Thursday, June 14, 2012
Does Santa Cruz jail people for sleeping?
At a January hearing in 2011, Ed Frey checks in with
expert witness, Dr. Paul Lee, as supporters Robert Norse
and Gail Page look on. Photo by Becky Johnson
by Becky Johnson
June 14, 2012
Santa Cruz, Ca. -- While my title may seem absurd, it is clear that the answer is "yes." Both Gary Johnson, a homeless man, and his attorney, Ed Frey, slept outside the courthouse as part of Peace Camp 2010, to protest laws which criminalize the act of sleeping. When County Counsel Dana McRae advised Sheriff's that they could cite protestors with 647 (e), the statewide anti-lodging law, sheriff's began to advise protestors that "illegal lodging would not be tolerated."
The misdemeanor law can involve immediate arrest for the act of "lodging," even though the legal meaning of that term is not defined within the law.
Because of this over-charging ( an infraction sleeping ban ticket would only have resulted in a maximum of 8 hours of community service, if found guilty) the very first ever jury trial on a sleeping ban was held before Judge John Gallagher last May. Frey and Johnson were found guilty of sleeping.
To show his extreme displeasure with the whole process, Gallagher sentenced both Johnson and Frey to 6 months in jail for the "crime" of lodging, which court testimony said was sleeping. When Frey asked to be released on bail to appeal his conviction, Gallagher set bail at $50,000 each. Both were handcuffed and jailed right as the hearing ended.
At a later hearing, Gallagher modified the bail to $110, which was, apparently, the bail schedule all along for 647 (e) violations. Today, in Dept 5, a three-judge panel will hear Frey's appeal. If the conviction is upheld, Frey and Johnson may be remanded to jail to finish serving their six-month sentences.