Saturday, April 30, 2011

Remembering 647 (e) "anti-lodging" Police Repression

In Santa Cruz, we organized Peace Camp 2010, a demonstration at both City Hall and on the steps of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court in order to protest against laws which prohibit the act of sleeping or use of a blanket. We consider these as crimes against humanity and a matter of conscience to oppose. First we were ignored. Then we were ridiculed. Then they really cracked down. Can a win be far away?

Sheriff's Deputies attempt to awaken a sleeping man to tell him he can't
protest there anymore or face immediate arrest for unlawful "lodging."
Aug 6 2010 Photo by Becky Johnson

An unknown protester lies under a camouflage tarp with a copy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel prominently displayed with the title of the article "Homeless Protesters ready to 'resist.'" Photo August 6, 2011 by Becky Johnson

Sheriff's Deputies awake and cite a homeless man for PC 647 (e), unlawful "lodging", in an effort to shut down the protest which County officials had "tolerated" too long. Deputies could not tell any of the protesters where they could go and legally sleep. Nine months later, DA Sarah Dabkowski introduced evidence of 1 or 2 possible shelter beds the sixty some homeless protesters could theoretically have slept in that night as evidence of their "choice."

(on left)
Sheriff's Deputies pour over the art supplies of artist, Dreamcatcher, as
well as bedrolls,
clothing, and food supplies. In court, they referred to these things as "garbage" which was offending the "aesthetics" of the courthouse grounds.

(on right) 72-yr-old Collette Connolly is cited by SCPD for unlawful sleeping. She was convicted of misdemeanor lodging May 4, 2011 and now faces up to 6 months in jail and/or $1000 fine. Connolly is both mentally and physically disabled and homeless.

Gary Johnson gets cited for use of a blanket when he is cited for sitting up, awake, in a charge, but covered with a sleeping bag. Video by Chris Doyon.

Klieg lights, costing about $100 a night to operate, shine down on Peace Camp 2010 at City Hall in a scene reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay. This along with the posting of "No Trespassing" signs at both City Hall and at the Public Library across the street by Parks and Rec Chief, Dannette Shoemaker were justified as "an oversight." Protesters claim the City Council wanted to shut down their legal protest. Photo by Becky Johnson August 19, 2010.

After nearly 165 years of open access by the public to the public grounds of City Hall, "No Trespassing" signs were installed after the arrival of the demonstration against the Sleeping Ban. Unless the public objects, less and less of public space is available for use by the public. Photo by Becky Johnson Aug 21, 2010

Peace Camp 2010: refuge or hazard?

July 29, 2011 as another night of Peace Camp 2010 began. That night, 45 people were welcomed to sleep together in peace and safety, with a porto-pottie and wash sink available for hygienic reasons. A week later, they were arrested in the same place for lying down, covering up with blankets, or for sleeping determined to be "illegal lodging" by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department. Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
April 30, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Collette Connolly sleeps on the courthouse steps in an open protest of Santa Cruz' cruel and unusual punishment for homeless people: a ban on the act of sleeping itself. Behind her were two signs she had herself chosen to speak for her cause:

"SLEEPING BAN Unconstitutional AND Cruel!!"

And "Free Gary Johnson -- Peace Camp 2010 --
the sleeping ban 6.36.010 a"

Collette had been cited by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's on August 6th under an even more punitive and open-ended law against illegal "lodging" PC 647 (e).
Connolly, age 75, is both physically and mentally disabled, was sheltered for a time (less than 30 days) at the Paul Lee Loft, but lost her place when she failed to return in time for the evening curfew.

A homeless man, certain there was no shelter for an able-bodied, single male at any local shelter, sleeps in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse as part of a protest to raise public awareness about laws which criminalize the act of sleeping on both public and private property. Photo by Becky Johnson July 30, 2010

Christine Nibheolain, an Irish national, is interviewed by Azenith Smith of KION after she was cited for misdemeanor "lodging" as she slept in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse to protest the Sleeping Ban.

"I've never been arrested before," says Nibheolain, "I've never been in trouble before. I figure if I'm going to get arrested for, it's something I believe in."

Nibheolain spent eight hours in jail. The Ireland native joined the homeless camp four days ago, since she says, the shelters are full.

"I'd rather be here illegal and under the lights and know that I'm safe," says Nibheolain.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who owns the courthouse? Who is in charge?

Peace Camp 2010 at 7PM on the night of July 20th on day 16 of the protest
against the Sleeping Ban in the City of Santa Cruz. Photo by Becky Johnson.

by Becky Johnson

April 28, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Only three of the original six defendants in the Peace Camp 2010 anti-lodging trial were in court. Collette Connolly was seen earlier during jury selection, behaving somewhat erratically, falling down but not obviously drunk, and belligerent when someone tried to help. Collette was nowhere to be seen today. Arthur Bishoff was in court earlier this week, but now has housing and employment and did not attend due to a conflict with his new work hours. Gary Johnson and Eliot "Bob" Anderson were quite another story, having attended every minute of their trial, and actively participating in their own defense. Chris Doyon, the once prominent camp spokesman, has not made an appearance. Linda Lemaster, who is housed, is scheduled for another jury trial next week on the same PC 647 (e) charge. Defense Attorney, Ed Frey, who is also housed, no doubt will be using a necessity defense-of-others for himself later on, but for the moment is seeking a not guilty verdict from the jury.

Yesterday, the jurors heard from Lt. Fred Plageman, who was the supervisor in charge of security for the Santa Cruz County Courthouse on the nights in which Frey and the others were either cited or arrested under PC 647 (e) the State's anti-lodging statute. Plageman revealed that in his 23 years on the force, he had never written a citation for 647 (e) in his career.

As Frey and DA Sarah Dabkowski met in court prior to the seating of the jury, Judge John Gallagher told Frey "It's not relevant to ask members of law enforcement their interpretation of what the law is. And I'm going to sustain every objection made."

"The law requires probably cause. I have a right to ask them on what criteria they are determining that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed," Ed countered.
"These officers had orders to give verbal and written warnings to these defendants, not to interpret what was said on the flyers," Gallagher firmly insisted. The flyers were unsigned.

This is a touchy subject for Judge Gallagher, because Frey had already challenged the statute for being vague and overbroad before Gallagher earlier this year, and Gallagher had ruled the ordinance is Constitutional since "there is no Constitutional "right" to sleep." But the fact remains, that "lodging" is not defined in the ordinance, and one is left with 14 dictionary definitions or however the officer chooses to interpret it as a crime.

Now with FREY trying to nail down that the officers themselves had NO IDEA what constitutes illegal lodging, and how to enforce it, Gallagher ruled Ed's line of questions to be out of order which would help to conceal the officer's lack of knowledge or experience in citing this law from the jury.

Once seated, jurors heard from a parade of sheriff's and police officers, some in full uniform, and some in suits and ties that some of the protesters were "setting up a camp, laying down on a sleeping bag, or showing they were not going to leave." When Ed Frey objected to a photo not being properly verified, Gallagher ruled that it was, and then told the jury "We are establishing that a proper foundation has been laid since Deputy Matson testified." The "we" Gallagher meant is surely the prosecution and himself, the judge. Truer words were never misspoken.


Santa Cruz Sheriffs Deputy, Kyle Matson, who had cited Eliot "Bob" Anderson, testified that "I don't remember warning Mr. Anderson personally." While 647 (e) does not require a warning, it seems clear that the prosecution is attempting for that unsigned written notice, or a verbal "you can't lodge here" warning to be sufficient notice

Warning notice given to protesters at Peace Camp 2010. Photo by Becky Johnson Aug 7 2010
that the "owners" of the property do not give their permission for lodging.

Ed asked Matson, "Who owns the courthouse?" but Dabkowski objected claiming lack of relevance and Gallagher sustained the objection. Ironically the wording of PC 647 (e) says you can't stay on property without the permission of the owner or the person in control. But the DA and Gallagher were preventing Frey from determining if the police even knew who that person might be. How can if be "irrelevant" if it's a requirement in order to enforce the law?

Matson also testified he cited 75 year old Collette Connolly when "she was sitting on her sleeping bag." The two photos showed Collette sitting on her sleeping bag, full clothed. Behind her is a sign which a reader can barely make out the words as "The Sleeping Ban is Unconstitutional and Cruel." When Matson was asked why he cited her, he said "She had not made an attempt to move." So sitting on a sleeping bag is an arrestable offense? Apparently.

A man sleeps at Peace Camp 2010 on July 20th. Photo by Becky Johnson.

Dabkowski asked, "What did you do on August 7th?"We attempted to remove the remaining people who were sleeping in front of the courthouse." On cross examination, Ed Frey asked "Isn't it true you've never used 647 (e) in front of the courthouse until the night of August 6th?

Objection. Sustained. This jury would not hear how Matson determined that "the owner" had not given "permission" to "lodge."

"Did you observe these defendants causing any damage to the property?" Ed asked.
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Did people ask you where they could go and sleep legally?"
"They did."
"What did you tell them?"
"I didn't have an answer for them."
"As you sit here today, do you have an answer now?"
"I do not."
"Did anyone at the sheriff's office make any attempt to call the Homeless Services Center on August 6th to see if there were shelter beds that night?"
"Did you see a cane with Ms. Connolly? Did she appear disabled?"
"Was Ms. Connolly interferring with anyone else's rights? Was she obstructing anyone?
"The courthouse was closed at the time and there was no foot traffic in and out so, no."


Next, Deputy Ryan Kennedy of the Sheriff's office testified he'd attended a briefing that night "about lodging happening" so he "talked to the lodgers" and about 12:40AM issued citations after that warning had been given. When Kennedy cited and arrested defendant Gary Johnson, he reasoned "he hadn't dispersed, was lying down in some sort of bedding, and planning on staying the night."

Gary Johnson, for his part, fully cooperated in confirming his identity. As each officer pointed him out in court, Johnson unzipped his jacket to reveal the same red shirt and hood he was wearing in his arrest photos. Johnson is not trying to conceal either his presence at Peace Camp 2010 or the fact he slept there. It WAS a protest AGAINST all Sleeping bans. Gary was not only openly violating their law, but was challenging it.

Frey asked Kennedy "Were standards issued as to how to enforce PC 647 (e)?"
"Yes. There were guidelines. If people were lying down, had bedding, were sedentary, or looked like they were going to spend the night we warned or cited them. If they were actively moving around, or standing, they were not cited. If they were up and around and moving, then they're not a lodger."

"What is lodging?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Did you have an understanding that this was a political action? A protest?"
"Was anyone causing a problem for anyone, obstructing anyone's way?"
"Yes. The bedding was partially obstructing our way. We had to move around it."
When asked if anyone else during the entire time, not just on August 6th, had caused anyone any danger, destruction of property, or injury to anyone, Kennedy said "yes."
"There were traumatic effects when the lodgers possibly left behind remnants, items, and trash." and while Kennedy didn't personally see any of the defendants leave any trash behind, he argued that their presense "caused unrest among the people who work at the County Bldg."
"Multiple times," he explained "as county workers were coming out of the building at late hours, they felt threatened and asked for a police escort."
"Was there any factual basis for these threats?" Frey asked.
"They felt threatened by the presence of people they were unsure about in that place and time."
"Do you think homeless people are more dangerous than other people?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Did you arrest anyone for just sitting?"
"No. They were lying down."
"Did people ask you if there was a legal place they could go and sleep?"
"Objection--relevance." "Sustained."
"Do you know who is in control of the building at night?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Prior to the night of August 6th, did you know what unlawful lodging was?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"If this is a crime, can you identify a victim?"
"Objection." "Sustained."


The next witness was Sheriffs deputy Michael Mullet who's job that night was to book property.
Mullet reported that he was up all night booking property seized, and that his 17-page report included 16 pages of property items including multiple tents.
"Did any of the defendants use a tent? " "No."
"Who was in control of the courthouse that night?
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Do you know who owns the Courthouse?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Are you aware of any permanent property damage that was done by either the defendants, or the people protesting?" "No."
"What was the nature of the trash?"
"Fast food containers, a broken meth pipe, broken dishes, broken glass, cereal boxes."
"Do you know if the defendants were responsible for the trash?"
"It would be impossible to say."


The next witness, Deputy Sheriff Douglas Smith, was in charge of taking the police video of the first round of warnings. He admitted that his film did not turn out, and that the DA was forced to rely on a system of hand-written name cards placed previously by other deputies as proof that the person "had been warned" and could now be cited or arrested.
"All of the still photos were taken at the time of arrest, and not during the warning period."
Among the people Deputy Smith cited, was Collette Connolly. "She did not speak. She had a self-imposed silence and nodded her head that she understood the warning."

After the lunch break, Ed Frey asked Deputy Smith if those "lodgers" had asked where they could go to safely sleep."
"Did you hear a response?"
"Objection. Hearsay."
"Did any of the defendants create any danger by obstructing the sidewalk, or injure someone else in any way?"
"Yes. People were victimized. There was a lot of garbage there, and if you had to walk by it in the daytime, you'd be victimized." When Frey asked the nature of the garbage he replied "Cups, cans, bottles, stuff from food." Yet, of the 26 photos the DA had produced thus far in the trial, NONE of them showed this "trash". No littering tickets were issued during the 3 months Peace Camp 2010 was in existence.

"Did you ever enforce PC 647 (e) prior to the night of August 6th?"
"Objection-irrelevant." "Sustained."


Deputy Zachary Reed testified that he cited Arthur Bishoff at the County Bldg. "laying flat on his back with his eyes closed and a sleeping bag on top of him." Bishoff was lying behind a large rock on the traffic island in front of the courthouse.

"He told me his address was 115b Coral St."(the mailing address for the Homeless Services Center).

"Where did Mr. Bishoff go after you cited him?" Ed asked.
"He stood up and wandered off across the parking lot towards Ocean St. The last time I saw him, he was seen exiting the parking lot towards Highway 17." Was Reed disappointed to see Bishoff had not only not left town, but was now declaring "not guilty" and demanding a jury trial?


Officer Vigil was the first SCPD prosecution witness. Peace Camp 2010 had moved its location to 809 Center St. and stationed itself on the brick patio next to Center St. in front of City Hall. Officer Vigil described an "extra check" that sometimes involved officers going outside of their regular beat to conduct. "Our sergeant told us to do extra checks at City Hall." Vigil cited Connolly, Frey, and one other man in a sleeping bag.

On the night of August 17th, did you notice any unusual lighting situation?" Ed asked.
"I don't recall," Vigil replied, but on further questioning, Vigil remembered something.
"There were some vehicle-pulled lights."
"What was the purpose of those extra lights?"
"I didn't put them there, so I don't know."
"Did you notice that they were powered by a diesel engine that produced light pollution, sound pollution, and exhaust?"
"Objection-relevance." "Sustained."
"Do you remember any property seizures that night? Do you remember any protest signs being taken?"
"I don't recall."
"Do you remember seeing anyone there patrolling besides the police?"
"I don't recall."
"Isn't it true that a private company--1st Alarm--had a securty officer stationed there?"
"I don't recall."
"So you have no specific knowledge on any night of the protest, when you were on duty or even when you were not on duty, seeing a 1st Alarm security guard standing there?"
"Yes, I did see one."
"Did you see any of the defendants presenting any danger to anyone there?"
"Did you get asked where they could go to get a safe and legal place to sleep?"
"We hand out homeless resource cards."
"On the night we were describing?"
"Were any shelter beds available that night?"
"I don't know."
"Do you have any idea what happens in the City of Santa Cruz when a person is cited on a night when no shelter exists in Santa Cruz?"

This question prompted a sidebar. At the end of the sidebar, Judge Gallagher explained that an objection had been made and he had sustained the objection.
"Who owns City Hall?"
"Objection." "Sustained".
"Who is in control of City Hall?"
"Objection." "Sustained." The witness was excused.


Frey asked SCPD officer Nathan Vasquez who had ordered the "extra check" at City Hall.
"We do that if someone asks. In this case, the City Council had asked for an extra police check at City Hall." Vasquez cited Collette Connolly. He also testified that the reason he used PC 647 (e) was not because he believed that was the most applicable ordinance to apply but because "Sgt. Conner told me to cite under 647 (e).

"Did anyone ask if there was a safe place for them to sleep?"
"I don't know the number for that. In the past, I have contacted the shelter and they told me they would not be accepting campers on my request."


Officer Burnham testified he cited Arthur Bishoff that night when he and two other officers conducted an extra check at City Hall. He testifed that "about 15 people" were there. When asked about the Klieg lights he said "I saw the flood lights set up by the City."
"Why were those lights there?"
"I imagine for officer safety. We've done this before for Halloween, New Years."
"Was the purpose of these lights to drive people away?"
"Objection." "Sustained."
"Did anyone ask you where they could sleep that night?"'
"I've been asked that question many times. My standard answer is that it is not legal to sleep anywhere in the City. There is an ordinance against it."
"Do you know who controls City Hall?"
"Objection--relevance." "Sustained."
"Do you know who owns City Hall?
"Objection," this time triggering a sidebar. At the end of the sidebar, "Sustained."


Dinah Phillips testified that she is a "Principle administrative analyst for the County Administration office. She is the media contact for the County and has worked for the County for 30 years.

"Our office is in charge of every property in the County. Susan Mauriello is my boss." Phillips told of issuing a press release last August to clarify an issue that had mistakenly been reported in a Santa Cruz Sentinel article.

"Did you come across an application I submitted to conduct a protest in July and August at that location? Ed asked.
"I think I recall something like that," Phillips admitted, "but it would have had to go through my immediate boss."
"When did you first notice that we were there?" Ed asked.
"As soon as they were there. There were a lot of discussions and I was responding to people in multiple departments. I had to tell them that people have a right to protest."
"So why did you then decide to take action?"
"It had become a health, safety, and welfare situation. There was no restroom facilities open at night. Employees who had to walk through there felt threatened. People who were walking by had things said to them."
"Did they present a danger?"
"I couldn't say that."
"Do you have any written regulations for what is permitted or forbidden on these grounds?"
"No. I could probably look for some."
"Why didn't you enforce the County Camping Ban?"
" To my knowledge, the County doesn't have a camping ban."
"Do you know if any of the protesters were given permission to stay?"
"It's County property. The County can determine who can stay overnight."
She admitted there are no posted rules or hours on either the government building or the courthouse.
"I believe the building is locked at night," she replied as though that explained it. Then to make matters even more muddled, she said "I think its legal to be on the property, but I don't think it's legal to be there overnight." She admitted that , other than one sign on the basement door, that "there are no signs showing hours of operation."

"You said that there were no restroom facilities open at night. Did you notice the porto-pottie there?"

"I did see the porto-pottie, but I couldn't tell how many nights it was there. I know that the Park Service was very concerned. We had to steam-clean the steps after the folks left. It smelled like urine. I saw it sometimes."
"Who owns the County Bldg.?"
"Objection." "Sustained."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The County wanted them to leave

by Becky Johnson

April 27, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- After three days in Judge John Gallagher's court, with two panels of 80 average citizens each having had their lives disrupted, missed classes, had to hire babysitters, missed work and worried how to replace that lost income, a jury panel has been installed: 12 jurors and 2 alternates.

The Peace Camp Six, now reduced to five, following the unexplained absence of charismatic, Peace Camp 2010 spokesman, Chris Doyon, now face a jury of their peers to decide whether they were criminally "lodging" on the steps of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse last July and August, and at the Santa Cruz City Hall last August, September, and October, as part of a protest against the use of Sleeping Bans at all in a situation in which inadequate shelter exists.

Assistant District Attorney Sara Dabkowski has subpoenaed 31 witnesses, to testify, all of them on the County or the City's payroll. Defense Attorney Ed Frey, has subpoenaed three, of which none are on the County or City payroll. I mean what does a boss EXPECT his employees to testify to? Like Donald Trump, asking his celebrity apprentice contestants if they will vote for him for President, and then laughing he'd fire them on the spot if they said "no" "for stupidity."


DA Sara Dabkowski began by telling the jury that the defendants "chose to be there, chose to sleep there, and not because they needed to. That the five defendants, on eight different nights, chose to spend the night somewhere they did not have permission to be."

"The County wanted the people who were staying there to leave," she explained. "They were given a written warning to leave. If they were packing up and getting ready to leave, they were not cited. The defendants chose not to leave. You will hear testimony that the sheriff's gave plenty of time to leave. " "Some people refused to sign the citation and they were arrested and jailed." "You will hear testimony from Santa Cruz Police who worked it into their normal shift schedule to go thru City Hall, warn people that they couldn't lodge there, and then going back later and citing those who failed to leave. Only the repeat offenders were cited. The people they arrested were the people who were lying down, sleeping, or pretending to sleep. I'm going to ask that you find each and every one of the defendants guilty of illegal lodging."


"First, I want to thank you for your service on this jury. This is a case of unlawful lodging. You just heard from District Attorney, Sara Dabkowski, that the defendants chose to spend the night somewhere they are not allowed to be. PC 647 (e) says if a person does not own property, and this includes every inch of land inside the borders of the State of California, that if you don't own your own home, don't rent an apartment, or stay in a motel, then you cannot sleep."

"If you don't own it, you may not lodge on it. Defendants were sleeping together in a group. Sleeping by yourself is less safe than sleeping in a group. One of our defenses, under the defense of necessity, is that we wanted to preserve our safety and our health. Sleep is an actual, physiological need for human life. There is also another necessity. A necessity of conscience. There can be a point where, after so much injustice, it is incumbent to break the law, to demonstrate the conviction that a person has a right to sleep.

We have over half a million people homeless in this country. Is that homelessness voluntary?Now I have a home. But the other defendants didn't have a home. And, during this trial, you will come to understand that they are homeless by necessity and circumstances, and not homeless by choice--in fact, no choice was involved. They were subject to circumstances beyond their control.

If when you carefully examine the elements of a necessity defense, you will find the evil they were avoiding is the detriment to their health they would suffer if they couldn't go to sleep. Decide for yourselves if the defendants really had a choice.


Lt. Fred Plageman was clearly the go-to guy last summer when he was told by County Counsel to issue PC 647 (e) citations (or make arrests) of those who would not leave when told to. A veteran with 23 years experience, Plageman, who supervises 29 employees, was the supervisor in charge of security at the County Building on the night of August 6th.

On or about August 1st, Plageman testified he attended a meeting of Susan Mauriello's assistant and Sheriff Wowock. "They told us to enforce the unlawful lodging law. The people we contacted were lying prone, supine, or on their side, were in bedding, or were sleeping, staying, lodging over night. Someone who was sitting upright or not on bedding, we did not issue a citation. Anyone who refused to cooperate, we issued a citation.

Prior to August first, Plageman testified that "Unlawful lodging was taking place. People were camping overnight, the smell of urine. They were holding social activities 'round the clock. I saw the general decline in the area. I saw the grass turn brown and go to dirt. I saw sticky food substances. The facility use had become extreme and the number of people grew to as many as 30 or 40, although the numbers were greater at night. Sometimes it dropped to 12 or less."

Plageman testified that on the night of August 6th, he personally supervised a team of 6 or 7 sheriff's who first issued warnings in writing to those who were "illegally lodging." After an hour or more, they returned and arrested anyone who did not leave.

When asked if a lot of people left, he said "Yes, about half of them." He testified that they continued to cite people from that point on, perhaps writing the last citation around 2AM.

"Who wrote the notice?" asked DA Dabkowski. "The County Counsel wrote it." He testified that as the team circulated with the warning notices and later to write citations that "there were a lot of people around us who were walking along with us, who demanded to know what our authority was, and what our business was. It started out civil but it progressed to the point where we felt physically threatened, people yelling threats. I was concerned we were going to have a riot."

The notice said that "Lodging at any time will not be tolerated.

On cross-examination, Plageman defined a lodger as "camping, sleeping, or spending the night." He defined camping as "going someplace, going to sleep, bedding, tents." Frey asked " To lodge, don't you need a lodge?" but Dabkowski objected to the question and Gallagher sustained her objection.

"Lodging" is not defined in 647 (e) so it's up to anyone's interpretation of what forms the elements of illegal lodging. So Frey asked "How would defendants know what lodging is?"

"Well, there are signs on the highway that say "Gas, Food, and Lodging" Plageman responded.
"Were there any signs out in front of the courthouse preventing anyone from being there?"
"I don't know."
"Are there any signs there now?"
"I think there might be."

Plageman explained that while Susan Mauriello is in charge of "all county property" her aide, Nancy Carrgordon is in charge of General Services at the County Building. Plageman was called to a meeting with Carrgordon and Sheriff Phillip Wowack. "They decided the activity that was going on was not going to be allowed to continue." He said that the area had degraded to "drugs, fights, public intoxication."

Frey asked Plageman, "What makes lodging illegal?"
Plageman thoughtfully constructed his answer.
"We didn't want to interfere with free speech, but the area had transformed into a campground and posed health risks and hazards. As far as that area goes, lodging was unlawful--the camping, sleeping, and overuse of the area."

"Did you notice the presence of a porto-pottie?" Frey asked.
"Yes. A porto-pottie would arrive when the building was closed and disappeared the next morning."
"Was fecal matter ever found around the courthouse?"
"I heard reports."
"Any personal knowledge of fecal matter found around the courthouse?"
"No personal knowledge."
"Did the people cited ask you where they could go and sleep legally?
"What did you tell them?"
"I said I didn't know."
"So today, if someone were illegally lodging, do you know today where they could go and legally sleep?"
"I don't know."
"Who owns the courthouse?"
"The taxpayers own it."
"In order to legally lodge, you need the permission of the owner. Does the County own it or do the citizens own it?"
"The citizens."
"Were people "lodging" prior to August 6th?"
"Then you as sheriff were aware of a danger presented by the five of us prior to August 6th?"
"Are you aware of any damage to the courthouse, the county building, or the Government Center from Peace Camp 2010?"
"How about victims. Were there any victims among the staff or the public during that period?"
"How about the people of the City of Santa Cruz. Were any of them victims?"
"Objection. Argumentative."
"Objection sustained."

"Was there any shelter space available that night?"
"I don't know."
"Did you or anyone at the County try to find out if any shelter was available?"
"I don't know."
"If not, why not?"
"I don't know."
"Who was in control on August 6th between 6PM and 7PM? If a person wanted to ask for permission, who would they ask?"
"I don't know."
"Did the defendants interfere with anyone's rights or movement?"
"I'm not sure. I don't know. I was approached by workers who were upset and did not feel safe."
"Did any actions by the five defendants here make anyone unsafe?"
"No. There was a fight and a weapon was involved. There was lots of inappropriate yelling an antics that went on, but not sufficient that law enforcement action needed to be taken."
Plageman admitted that the sheriff's went out of their way to avoid making an arrest, despite that unlawful lodging calls for immediate arrest. "Custody is a big drain on our resources, and not necessary for this kind of offense."

Trial begins again on Thursday, in dept 2 at 10:30AM.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jurors near revolt in Peace Camp Six Trial

A lone protester sleeps in the forbidden zone at Santa Cruz City Hall last August as City-sponsored klieg lights glare down at him. Photo by Becky Johnson Aug 20 2011

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. They swarmed the hallways, cluttered the benches, many clutching books in preparation for a long day. At least eighty public citizens who still believe in the purpose of jury trials ( or were afraid of facing criminal charges if they failed to respond to that letter in the mail) arrived at Judge John Gallagher's court to volunteer to serve to adjudicate whether the six defendants were guilty of "lodging" on the Courthouse steps last July and August as part of a peaceful protest against the Sleeping Ban in Santa Cruz.

Gallagher told juries "I expect this trial will last two weeks," which caused a concerned murmur through the crowd. He then told the court that they were in the middle of a "heavy-duty financial crisis" and that the court had had to "lay off 30 to 40 employees, has closed the misdemeanor court in Watsonville, closed the domestic violence court, and drastically reduced the drug court." Gallagher told jurors that he had to adjudicate "136 cases in one day."

Gallagher had the opportunity to throw the charges aside when Attorney and defendant, Ed Frey filed a motion to dismiss last January. Gallagher ruled that PC 647 (e) is NOT vague and overbroad and that the prosecutions could proceed. Judge Rebecca Connolly ruled essentially the same on March 4th in the case of Linda Lemaster, also charged with 647 (e). Lemaster will be tried later in May on the same charge, and, presumably, a different jury will be seated.

Assistant District Attorney Sarah Dabkowski for her part, picked up the gauntlet and filed subpoenas for the following witnesses* from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office: Lt. Fred Plageman, Mattson, Matrargan, Reed, Santos, Butin, Buchanan, Burreul, Gidding, Habermeil, Hanks, Huntsman, Hurley, Kennedy, Mullet, Murphy, Nathan, Murrey, Peterson. From the Santa Cruz Police Department, she subpoenaed the following: Birnham, Conner, DeCampo, Guegelo, Forbus, Medina, Pendleton, Vasquez, Venetion, Vigil. She subpoenaed a witness from the Parks and Recreation Department to be named later, and a witness from the Homeless Services Center, to be named later. From the County administration she subpoenaed Dina Phillips for a total of 31 prosecution witnesses, all of whom will be paid for testifying.

* (Spelling may be approximate for some of these witnesses. My apologies to the reader)

Frey has subpoenaed Paul Brindel of the Shelter Project, Paul Lee, namesake for the Paul Lee Loft and founder of the Homeless Garden Project, and Monica Martinez, Executive Director of the Homeless Services Center.

She and her staff will also be paid, but Ed Frey will not be paid, despite serving the duty of a public defender for the other five homeless defendants.

Actually, defendant Arthur Bishoff has since obtained both housing and employment. Defendant Eliot Anderson also achieved housing and employment but has since been laid off from his job and lost his housing. Defendant Collette Connolly was sheltered for about a month at the Paul Lee Loft after Peace Camp 2010 was disbanded in October. She will not be eligible for those shelter services for at least six months now. She, and co-defendant, Gary Johnson, remain homeless. Defendant Christopher Doyon has not appeared in court and will be tried at a later date.

Police officers are paid for a four-hour shift if called to testify on their day off. If on duty, they testify in uniform, and do not serve on their beat during those hours, depriving the public of their actual services. Lt. Fred Plageman and Dina Phillips presumably will testify as part of their administrative salary.

The defense, other than the actual defendants themselves have only subpoenaed three witnesses: Paul Brindel of the Shelter Project, Paul Lee, namesake for the Paul Lee Loft at the Homeless Services Center, and Executive Director, Monica Martinez (or her substitute) of the Homeless Services Center.

When jurors learned they would not be serving on a jury to try a child molester, a rapist, a murderer, or an extortionist, but instead would be asked to determine whether a couple of homeless people "lodged" on the courthouse steps as part of a protest last summer, they rebelled.

A kindergarten teacher from Brooknoll Elementary School started the rebellion. "When I first came to Santa Cruz, I lived in my van for three years. During that time, I was hassled, arrested, and jailed. There is no way I could be impartial in this case considering the pain these people are suffering."

The next juror to object said "I grew up homeless and my dad was a veteran. I've been hassled and harassed, and I'm hostile. They make victims of people. They don't help them out. You can't take a homeless kid and give them a $225 ticket."

When DA Dabkowski asked " Do any of you believe this is a case that should not be brought to court," another juror raised his hand. "I have a strong respect for people's property rights, but I speculate that the people charged here had no other option. This is simply a case of right and wrong laws."

The next juror who objected said "I not only object, but I'm shocked really. I arrived not knowing anything about this case and now find you want to conduct a two week trial? And it's simply about a group of homeless people being where they're not supposed to be? What a waste of people's time. It's a travesty really, spending this much time and money on this here."

When Judge John Gallagher asked him if he could put his bias aside and render an unbiased decision he said "I'd just be sitting here, stewing, that I can't believe we are spending all these resources on this."

Potential juror #4 said "I'm honored to be here and to serve. However, I am not impartial. I feel this is a waste of time for the taxpayers. I tried to use my calculator to add up the expenses. And I'm upset we've opened up this much time on this particular case. You say it's criminal? Then why do the sheriff's spend so much time being giving tickets, just harassing people, especially my own kids, aged 17 and 18? And then not showing up when I need them. My storage locker was broken into and thousands of dollars worth of my things were stolen, and I never got anything back. You say this is criminal so perhaps there's more to it."

Another potential juror described her previous jury experience. " There was a break-in and we did reach a verdict, and I sat on the jury for a four-week trial on a rape case. But I'll say I'm already feeling some pre-conceived notions as I keep hearing this case is about illegal lodging, not what I keep hearing. It feels like we're getting away from that. Honestly, I don't think I can be unbiased."

Juror #36 was disillusioned with the whole process. "I testified in court once as a witness for the prosecution in an attempted murder case. And even though I was testifying against the defendant, the prosecutor was so aggressive in his tactics, I came to resent the whole court process. This case here shouldn't be taking place at all.

Potential juror #2 had experienced both sides of law enforcement. "I was saved by police at age 9. But then I've had relatives of mine pulled over by police and hassled for no reason at all."

Jury selection continues today. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Defendants face up to 6 months in jail and/or $1000 fine on each charge. Defendant Gary Johnson, who has the most charges, faces up to two years in jail for sleeping at the courthouse and at City Hall as part of a protest against Sleeping Bans.

Ed Frey can be contacted at 831 479-8911
Becky Johnson can be contacted by e-mail at becky_johnson222 (at)

Friday, April 22, 2011

647 (e) Anti-lodging Jury trials to begin Monday, April 25th in Santa Cruz

Peace Camp 2010 defendant, Gary Johnson, sleeps on a public sidewalk August 29, 2010 to protest the Sleeping Ban. He faces up to two years in jail if convicted for his multiple charges of sleeping and "lodging."

by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- As the State, County, and City struggle to meet record budget deficits, there are two local leaders of City and County government who know no limits on what they will expend on their budgets. And this despite any evidence these expenditures produce any public benefit other than to feather their own nests. They are City Attorney John Barisone and the District Attorney Bob Lee.Both proceeding at breakneck speed to prosecute homeless people for...well...for BEING homeless. And the sky is the limit as far as costs go.

Now logic tells us that if some guy doesn't have $100 for a motel room, he's not going to be able to afford a $97 citation for sleeping on public property. Nor will turning him into a criminal help him find housing or employment.

But that's standard operating procedure in Santa Cruz. The City has MC 6.36.010 section a, also known as the "Sleeping Ban,"for which around 60 citations are issued monthly. The County has its own Camping ordinance, but it doesn't apply to the Government Center properties.

Last August, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's made a series of arrests under PC 647 (e), the Statewide anti-lodging statute which provides immediate arrest and jailing for those who don't possess a deed to a piece of property, a mortgage on a house, a lease on an apartment, a rental agreement, or a receipt for a motel room if they are found within the borders of the State of California and a cop tells them they no longer have "permission."

And if it is TRULY illegal to "lodge" which, according to Assistant District Attorney Sarah Dabkowski, representing the people, the law "puts people on notice that they can't lodge, can't live, can't stay the night, can't sleep somewhere, can't set up roots somewhere if they don't have permission." Dabkowski is prosecuting the Peace Camp Six who laid down their bodies on the court house steps as part of a protest last July and August to challenge laws which criminalize sleeping at night. Laws which are disproportionately directed at displaced former tenants and not against truck drivers, cabbies, kids waiting in line overnight for the opening of Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith, or against those sleeping inside upscale-looking motorhomes.

The Peace Camp Six are five houseless individuals and their attorney, Ed Frey. Frey made a motion to dismiss the charges based on the vague and overbroad language of the statute which can make "living" without permission an arrestable offense. A three-judge panel, headed by Paul Marigonda, and joined by Judges Paul Burdick and Timothy Volkmann, met in chambers and voted to deny the motion. DA Dabkowski, has subpoenaed 28 to 30 sheriff's deputies, police officers, staff members at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse and Government Center to testify with jury selections to begin on Monday, April 25th at 9AM in Dept 2 before Judge John Gallagher.

A separate jury trial is likely forthcoming in the case of a seventh defendant, Linda Lemaster,who also faces trial beginning early in May. She is being defended by attorney Jonathon Gettleman, who defended Miguel Deleon against the City's civil injunction for sleeping in the downtown area. Neither City Attorney John Barisone nor District Attorney Bob Lee have any compunctions about performing jury trials, calling dozens of witnesses who are paid staff of both the City and the County, paying their own staff for hundreds of hours billed at between $215 and $225 and hour to prosecute homeless people for "living" "staying the night" "sleeping" or "lodging" in a public place where they are not trespassing.

It goes to say, that a fraction of these costs could be used to house, feed, transport, and provide job training the very same people who lack a permanent shelter and hence tend to be subject to these and other laws.

Facing trial on Monday are Eliot Anderson, Arthur Bishoff, Collette Connolly, Christopher Doyon, Gary Johnson, and Ed Frey. If all are found guilty, what does anyone "win?"

For more information: call Ed Frey at 831 479 8911
or contact Becky Johnson at becky_johnson222 AT