someone. It also includes the requirement for consent before police can conduct a warrant-less search, with a few very narrow exceptions, such as evidence in plain view and risk of eminent danger (one of several exigent circumstances). In addition, the differences between searches conducted upon someones person, a vehicle, or their home are explained.

Stephen Stubbs' Free Know Your Rights Seminar

Stephen Stubbs’ Free Know Your Rights Seminar

The Constitutional due process protections within the Fifth Amendment are also covered pretty extensively during the seminar. A person’s right against self-incrimination is explained. Stubbs goes over how (and why) people should invoke their right to remain silent when questioned and avoid answering questions without the benefit of legal counsel being present. (That second part actually has a bit of added significance, since Stephen Stubbs was actually arrested himself for refusing to leave the side of one of his clients, who had invoked his right to have legal counsel present during a traffic stop, back in November of 2013.)

In general, the seminar is very informative and worthwhile for anyone, since it’s not unusual for the average person to get stopped for, at the very least, a traffic violation and knowing your rights can’t hurt you. Beyond that, the seminar does focus largely on encounters with police and situations such as filming in public, interacting verbally with police, the legalities of whether cops can justifiably stop; search; and arrest someone, and what to do in those situations. Therefore, anyone involved in or wishing to become involved in Cop Block related activities should find this seminar very useful and well worth attending. It will also serve as a good opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals within the Las Vegas area.

If you do come (and you should) to this free seminar you will find Stephen Stubbs is a very knowledgeable and entertaining person, with a history of standing up for individuals’ rights, when they are abused by the police or other government employees. Personally, I’m very glad to have someone as well versed and approachable as him performing this valuable service for our community. BTW, did I mention that he does it for free?