Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Freedom Man: All charges dropped against Jason Paschal

April 16, 2008


Santa Cruz, Ca. --- Outside the Elm St. Mission in Santa Cruz, the overtly racist term "nigger" is etched in stone, courtesy of the Santa Cruz Public Works Department and an unsecured piece of fresh concrete. "How long has that been there?" Jason Paschal asks two of his local friends. Neither of them know. "It shouldn't be there," he says. Jason, an African-American tarot card reader and street performer knows a thing or two about the word "nigger."

On July 15th, 2007, a man on a bicycle came up to street artist, Jason Paschal's protest table near O'Neill's Surf Shop on Pacific Avenue, said “O'Neill's been here longer than you have. Get the fuck out of Santa Cruz, Nigger!” and spat in his face. Paschal briefly pursued the man on foot, before placing a 911 call to report the assault. Police arrived and arrested Paschal instead. Nine months later, in Commissioner Stephen Siegel's court, all charges against Paschal were dropped.


Eyewitness Steve Harper, a homeless Vietnam Vet was interviewed by SCPD Vasquez at the scene. He was too far away to hear what was said. In his report, Vasquez wrote “Harper saw a bicylist ride up to Paschal and spit on him. Paschal was hit in the face with spit. The bicyclist then rode off and Paschal chased after him.”

Harper described the bicyclist as “a skinny, 6'02” white male with a Mohawk on a 21 speed bicycle.” Despite the vivid description, police were unable to locate the suspect.

Paschal was booked and released but the jail kept his insulin needles and insulin. His blood sugar levels were skyrocketing. And this was not the first time this had happened to him.

The next day, Jason himself located the suspect, Jeremy Burkett and his girlfriend on Pacific Ave. and placed another 911 call. Police arrived and were able to interview Jeremy Burkett. But he was not arrested or charged.

When police interviewed Jeremy Burkett, he admitted spitting in Paschal's direction. But no prosecution was recommended. Because 4 minutes prior to Paschal's 911 call, Bill Chapman, a shopper at O'Neill's had called police claiming Paschal “had been threatening people.” Later, SCPD Officer Vasquez interviewed Chapman and said “based on the details provided to me by Chapman, I determined that Paschal had been using offensive language that was likely to cause a physical, violent confrontation.” In his report he wrote “Paschal specifically called Chapman and his wife a “cunt.” This is odd because Chapman's wife was not accompanying her husband that day, and this appears to be the basis of the complaint. Paschal says “He came up, towering over my table, and said “What's YOUR problem?” I told him “Get the fuck away from my table, you pussy.”

Paschal was charged with two counts: Offensive words in a public place and failure to disperse. NONE of the eyewitnesses report that Paschal was asked to disperse and refused.

Chapman, interviewed by telephone on April 16, 2008 for this article, stated that on July 15th, 2008, he HAD seen spittle hit Paschal. He said “I don't think it made physical contact with skin.” When asked if that meant it had landed on Paschal's clothing he said “yes.” This directly contradicts his statement in Vasquez' police report, which says: “Chapman specifically stated that the unknown bicyclist had not spit on or near Paschal.”

Also in the report Chapman says he “did not believe that Paschal was physically threatening him.” When asked to explain the discrepancy, Chapman said “He was physically threatening the man on the bicycle. That's why I placed the 911 call. I was personally not bothered by Paschal's statements. But other people were.”

The other major point of dispute in this case is the language that Burkett used just before he spit either on or near Paschal. Chapman was standing near Jason's table and saw the altercation between Burkett and Paschal. In the police report, it says “Chapman stated that none of the people whom had been confronted by Paschal had used offensive or racial language.” Paschal says that Burkett spoke to him in pressured language and ended his statement with “Get the fuck out of Santa Cruz, Nigger!” All witnesses agree that he sped off on his bicycle when Jason gave chase.

The SCPD decided to investigate but chose to treat the case as two discreet events, despite that three 911 calls had been placed, all at the same location, and involving the same set of people and witnesses into both cases. Hence, Jason's Public Defenders were not looking at any reports of Jason as a victim of an assault, battery and possible hate crime. Nor could he get any records on that investigation via his Public Defender, Kristin Carter. The case, People vs. Jason Paschal, had became about the right to say “pussy” in a public place.


Paschal had been arrested on two charges: 415 (3) PC: Offensive words in a public place and 410 PC Neglect or refuse to disperse rioters although NONE of the eyewitnesses report that Paschal was asked to disperse and refused. At his first hearing, the DA offered to allow him to plead to an infraction with a one-year stay away order from Pacific Ave. Paschal insisted he was not guilty and demanded a jury trial. He urged Carter to obtain records on his complaint against Burkett, but Carter resisted. Paschal asked her to obtain the police reports. She didn't. Finally, Jason had her removed in a Marston hearing and Elizabeth Caballero was appointed to take over the case. In a sidebar, Judge Thomas Kelly told Caballero that Jason could plead guilty, or no lo contend re, but if he insisted on pleading “not guilty” and demanded a jury trial, he must submit to a mental competency hearing to see if he was fit to stand trial.

Paschal moved to Southern California where he set up his Tarot card reading table on Venice Beach with little interference from local police there. He continued coming back to Santa Cruz for multiple hearings.

Frustrated that his Public Defender, Elizabeth Caballero, was simply accepting Kelly's conditions without question, Paschal sought help from a lawyer in Southern California. A call was placed to the California Bar Association and they investigated. Kelly was reprimanded for ruling contrary to commonly recognized law and Paschal's case was removed from his docket. Apparently people have a RIGHT to plead not guilty and have a jury trial!! Although, Kelly was stripped of Paschal's case due to his extrajudicial ruling, he hasn't changed his ways. Currently Warren West, a long-time homeless man, is wading through hearing after hearing in Kelly's court. On Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 8:30AM in Department 1, West will again appear before Judge Thomas Kelly for a scheduled mental competency hearing since he too has insisted on pleading “not guilty” and has invoked his right to a jury trial.


Back in July of 2002, Jason Paschal, a tarot card reader, artist, and satirist began setting up his non-commercial display device (a card table) on Pacific Ave. in locations where such activity is permitted. He immediately troubled the merchants on Pacific Ave. who often called police to complain about him for a number of real and imagined concerns. Several times, police or merchants invoked "the Move-Along Law," MC 5.43.020(2) which compels “non-commercial display devices” to be moved along to over 100 feet away after 60 minutes. This law has been enforced very irregularly since its enactment under the administration of Mayor Emily Reilly. HUFF* has opposed the law as unconstitutional in that it limits freedom of speech, and is at risk for selective enforcement against unpopular activists or shabby individuals, while kempt, respectable groups or individuals would be left unmolested.


SCPD Sgt. Loran Baker threatened to cite Paschal for harmlessly setting up his rocks and crystals atop the concrete water box on the sidewalk. When Paschal returned to Pacific Ave. with his own table on July 30, 2002, Baker had him physically arrested and taken into custody for misdemeanor "possession of a milk crate."

During Baker's arrest of Paschal (who is a diabetic), they discovered his insulin needles and charged him with a 4140 BP ; possession of hypodermic needle/syringe and for a 11364 HS Possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia when he found his pipe. Paschal also had a small baggie of marijuana and a bottle of insulin with 5 doses remaining. Baker pulled the needles out of Jason's backpack, held them up above him to show to anyone passing nearby on the sidewalk and said "Is this what we want in our town?

Fearing an arrest for a pending warrant for a marijuana charge in New Hampshire from 1998, Paschal gave a false name. For this, he was tried, convicted, sentenced, and served 10 days in jail. In addition to suffering from diabetes, Paschal has a neurological disorder as well as epilepsy. All three conditions are helped by use of medical marijuana. So the narcotics paraphernalia and marijuana possession charges disappeared since they were entirely groundless in the first place.


On another occasion, Officer Willie Brandt gave him a ticket for giving a "Metaphysical reading without a license” when he performed a tarot card reading for a donation. The City of Santa Cruz does not issue Metaphysical Licenses! Those charges were eventually dropped “in the interest of justice.” Paschal is self-supporting and does not utilize traditional homeless services. He pays for his own food and shelter on a daily basis and does not consider himself homeless. He accepts donations for his psychic readings, and to date no client has filed a complaint against him for fraud.


This was Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker's mission: to run Jason Paschal out of town. Rather than apologizing to him for seizing his needles and insulin, and fully aware that Paschal was a legitimate medical marijuana user, Baker continued to press for a way to remove Paschal from downtown. Though frustrated that New Hampshire showed no interest in extradition, Baker again jailed Paschal on a 11357 (b) HS “ possession of less than an ounce of marijuana” on November 7th, 2002. The case was again dismissed.

New Hampshire was reluctant to send officers across the entire continent to pick up a parole violator who had already served 8 months in prison, 4 months in a halfway house, and had 8 months left to serve. All this for a single incident when as a teenager, he sold half an ounce of pot to an undercover agent. A person awaiting extradition can only be held for 30 days. So Baker held him for 30 days. But still, authorities there failed to performing an extradition. Paschal was again released.

But Baker did not give up. January 17, 2003 he had Jason arrested again for possession of marijuana. He continued to call multiple agencies in New Hampshire and demanded they come and pick up Paschal. They didn't. After 30 days, Paschal was released again.

On April 1, 2003, Baker jailed Paschal, this time for only the old warrant and put New Hampshire on his speed dialer. On May 3rd, Baker's campaign paid off. New Hampshire agreed to send federal marshals to transport Paschal back to serve the rest of his sentence for that half ounce of grass sold five years before.

Marijuana plant at WAMM parade in Santa Cruz, Ca. 2005 Photo by Becky Johnson

Ironically, as Jason Paschal, a legitimate medical marijuana user sat in jail awaiting extradition to New Hampshire, a non-medical marijuana state, Mayor Emily Reilly and Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt held a press conference in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse to support a lawsuit by the Women and Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) against the Federal DEA seeking an end to raids on patients' gardens. New Hampshire Deputy's arrived and transported Paschal in chains back to a New Hampshire prison. On May 3rd, the day he arrived back in New Hampshire, the iconic granite "Old Man of the Mountain" stone face, memorialized on the NH state quarter, the State Emblem, and on the 1955 US 3-cent postage stamp, slid off the mountain forever.


During the four months he was incarcerated, a prison guard there witnessed a cop punch Paschal in the neck and call him a "nigger. " The guard reported the incident to the State Police who launched an investigation. As a result of the investigation, not only was the cop disciplined, but they also found that Paschal was currently serving what was to have been 180 days "in the hole" ( solitary confinement) in direct violation of the prisons' own regulations. He was released from New Hampshire 4 months early and paroled to his family home in Arkansas for the remainder of his four month sentence.


Over his mother's strong objections, Paschal, who sometimes portrayed himself as The Reverend Doctor Electronic Galaxy Jay returned to Santa Cruz and Pacific Avenue. Partly it was the life he had made for himself, and partly it was a feeling that he needed to right a terrible wrong that had been done to him.


One day, a female worker at Gelatomania came over to Jason's table. She told him that the police had come into their business and told all the staff there that Paschal was a pedophile and that they should watch their children around him. She said they had been going from business to business warning people about Paschal. Since then, Paschal has been regularly confronted in public by people who claim he is a "child rapist."

(A search performed at the Office of the Attorney General's "Megan's Law" website for the State of California for the name, Jason Paschal, returned no results.)


While his tarot card reading table was popular with some, others targeted him for taunts or abuse. When a man Paschal describes as a "Neo-Nazi Skinhead" sporting a shaved head and two tattoos of the SS on his arm, panhandled Jason for a dollar, he gave it to him. “But I told him "I thought you guys were too proud to panhandle. You're always talking about white pride." The man suddenly grew angry and threw rocks at Paschal who called police and filed a complaint. The next day, Jason sighted the man down near the riverbank and he again called police. They arrived and arrested the man, but no prosecution ensued. When Jason called back to see what progress had been made in the case, they said "we couldn't get in touch with you because you are homeless so all charges were dropped." Jason, who is housed, had a working cellphone the entire time and had never gotten a single call. He was furious that the police, who were so diligent in citing and arresting him, had only made a token effort to do a proper investigation when he was the victim of an assault.

Paschal went off. He marched down Pacific Ave. to the Downtown Information Center and loudly complained along the way about the racist police not assisting him when he had been attacked by white supremacist, Nazi skinheads. Several people called police to complain. Paschal eventually had a run-in with a young man who claimed his father was a police officer. That man later claimed that Jason had challenged him to a physical fight, but Paschal says it happened the other way around. "He challenged ME to a fight, and I refused," Paschal said.


Jason was charged with disturbing the peace. Attorney Anthony Bole who represented Paschal for the misdemeanor charge, told him a disturbing story. He had been approached by Judge Heather Morse who told Bole that she had been to lunch with Judge Robert Atack. Bole told Paschal that Judge Atack said he had seen Mr. Paschal's table with a sign that said “They don't want to keep Santa Cruz weird, they want to keep it white!” Then, Paschal, not knowing he was speaking to a judge, ended up calling him "A Mormon." Atack was so put off by the encounter that he told all the judges that if Paschal ever appeared before them, they should do what they can to punish him, or get him out of town because “we don't need people like him around here.” Bole counseled Paschal to plead to the deal offered as he was sure he couldn't get a fair trial in a Santa Cruz County Courthouse. Jason plead to an infraction "excessive noise" charge along with a one year stay-away order from Pacific Avenue. Reminiscent of Jim Crow days, Paschal was told he “could continue to frequent Pacific Avenue businesses but only through the back door.”

The ruling to ban Paschal was based on a single event, not a series of crimes as the public is led to believe is necessary to produce such orders. HUFF considers stay-away orders to be medieval, the equivalent of banishment, and used far too often with far too little provocation. They are also ripe for selective enforcement against activists and homeless people.

Banned from Pacific Avenue, he left the area and returned to Venice Beach where he continued reading tarot cards for tourists there. When the year long stay-away order had expired, Paschal returned to Pacific Avenue. But it wasn't to read tarot cards. Not this time.


On July 15, 2008 Paschal set up his table on Pacific Ave. across the street from the Cinema Nine. This was a day of protest. Having had it with the campaign of police, merchants, and the DA to banish him from the downtown,harass him, and fail to protect him as is their sword duty, Paschal planned to tell everyone who came by his table about the injustices he had suffered. He set up his table and told people not to shop on Pacific Avenue because the merchants "were a bunch of racists" and that it was bad karma to spend their money there. Paschal was not there to make friends.

The manager of O'Neill's Surf shop, Mark Mackay placed a call to the police about a man who was urging people not to shop on Pacific Avenue and accusing the merchants and the police of being "racist." The police arrived but did not cite or arrest Paschal. Instead, they told him they had received a complaint from O'Neill's Surf shop and he now had one hour before he must "move along."

Twenty minutes later, Jason moved his table to another location, this time about 20 feet away from the door of the O'Neill's Surf Shop. From a seated position behind his table, he urged people to not spend money at O'Neill's. This caused quite a commotion at O'Neill's where two male managers, customers, and passersby congregated by the door, watching as Paschal hawked at any person coming or going.

Some kids who had been inside O'Neill's came over to Paschal's table and placed some O'Neill's Sex Wax there. He yelled at them and told them to leave his table alone.

When Bill Chapman, a customer of O'Neill's walked out of the store with some bagged purchases in his hand, Paschal told him that buying from O'Neill's would lead to bad karma. Chapman walked over to Paschal's table and towered over him. “What did you say?” Chapman demanded. “Get the fuck away from me, you pussy!” Jason told him. At that point a tall, skinny white man with a 10 inch Mohawk hairdo on a bicycle circled around Jason's table. “He came up to me and said “O'Neill's has been here a lot longer than you. Get out of town, nigger!” In Vasquez' police report, Chapman says he spat nearby. However, interviewed by phone for this article, Chapman reported that Paschal had indeed been spit upon. In either case, Paschal was arrested and taken into custody. Again his needles and insulin were seized and not returned to him when he was released after booking, his blood sugar levels soaring.

Despite Harper's vivid description, police were unable to find the suspect. Jason did that himself the next day when he spied the man on Pacific Ave. walking with his girlfriend. Jason again called police and they eventually were able to track down her boyfriend to interview him.

Interviewed by police the next day, the spitter, Jeremy Burkett, denied both that he called Paschal “a nigger” or that he spat in Paschal's face. This completely contradicts Steve Harper's testimony, that Paschal had been hit in the face by Burkett's spit.

Sgt. Baker was assigned to investigate the merits of Paschal's case, that he was the victim of an assault, with extenuating circumstances which could amount to a racially -motivated hate crime. He reported “ I have had previous contact with Paschal and know he is regularly involved in disturbances Downtown. He has been arrested on numerous occasions for incidents where he challenges other to fight or actually gets involved in a fight.” Never mind that, with few exceptions, the arrests Baker made of Paschal turned out to be bogus.

Surprisingly, Baker did not find enough evidence to charge Burkett with a crime. He did state that “if spittle did actually strike Paschal, this may have constituted a misdemeanor battery per PC 242” and mysteriously considering Harper's testimony that “there is not a witness that corroborates either side of the issue.”


When Paschal's first Public Defender, Kristin Carter, didn't support his decision to refuse to plea to a lesser charge, Jason fired her in a Marston Hearing. He almost fired his second attorney as well. “I am NOT going to plead guilty to a lesser charge when I did nothing wrong. If I can't say “pussy” on a public street then I have no freedom of speech at all. My whole lifestyle is about freedom. I have the freedom to travel. I have the freedom to work or not to work every day.

I like my lifestyle. I meet a lot of beautiful people, I smoke only the best chronic, and I'm always hearing music. I work out of doors surrounded by beautiful crystals. I consider myself a mirror of society. And sometimes what I reflect is bad.

Some people in Santa Cruz don't want to hear the negative. They try to put the negative out of their lives and only emphasize the positive. That's how neurolinguistic programming works--all they want is to think about positive comments and they refuse to see the negative. It's what “The Secret” is about. How to get everything. But the downside is they can't look at suffering going on around them. They just can't see it. They are so positive all the time that they have actually become obnoxious to be around. I kind of have to tell them to come down to earth.

I come from a long line of fighters. I'm a warrior. I'm a spiritualist. I like to be confrontational sometimes... if the situation warrants it being confrontational.I'm a big man. I weigh almost 250 lbs. But I can't fight back physically. I have to use my words. Most of all, I cherish my freedom. I am well aware that this country started out as a Slave Nation. As far as I'm concerned, they should give the entire state of California to African Americans to atone for that.”


When asked if he felt vindicated that all charges against him have been dropped, Paschal said “no.” “Now I have to go after the DA and find out why they haven't prosecuted the man who assaulted me and called me “a nigger.” I have to file a complaint against Sgt. Baker for making false and prejudicial statements about me in his police report. I am considering suing several parties for false arrest, such as Chapman for telling dispatch that I had threatened him when he was only offended by my language. I feel O'Neill's played a role as well. They filed the complaint for the first “move-along” and may have instigated others as well. The whole Downtown Association bears the blame too.”

He wonders how long the word “nigger” has been etched into the sidewalk on Elm St. and how long it will take before Public Works removes it.

Becky Johnson can be contacted at becky_johnson222@hotmail.com

KEYWORDS: Stay-away orders, Move-along law, Jim Crow, Sgt.Loran Baker, Jason Paschal, Mayor Emily Reilly, Pacific Avenue, HUFF, Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom, O'Neill's Surfshop, Downtown Association, hate crime, homeless, Santa Cruz Police Department, Vietnam Vet, Mark Mackay, Bill Chapman, Steve Harper, Warren West, marijuana, Sex Wax, Becky Johnson.

This article can be reprinted for free by non-profits or not-for-profits which work for social justice.

Article by HUFF*

Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom

309 Cedar St. PMB 14B – Santa Cruz, CA. 95060

www.huffsantacruz.org (831) 423-4833

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