Tag Archives: Handcuffed

First Amendment Audit: Imperial County Sheriff’s Sgt John Toledano Unlawfully Detains Videographers Filming in Public

California Guardian High Desert Community Watch First Amendment Audit Illegal Detention

Imperial County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Toledano handcuffed and illegally detained “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch” during a First Amendment Audit by order of the FBI for legally filming in public.

Note: The video and description included within this post were shared with Nevada Cop Block via an anonymous reader submission. If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

As is mentioned in the description, this video shows what is known as a “First Amendment Audit.” That consists of going out and filming government buildings and other public property. Oftentimes, the police, security guards, government employees, and even members of the public don’t understand that the First Amendment protects a citizen’s right to take photos and/or record video of anything that is within view of a public place.

Obviously, this video is very much an example of that (commonly referred to as an “audit fail” among those who do them). After initially confronting them and asking for ID, Sgt. Toledano (along with two other unidentified officers) handcuffed the two men who go by the pseudonyms “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch” publicly.

Both of them were then forced to sit in the back of a police vehicle and threatened with trespassing citations, although they never at any time entered private property. According to what Sgt. Toledago states on the video, this illegal detention was at ordered by the FBI. Eventually, they were both released without any charges.

As already stated, you obviously can legally film in public. Also, you are not required to identify yourself unless a police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe you have committed, are in the process of committing, or are about to commit a crime (the requirement to be legally detained). And legally they can’t seize your camera (or any other personal property) unless they have actually arrested you or obtained a warrant or subpoena for specific content on it.

One of the main reasons for doing First Amendment Audits is to test whether the police or security officers understand the law regarding filming in public spaces. Also, part of that reasoning is making them understand that it is legal and thereby deter them from harassing people filming in the future.

Date of Incident: April 11, 2017
Officer Involved: Sgt. John Toledano
Department Involved: Imperial County (CA) Sheriff’s Office
Facebook Page:
Imperial County Sheriff’s Office
Twitter Account:

Instagram Account:
Imperial County Sheriff
Department Phone No.:
(442) 265-2005
Department Email: Sheriff Raymond Loera

Adam (California Guardian) and Phillip (High Desert Community Watch) were down in Imperial County video recording when a Deputy Sheriff, Sgt Toledano, stopped them and unlawfully detained them on behalf of the FBI for the sole intent of identifying them with no suspicion that they had violated any crime.

Adam and Phillip were cuffed, placed in the back of a patrol vehicle and driven down around the corner to await the arrival of the FBI. Adam and Phillip never provided identification and were released after being given detention slips in the name of John Doe.

Both detention slips used Calif. Penal Code 647 (h) – “prowling” – as an excuse. Adam and Philip never entered any private property and remained on the public right of way (sidewalk) during their recording.

The men in the video frequently post First Amendment Audits and other videos to their Youtube channels: “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch.” You can support them by making donations via GoFundMe: California Guardian and High Desert Community Watch News Network. Although they sometimes travel to other areas, as the psuedonyms they use indicate, these two auditors live in Southern California.

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Judge Hafen Has Completely Lost It; Excluded Murder Victims’ Family From Court; Threatens to Arrest Reporter

Las Vegas Judge Hafen Straight JacketPreviously, I’ve done a number of stories (See related posts section below) on the train-wreck that Judge Hafen, a soon to be former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace has become over the past several months.

The downward spiral began (and has mostly revolved around) when he ordered Zohra Bakhtary, deputy public defender, to be handcuffed in the courtroom while she was attempting to defend a client, which according to him was intended to “teach her a lesson.”

As a result, hundreds of public defenders across the country criticized Hafen and a local union that represents over 100 defense attorneys also filed a formal letter of complaint against the judge. Not long after the incident, local voters also displayed their displeasure with Judge Hafen when he lost in the primary elections overwhelmingly. In addition, earlier this month the contempt charges Hafen had filed against Bakhtary for the courtroom incident were thrown out by another judge.

Now, with this latest twist in the bizarre road he seems intent on driving down, soon to be Former Judge Hafen has apparently completely lost any sense of proper courtroom procedures and the “decorum” that he has insisted was behind his inappropriate treatment of Bakhtary. In fact, whether it’s bitterness over his electoral loss or just yet another extension of the bullying nature he displayed on the bench that became public during the fallout over the handcuffing incident, he seems like he has pretty much just completely lost it.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen, who lost his bid for re-election in June after the newspaper reported a series of stories about his decision to handcuff a deputy public defender in his courtroom, also refused to give a Review-Journal photographer access to the courtroom, even though television news cameras were allowed in.

The judge’s marshal specifically instructed the newspaper’s reporter not to use a cellphone in the courtroom for any purpose, even audio recording, which is typically permitted throughout the Regional Justice Center. The marshal said the reporter would be handcuffed and taken into custody if he used the phone. Meanwhile, several others in the courtroom continued to operate cellphones.

“Courts are presumed to be open and obligated to be fair,” said Review-Journal Editor J. Keith Moyer. “The Review-Journal will aggressively contest any attempt to limit public access to our justice system.”

A lawyer for the Review-Journal, Maggie McLetchie, plans to file further court documents asking the judge for camera access at future hearings in the murder case.

“Judge Hafen improperly denied the Review-Journal the ability to take photographs, despite the fact that other people were allowed to take photographs,” McLetchie said. “He improperly denied the ability to audio record, and he also improperly denied the public access to open court proceedings. All these issues are at odds with case law and Supreme Court rules, making clear how important the public and media access to courtrooms and court proceedings are. We hope he changes course so the public and the media have full access to the proceedings.”

Relatives of the two victims, 45-year-old Mario Jimenez and 27-year-old Angelica Jimenez, stood in the hallway outside the courtroom, unsure why they were prohibited from observing the arraignment.

The victims were left to die in a burning east valley home in November. They were zip-tied, duct-taped, stabbed repeatedly and doused in gasoline before being lit on fire, according to an arrest report.

Defendants Malik Watson, 27, Darrin Rafael Wilder, 26, and Hakim Rydell Blanche-Jones, 26, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder, kidnapping, arson, burglary and robbery charges. Las Vegas police said Watson was extradited last week from Philadelphia…

On Tuesday, the judge did not give representatives of the Review-Journal a chance to be heard regarding the use of a camera or cellphone at the hearing.

The Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Electronic Coverage of Court Proceedings address cameras inside courtrooms.

“News reporters desiring permission to provide electronic coverage of a proceeding in the courtroom shall file a written request with the judge at least 24 hours before the proceeding commences, however, the judge may grant such a request on shorter notice or waive the requirement for a written request,” the rules state.

In addition, the rules state that “there is a presumption that all courtroom proceedings that are open to the public are subject to electronic coverage.”

The Review-Journal’s reporter submitted camera access papers to the judge shortly before Tuesday’s hearing.

In denying the newspaper’s request, Hafen wrote that the reporter failed to provide “good cause” for filing the request on short notice.

A Justice Court media request form suggests that the document be filed within 72 hours of a hearing.

The Supreme Court rules also carve out exceptions for the use of cellphones in court.

“It will be understood that these devices will be used only for accurate transcriptions of the court proceedings, and are not to be used for broadcast,” the rules state. “Use of an electronic device without permission, other than as described in this rule, may result in the confiscation of the device.”

Civil rights lawyer Allen Lichtenstein, who is not involved in the case, said Hafen was “wrong on several counts” and that public access to courtrooms helps guarantee fair hearings.

“Secret justice is no justice at all,” Lichtenstein said. “We’ve learned that through history. When the public has the opportunity to see how our system works, it operates as a check on abuse. … The default position is that in this country, our court system should be open for scrutiny.”

One of the things that I did when I designed the Cop Block Press Passes several years ago was research the rules and legalities of press passes and the granting of press access. As is stated in the LVRJ articled quoted above, when it comes to public officials there are clear legal precedents relating to reasons they can exclude people or media organizations from press access. (Press passes themselves are fairly irrelevant to this.)

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They can legally set up certain criteria for who qualifies for press access, however that criteria has to be equally applied across the board. They can’t base whether you will be approved for formal press access solely on arbitrary things such as whether you are a blogger or internet based media representative instead of print or television media. Nor can they base their decision on editorial direction or you having written (or a media organization having published) something critical of them.

Video and photography can also be prohibited when they are deemed to represent some sort of threat to one of the participants in a court case. However, once again that must be applied universally and not just to specific individuals. Obviously, since their were other media representatives that had been approved and were allowed to film and audio record during the proceedings in question that was not the case and it would seem to be a clear case of bias against a reporter from the paper that has been reporting on Judge Hafen’s negative behavior.

So this latest tantrum by Judge Hafen was not just silly and vindictive, but pretty clearly badly at odds with the law and legal precedent. It’s not hard to figure out why he decided he didn’t approve the request for photography rights of a reporter from the Review Journal and then specifically told a court marshal to pace him in handcuffs if he used his cellphone in a manner that media regularly does. And the part where he (for some unexplained reason) barred the relatives of two people who were viciously murdered from observing the trial of the people accused of those murders is even worse and downright disrespectful to them.

Related Posts:

  1. Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who Was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed
  2. Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed Defense Attorney During Trial Taught Lesson by Voters
  3. An Open Letter to Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed A Defense Attorney in Court
  4. Las Vegas Judge Has Defense Attorney Handcuffed During Trial to “Teach Her a Lesson”
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Las Vegas Judge Continues Bizarre, Out of Control Behavior; Throws Family of Murder Victims Out of Court; Threatens to Arrest Reporter

Previously, I’ve done a number of stories (see related posts section below) on the train-wreck that Judge Hafen, a soon to be former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace, has become over the past several months.

The downward spiral began (and has mostly revolved around) when he ordered Zohra Bakhtary, a deputy public defender, to be handcuffed in the courtroom while she was attempting to defend a client, which according to him was intended to “teach her a lesson.”

As a result, hundreds of public defenders across the country criticized Hafen and a local union that represents over 100 defense attorneys also filed a formal letter of complaint against the judge. Not long after the incident, local voters also displayed their displeasure with Judge Hafen when he lost in the primary elections overwhelmingly. In addition, earlier this month the contempt charges Hafen had filed against Bakhtary for the courtroom incident were thrown out by another judge.

Now, with this latest twist in the bizarre road he seems intent on driving down, soon to be Former Judge Hafen has apparently completely lost any sense of proper courtroom procedures and the “decorum” that he has insisted was behind his inappropriate treatment of Bakhtary. In fact, whether it’s bitterness over his electoral loss or just yet another extension of the bullying nature he displayed on the bench that became public during the fallout over the handcuffing incident, he seems like he has pretty much just completely lost it.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen, who lost his bid for re-election in June after the newspaper reported a series of stories about his decision to handcuff a deputy public defender in his courtroom, also refused to give a Review-Journal photographer access to the courtroom, even though television news cameras were allowed in.

The judge’s marshal specifically instructed the newspaper’s reporter not to use a cellphone in the courtroom for any purpose, even audio recording, which is typically permitted throughout the Regional Justice Center. The marshal said the reporter would be handcuffed and taken into custody if he used the phone. Meanwhile, several others in the courtroom continued to operate cellphones.

“Courts are presumed to be open and obligated to be fair,” said Review-Journal Editor J. Keith Moyer. “The Review-Journal will aggressively contest any attempt to limit public access to our justice system.”

 A lawyer for the Review-Journal, Maggie McLetchie, plans to file further court documents asking the judge for camera access at future hearings in the murder case.

“Judge Hafen improperly denied the Review-Journal the ability to take photographs, despite the fact that other people were allowed to take photographs,” McLetchie said. “He improperly denied the ability to audio record, and he also improperly denied the public access to open court proceedings. All these issues are at odds with case law and Supreme Court rules, making clear how important the public and media access to courtrooms and court proceedings are. We hope he changes course so the public and the media have full access to the proceedings.”

Relatives of the two victims, 45-year-old Mario Jimenez and 27-year-old Angelica Jimenez, stood in the hallway outside the courtroom, unsure why they were prohibited from observing the arraignment.

The victims were left to die in a burning east valley home in November. They were zip-tied, duct-taped, stabbed repeatedly and doused in gasoline before being lit on fire, according to an arrest report.

Defendants Malik Watson, 27, Darrin Rafael Wilder, 26, and Hakim Rydell Blanche-Jones, 26, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder, kidnapping, arson, burglary and robbery charges. Las Vegas police said Watson was extradited last week from Philadelphia…

On Tuesday, the judge did not give representatives of the Review-Journal a chance to be heard regarding the use of a camera or cellphone at the hearing.

The Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Electronic Coverage of Court Proceedings address cameras inside courtrooms.

“News reporters desiring permission to provide electronic coverage of a proceeding in the courtroom shall file a written request with the judge at least 24 hours before the proceeding commences, however, the judge may grant such a request on shorter notice or waive the requirement for a written request,” the rules state.

In addition, the rules state that “there is a presumption that all courtroom proceedings that are open to the public are subject to electronic coverage.”

The Review-Journal’s reporter submitted camera access papers to the judge shortly before Tuesday’s hearing.

In denying the newspaper’s request, Hafen wrote that the reporter failed to provide “good cause” for filing the request on short notice.

A Justice Court media request form suggests that the document be filed within 72 hours of a hearing.

The Supreme Court rules also carve out exceptions for the use of cellphones in court.

“It will be understood that these devices will be used only for accurate transcriptions of the court proceedings, and are not to be used for broadcast,” the rules state. “Use of an electronic device without permission, other than as described in this rule, may result in the confiscation of the device.”

Civil rights lawyer Allen Lichtenstein, who is not involved in the case, said Hafen was “wrong on several counts” and that public access to courtrooms helps guarantee fair hearings.

“Secret justice is no justice at all,” Lichtenstein said. “We’ve learned that through history. When the public has the opportunity to see how our system works, it operates as a check on abuse. … The default position is that in this country, our court system should be open for scrutiny.”

One of the things that I did when I designed the Cop Block Press Passes several years ago was research the rules and legalities of press passes and the granting of press access. As is stated in the LVRJ articled quoted above, when it comes to public officials there are clear legal precedents relating to reasons they can exclude people or media organizations from press access. (Press passes themselves are fairly irrelevant to this.)

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They can legally set up certain criteria for who qualifies for press access, however that criteria has to be equally applied across the board. They can’t base whether you will be approved for formal press access solely on arbitrary things such as whether you are a blogger or internet based media representative instead of print or television media. Nor can they base their decision on editorial direction or you having written (or a media organization having published) something critical of them.

Video and photography can also be prohibited when they are deemed to represent some sort of threat to one of the participants in a court case. However, once again that must be applied universally and not just to specific individuals. Obviously, since their were other media representatives that had been approved and were allowed to film and audio record during the proceedings in question that was not the case and it would seem to be a clear case of bias against a reporter from the paper that has been reporting on Judge Hafen’s negative behavior.

So this latest tantrum by Judge Hafen was not just silly and vindictive, but pretty clearly badly at odds with the law and legal precedent. It’s not hard to figure out why he decided he didn’t approve the request for photography rights of a reporter from the Review Journal and then specifically told a court marshal to pace him in handcuffs if he used his cellphone in a manner that media regularly does. And the part where he (for some unexplained reason) barred the relatives of two people who were viciously murdered from observing the trial of the people accused of those murders is even worse and downright disrespectful to them.

(Full disclosure: Maggie McLetchie, who is identified as one of the paper’s  attorneys in the LVRJ article quoted above is a former partner in the law firm that represented me and several others when we were illegally arrested for writing on public sidewalks with sidewalk chalk.

She’s also a member of the law firm that is currently representing me and two other people in a lawsuit resulting from those illegal arrests. However, I have not spoken to her in regard to this or any other posts I have written about Judge Hafen’s recent behavior.)

Related Posts:

  1. Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who Was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed
  2. Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed Defense Attorney During Trial Taught Lesson by Voters
  3. An Open Letter to Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed A Defense Attorney in Court
  4. Las Vegas Judge Has Defense Attorney Handcuffed During Trial to “Teach Her a Lesson”
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Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed

On August 2nd, a contempt of court charge filed by Judge Hafen, a Las Vegas Justice of the Peace, against Zohra Bakhtary was thrown out by a Clark County district judge.

This is the second public rebuke of Hafen, who received much publicity and criticism when he ordered Bakhtary to be handcuffed by a court marshal during court as the deputy public defender was attempting to represent a client. In June, during the Nevada primary elections, Hafen was defeated by Amy Cheline in a landslide, rendering him a former judge, effective in January.

In addition, the client whom Bakhtary was attempting to defend at the time she was, according to Hafen, “taught a lesson” by being handcuffed in open court, has also been ordered released by another judge.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Bakhtary’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, said Hafen had confused Bakhtary’s “zealous defense” with obstruction of justice, and she was never given the opportunity to speak on her own behalf.

Nick Crosby, a lawyer representing Hafen, argued that attorneys should uphold a professional demeanor in court, speak in their own time with relevance and moderation, and allow the court to do its job without interference.

After Hafen ordered a court marshal to handcuff Bakhtary on May 23, she was left to sit silently, while her client was sent to jail for six months on a larceny charge.

In his contempt order, Hafen wrote that Bakhtary displayed “disorderly, contemptuous or insolent behavior” and that he had “asked defense counsel on numerous times/occasions to not interrupt” him while he was issuing his decision.

Bakhtary, 30, has said she was not trying to argue with the judge. She was released from the handcuffs after about three minutes, after the judge declared that she had “learned a lesson.”

Throwing out the contempt charge, District Judge Gloria Sturman ruled that Bakhtary was denied due process and not allowed to speak in her own defense or call her supervisor before a marshal handcuffed her and placed her in the jury box of the courtroom.

In response to Sturman’s ruling, Gentile said, “At a minimum, it means that judges need to understand that they themselves may not like what a lawyer is doing, but that does not mean that they can capriciously and arbitrarily hold them in contempt. It also means that lawyers have a duty to zealously represent their clients. And sometimes that means standing up to a judge that’s wrong.

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“Zohra exemplified what it means to be a zealous advocate. She really establishes herself as a model for standing up when you have to, even at a personal cost, such as this was to her.”

Bakhtary, who called being handcuffed in court “humiliating,” has not appeared before Hafen since the incident. Her client at the time, Daniel Fernandez, was later released from jail after another judge ordered the larceny case closed.

“The court’s constitutional duty is to listen to arguments, not silence them,” Bakhtary said. “While this act of physical restraint did not diminish my passion and devotion to continue to represent the indigent, it was extremely disturbing that the court continued to sentence my client without an attorney after having violated his right to counsel.”

At this point, it’s pretty clear who was in the wrong in this little standoff. Soon to be ex-judge Hafen not only went overboard while trying to show who the dictator in his courtroom was, but obviously picked the wrong time to do so, in light of the proximity to the elections and the (proper) reaction of local voters.

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False Arrest and Assault at Menards After Refusing Search

The following post and video was shared with the CopBlock Network by Charles M. Waters, via the Cop Block Submissions Page.

Along with the video description, Charles states:

I would love if everyone could spread, embed, and post my video. I am also trying to get a crowd funding campaign going to pay for my attorney, to take this fight to THEM.

Date of incident: March 27th, 2016
Officers Involved: Officer Newbury,  Badge #147; Officer Kirchner, Badge # 131; Officer Madson, Badge #85
Department Involved: Coon Rapids Police Department
Phone No.: (763) 767-6481
Address: 11155 Robinson Dr NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55433

I never participate in “receipt verification”, and previously have never had a problem. I have a real issue (apparently due to autism) with my privacy and property, and never felt OK with having to submit anything I own to “inspection”. I feel that if a store wishes to treat paying customers like assumed criminals, they have no business being in business.

So on this date, I had already given my receipt four times to three different people just to get my merchandise. I showed my receipt AND proof I actually picked up my merchandise, to the gate guard. He insisted I open my trunk, but I refused. He said “You could have anything you want in that trunk”, to which I asked if he had any evidence I took anything I did not pay for.

They refused to open the gate, so I called police as I was being falsely imprisoned at this point. Police arrived, and although I was the complainant, they only spoke with the manager of the store. Then they demanded I open my trunk. I refused. They said they would get a warrant, I invited them to do so.

Instead, they searched me, THEN handcuffed me and placed me in a squad car. I was told that they would just leave me there and I would not be let out until I complied with a search they could not get a warrant for. Then they went after my wife, told her neither of us would leave “today” until she opened the trunk. She reluctantly complied, out of fear they would do the same to her.

Whatever you may think of what I should or should not do with respect to opening my trunk, these facts remain:

  1. I had not committed any crime, nor had I even been ACCUSED of one.
  2. I was the one calling to report a crime that Menards was, in fact, committing against ME, and all the elements of that crime were readily apparent to officers.
  3. They said they would get a warrant, but they knew they could NOT.
  4. Knowing that they could not get a warrant, they caused deliberate harm to compel us to do something they could not lawfully accomplish.
  5. Upon being proven innocent, of a crime no one accused, I was deliberately assaulted without any cause or reason.

The Chief of Police has said in so many words his officers actions were appropriate and within the confines of the Constitution.
They can literally just cuff you and put you in a squad car, and threaten to keep you and your wife from your children indefinitely, when they can’t get a warrant. They can “compel” you to “comply”.

Here is where you can tell the arresting officer how you feel.
Coon Rapids Police Department

And feel free to review the police derp-artment here:
Coon Rapids Police Department – Reviews

– Charles M. Waters

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Judge Who Handcuffed Defense Attorney During Las Vegas Trial Taught Lesson by Voters

Las Vegas Judge Hafen Defeated
Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen, who created an uproar last month when he ordered a defense attorney to be handcuffed during a trial in order to “teach her a lesson,” is now an ex-judge. He was defeated by a landslide in the Nevada primary elections, which were held on June 14th.

Amy “JoAnne” Chelini, who has served primarily as a defense attorney during her career, defeated Hafen and third place finisher Phung Horton Jefferson receiving 62.4 percent of the vote. Since she received better than 50 percent of the vote, Chelini won outright without needing to participate in the November general election.

Chelini actually won by close to 40 percent over Hafen’s 24.87 percent, so how much of it was due directly to the handcuffing incident is unknown. However, Hafen’s treatment of Deputy Public Defender Zohra Bakhtary received attention nationally. Some critics had even pointed to it as an example of larger issues women face when working for male bosses.

In addition, it shined a spotlight on his previous behavior toward lawyers appearing in his courtroom. The timing of it certainly couldn’t have been helpful for him.

Among other things, he had been accused of degrading lawyers by forcing them to wear children’s clip-on ties if they showed up without one. Other times he was said to have allowed his ego to negatively affect defendants that had to take time off from work by rescheduling their cases when their attorneys had not properly jumped through his arbitrary hoops.

Regardless of that, he was expected within local media to retain his position and a campaign to have him recalled had begun in anticipation of that. Obviously, that won’t be necessary now.

In the run up to the election, Hafen had touted his experience and knowledge of the law as reasons to vote for him. Meanwhile, Chelini had criticized him for “just throwing everybody in jail” stating that the department he oversaw lacked common sense. Based on that, it doesn’t sound like Hafen’s attitude was any better toward defendants appearing in his courtroom than it had been for the lawyers.

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An Open Letter to Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed A Defense Attorney in Court

Last week, I posted about a judge in Las Vegas who had ordered a public defender to be handcuffed in the courtroom during a case in which she was representing a man that the judge then sentenced to jail time. According to Judge Conrad Hafen, he did so in order to “teach her a lesson” after Zohra Bakhtary tried to continue arguing her case after he had told her to be quiet.

However, this act by the judge, not surprisingly, caused quite a bit of controversy and no small amount of criticism among other defense attorneys and legal experts. One of the more serious allegations leveled at Judge Hafen was that his actions led to her client being deprived of proper legal counsel. Others have gone as far as questioning whether this is an example of the type of mistreatment women often receive from male bosses.

Following the courtroom incident, Allison Jackson, a public defender from Fort Bend County in Texas has penned an “open letter” to Judge Hafen. This open letter was originally published at the website of the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD), an organization that represents public defenders across the country, under the title, “An Open Letter to Judge Conrad Hafen.”

In this letter, Jackson addresses the criticisms mentioned earlier, as well as bringing up past disrespectful behavior Hafen has directed at attorneys working inside his courtroom and even some previous conduct dating to before he was a judge. Based on her statements in this letter, the judge seems to have several ethical issues and hardly seems like the champion of “court decorum,” that he purports to be as his reasoning for handcuffing Bakhtary. It certainly shines a not too flattering light on the character of Judge Hafen.

An Open Letter to Judge Conrad Hafen

Dear Conrad,

Is it ok if I call you Conrad? I noticed that you refer to the attorneys appearing before you by their first names, so I thought, since we’re all officers of the court here, that it would be ok to leave off your honorifics.

Anyway, I don’t know how much you know about Ancient Roman history, but I ask for your brief indulgence. Cicero, one of antiquity’s greatest lawyers, delivered a series of public speeches deriding the cruelty and brutishness of a very powerful man, Mark Antony. Antony, unfortunately for Cicero, was still in Rome, as he had not yet started his consuming love affair with a certain Egyptian monarch. Antony ordered his men to kill Cicero and confiscate his property because he was so embarrassed about the things Cicero had said about him. Cicero knew that he would not be able to escape Antony’s men, and historians tell us that when the swordsman came across Cicero, being carried on his litter to the waterside, Cicero stretched out his neck and did not resist.

Antony took Cicero’s head and hands and nailed them to the podium at the forum, where Cicero had dared to speak against him. Those hands would write no more and that mouth would speak no more.

The funny thing is, the joke’s on Antony. Cicero’s death only emphasized that everything he said about Antony was true- he was a brute and a savage, and Cicero’s head and hands displayed grotesquely in the forum were a public testament to that every day they were on display. The people of Rome turned against Antony, and he ended up killing himself in shame after being defeated in battle by a teenager.

I was thinking about all that while I was reading about your recent decision to handcuff an attorney in your court and put her in the jury box while you berated her client. I’ve never practiced before you, but your record seems to speak for itself. You were a career prosecutor before taking the bench. While you were chief of the Public Integrity Unit (that’s sort of the blind leading the blind, eh?), you filed vague misappropriation charges against a sitting Lieutenant Governor without disclosing that your boss, the District Attorney,  and her husband were hosting fundraisers for the Lieutenant Governor’s political opponent at the same time. The charges were later dismissed by the judge, but only after nearly three years of “investigations” and court settings.

As a judge, you have a history of degrading attorneys in your courtroom, including telling male attorneys without ties that they could either put on a children’s clip-on tie provided by you or have their case put at the end of the docket or rolled to the next day.  I’m sure you thought that was a cute trick, but for a client who is missing work to make a court appearance, that isn’t funny.

And what you did to public defender Zohra Bakhtary isn’t funny, either. Reading through the transcript, the prosecutor barely says a word because he doesn’t have to. You’re better at his job than he is. Bakhtary tells the court that surely there must be some lenience for her client, and at that point you decided to put on a little show for the people in the audience. You say you’re going to go through the history of the case, aloud, so that “everybody in the courtroom knows” how much lenience you feel you’ve already provided. You’re so benevolent.

Bakhtary hadn’t been able to make a single argument. She did what I hope I would have done- try to prevent a judge who sees himself as the judicial branch of the prosecutor’s office from publically humiliating her client before imposing a sentence without listening to mitigation. But you wouldn’t stand for that.

You decided you would humiliate Bakhtary as well as her client. You looked down at the slim, polished young woman in front of you who was trying to tell you something you didn’t want to hear. She was interrupting your show. What did you think? Did you wonder how else a man like you would be able to control a woman like her?

You told the bailiff to handcuff her and forced her to sit in the jury box, silenced, while her client stood before you, next to the prosecutor and without his attorney. When you looked down at her client, was he shaking? Did you feel like a big man when you took away his rights?

Then you went on a diatribe about how he was going to be held accountable in your court. When you finished your rant, and had pronounced the maximum sentence you could, you ordered that Bakhtary should be released, and you remarked that you thought she’d “learned her lesson.”

I wonder what lesson you think that was. I can only assume that lesson you were trying to impart was that she shouldn’t provide zealous legal representation to her clients when the judge is trying to pander to an audience, or you will strip her client of his right to representation and threaten her with contempt charges and shows of physical force.

Maybe it was a broader lesson? Maybe you were thinking you’d like to discourage defenses at all. Maybe you were hoping that the media would take hold of these antics, and you would be able to discourage more bright young attorneys from devoting their lives to representing the indigent. It’s so much easier when it’s just a bunch of pushovers and cronies, isn’t it? Then the stage is all yours.

But the more judges like you do things like this, the more attention is drawn to us, the growing and increasingly united front of indigent defenders who stand up for the rights of the least of our brothers. The more this happens, the more the public gets to see how rigged people like you have made the system, and how badly things need to change.

There’s no light without heat, and these things have been in the dark for far too long.

You should know that there are legions of us, and we are stretching out our necks, waiting.

With All Due Respect,

Allison Jackson

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Las Vegas Judge Has Defense Attorney Handcuffed During Trial to “Teach Her a Lesson”

On Monday, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen ordered Deputy Public Defender Zohra Bakhtary to be handcuffed and placed within the area where defendants that are in custody normally are seated in the Las Vegas Justice Court. According to the judge she had violated “courtroom decorum” by speaking after he had told her to “be quiet.” (Transcript included below.)

Later he explained to the Las Vegas Review Journal in a phone interview:

“There’s been a progression of steps in the courtroom where I’ve tried to let her know it’s not proper decorum for her to continue to talk over me or interrupt me after she’s already made her argument,” he said. “Once an argument is made, then you have to allow the judge to respond, so there’s a clear record, and you shouldn’t be interrupting the judge as the judge is making a ruling. … I’ve been trying to work with her. And today it just spilled over to where I thought, ‘Well, clearly she’s not understanding what I’m trying to tell her.’ ”

However, according to Bakhtary, she was simply trying to properly defend her client and the judge wouldn’t listen to her argument. (Once again, via the Las Vegas Review Journal.)

“It all happened so fast,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday, a day after Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen ordered her placed into custody.

Hafen Bakhtary Transcript Las VegasShe was left to sit silently, alongside inmates, while her client was sent to jail for six months.

Moments earlier, Hafen told Zohra Bakhtary to “be quiet,” as she tried to argue that a man facing larceny charges should not be thrown behind bars. After Bakhtary tried to speak, the judge asked her if she wanted to be found in contempt.

“I was not trying to argue with the court,” Bakhtary said. “I was just trying to calm the situation down. I was never allowed to speak. I was never given the opportunity to respond to his question. Had I been given the chance to actually respond, it would have been, ‘Absolutely not…’”

“Every day I zealously represent my clients,” Bakhtary wrote in a statement to the newspaper. “Every individual who goes through our criminal justice system has a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. It is a frightening day when a lawyer is locked up for fighting on behalf of her clients and their rights. That is precisely what I was doing, my job. I was placed in handcuffs for attempting to speak on behalf of my client … I have a great deal of respect for our judiciary. I did not act unprofessionally. I simply wanted the Court to listen to my argument and consider it before remanding my client for a 180 day jail sentence. The Court’s constitutional duty is to listen to arguments, not silence them.”

And contrary to Judge Hafen’s comments about her having a habitual issue with following decorum, her supervisors within the public defender’s officer maintain that they have not received any sort of complaints about her work or demeanor either on or off the record about her conduct. They even characterize conversations they’ve had with Hafen himself regarding Bakhtary as complimentary in nature.

As far as her competency as a lawyer, Clark County lead public defender Phil Kohn says, “She’s a professional lawyer. It’s what I want in public defenders, and it’s certainly what our clients deserve.”

Bakhtory has also been defended by several legal experts, who according to the Huffington Post stated that it was the judge that was in need of a lesson in decorum. Some even pointed to it as a larger workplace issue of female public defenders being disrespected by judges:

It’s well within a judge’s power to restrain a person who is acting out of order in the courtroom, but rarely do they use this power against an attorney advocating on behalf of a client. And while Hafen didn’t make any specific references to Bakhtary’s gender in the court transcript, it’s possible to see the incident as fitting into a larger pattern of men silencing women in this kind of setting.

Stephen Cooper, a former federal and D.C. public defender, wrote an article on Bakhtary’s handcuffing that highlights two other instances in recent years in which female public defenders were treated with similar disrespect. He cites a particularly disturbing case from 2007, reported by The Washington Post, where a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered an attorney — a woman of color, like Bakhtary — to be “searched, shackled and detained” simply for attempting to inform the judge that her client was “homeless and poor.” That judge was later found to be grossly out of line and was reprimanded for his behavior.

Also on Thursday, the Clark County Defenders Union issued a statement criticizing Hafen’s actions in a letter signed by the members of the union, which represents 105 defense lawyers within the Las Vegas area.

The letter states (via the LVRJ):

“Judge Hafen improperly handcuffed one of our public defenders simply for doing her job,” according to the letter, signed by a 12-member board of directors. “His actions were unreasonable and unprecedented. Judge Hafen was wrong.”

The defense group wrote that with Bakhtary in handcuffs, Fernandez was denied his right to an attorney.
Hafen “violated one of our most sacred, fundamental, and constitutionally protected rights,” according to the letter.

They also questioned why the audio recording system was turned off in the courtroom (the video is included in the previous link) and say that the transcript appears to be incomplete, not including the “aftermath” of the incident when Bakhart was released and reportedly asked for, but was denied, a break. (The full letter is embedded below.)

Related Post:

Clark County, Nevada Bailiff Has Woman Arrested For Accusing Him of Groping Her in Family Court

Full Transcript of the Incident:

Transcript of Hafen Contempt by Las Vegas Review-Journal

Full Letter From Clark County Defenders Union

Letter from CCDU by Las Vegas Review-Journal

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