Friday, July 20, 2012

Six Months in jail for SLEEPING? Is this America?

URGENT!  Attorney Ed Frey and his client, Gary Johnson, both convicted under PC 647 (e),  the anti-homeless statewide anti-lodging statute for sleeping at a protest against Sleeping Bans, face a certain six months in jail apiece as Frey exhausts his appeal process. Legal, moral, and political support is badly needed. Frey and Johnson could be jailed as soon as Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 when they go before Judge John Gallagher at 8:30AM in Dept. 2

 A homeless man sleeps on the benches outside of the Santa Cruz
Main Library as part of Peace Camp 2010 when protesters had
been driven away from City Hall across the street. These benches
have since been removed by public officials.  Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
July 20, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- When Ed Frey envisioned Peace Camp 2010, he was sure of his cause. Sleeping itself is a criminal act within the City of Santa Cruz. It is illegal under MC 6.36.010 section a, to sleep anywhere out of doors or in a vehicle between 11PM and 8:30AM, with few exceptions. And while the City of Santa Cruz does pay for a sizable percentage of services offered to homeless people (some Cities provide nothing), the number of persons enumerated by each census far outnumber the number of spaces of legal shelter available.

But for reasons largely unexplained (thought to be a squabble between City police and County sheriffs) neither Ed, nor protesters Gary Johnson, Eliot Anderson, teepee visionary Robert "Blind Bear" Facer,  "Anonymous" Commander X, Collette Connolly, the former Chair of the Commission for Prevention of Violence Against Women, Linda Lemaster, radio host Robert Norse, and Art Bishoff were charged with the City's Sleeping Ban. Instead, County Counsel Dana McRae  advised sheriff's to charge misdemeanor PC 647 (e), as a disturbing the peace charge.

Linda Lemaster in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse 2010
Photo by Becky Johnson

A jury trial was held for five defendants including Ed Frey who served as both the defense attorney for his fellow defendants and as his own defense. All, except Anderson were convicted. In Anderson's case, the jury hung 11 - 1 for conviction. One juror didn't think Anderson should be compelled to gas his dog in order to sleep in a shelter for one night. The remaining jurors did.

At a sentencing hearing for Gary Johnson and Ed Frey, Judge John Gallagher sentenced both men to 6 months in jail following their refusal to accept 400 hour of community service. In addition, when Johnson asked Gallagher how he could "obey all laws" since illegal lodging is illegal 24/7 and he was homeless, the Judge told him he "could sleep in jail" and ordered him jailed immediately.

When Frey asked for bail in order to file an appeal, Gallagher set bail at $50,000 apiece. Both men went to jail for several weeks. Frey was able to modify the bail to $110 each ( the bail schedule for PC 647 (e) charges) , both men were able to bail out.

Just as Johnson had warned, he was again cited four times for illegal "lodging" and jailed for another 85 days. Now both men, having exhausted their immediate appeal route due to lack of legal resources and inadequate funding, face being returned to jail to serve the remainder of their 6 month sentences.

Neither is accused of having trespassed, littered, or bothered anyone at all. Only sheriffs were disturbed to see protesters against the Sleeping Ban sleeping in direct defiance of the ban as part of a 1st amendment protected protest, and at a traditional public forum. And what was the behavior they testified to as requiring immediate arrest for disturbing the peace? Sleeping at 4:30AM. In fact, sheriff's testified they had to awaken the sleeping protesters! And six months in jail for sleeping has got to be excessive punishment.

And if an attorney and activist can be jailed for sleeping, how are homeless people treated who have limited legal shelter options?  Thanks to Ed and Gary, we now have a clue.

Those with legal resources, financial or political support, should contact ED FREY here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Jury Trial date set for Linda Lemaster October 15th

SANTA CRUZ - A trial date of Oct. 15 was set Friday for Linda Ellen Lemaster, a community activist involved in a controversial homeless protest in 2010 on the steps of Santa Cruz County Superior Court and City Hall.

Lemaster, a homeless activist and projects facilitator for the Santa Cruz group Housing Now!, is charged with illegal lodging for her participation in the demonstration. The protest, called "Operation Peace Camp 2010," gathered activists opposing parts Santa Cruz's camping ban.
The occupation comprised a group of more than 50 people who slept and held signs on the courthouse steps. It lasted three months, before deputies began warning, ticketing and arresting protesters under a criminal misdemeanor law for unlawful lodging.

  Attorney Ed Frey, Robert "Blind Bear" Facer, and Linda Lemaster confer at City Hall
during Peace Camp 2010, a protest against Sleeping Bans. Photo by Becky Johnson

Lemaster appeared in court with friends Friday. Her attorney Jonathan Gettleman said he filed a writ of habeas corpus with the 6th District Court of Appeals in San Jose. The 53-page writ requests the court to hear and dismiss Lemaster's case, linking it to the protection of freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

"This matter is very serious as far as we're concerned," Gettleman said. "This case could really injure people's ability to engage in protests."

Gettleman said the illegal lodging law was misused to put an end to the protest and violated the constitutional right of people to assemble peacefully and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Gettleman said he not only hopes to clear Lemaster, but also to make the illegal lodging law unconstitutional. The federal court should decide whether to hear the case in the next few months, before the beginning of the Santa Cruz trial in October.

In a previous case related to the protest, two other activists, Ed Frey and Gary Johnson, were sentenced to six months in County Jail last October.

DA Rebekah Young loses 2nd motion to dismiss Judge Burdick

 NOTE TO READER: As one of the defendants in this case, my June 25th preliminary hearing was postponed because of Young's motion where she admitted she "misread 170.6." Now I must wait until August 20th to clear my name. My first preliminary hearing had been scheduled for March 5th, but was postponed then because Judge Ariadne Symons took 5 court hearings to appoint me a public defender. My fellow defendants and I have been dragged through the mud for months now, smeared as "trespassers" and "vandals" for our mostly peripheral connection to a non-violent peaceful occupation of a long empty bank building. That DA Bob Lee is overcharging in this case, is only one issue. With Councilmember Katherine Beiers, City Manager Martine Bernal, SENTINEL photographer, Schmuel Thayer, and Santa Cruz Patch reporter, Alex Huebner reported to have been in the building, defendants claim selective enforcement.  Finally, the prosecution of high profile alternative media journalists with serious felonies signals a creeping fascism which chills protest and freedom of speech. Does DA Bob Lee represent the cause of the citizens of Santa Cruz or does he really work for Wells Fargo, making sure empty buildings in our community remain unavailable for years at a time?   --- Becky Johnson, Ed. and defendant,

Police photo of protesters taken at 4:24PM November 30, 2011

Motion to disqualify judge denied in

Santa Cruz bank takeover case

Found online here.

SANTA CRUZ - A judge has denied a prosecutor's motion for a new judge in the case of the takeover of a former Wells Fargo bank last year. Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young had sought to disqualify Judge Paul Burdick from presiding over the cases of the five defendants whose preliminary hearings have not yet taken place. Burdick previously dismissed the charges against six of the 11 people initially charged in connection with the nearly-three-day occupation of 75 River St., a vacant former bank in downtown Santa Cruz.
Defense attorneys for Gabriella Ripleyphipps, Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, Brent Adams and Desiree Foster had objected to the motion to disqualify Burdick, calling it "untimely."
Burdick sided with the defense and will remain the presiding judge for the preliminary hearing, which is set for Aug. 20. All five face felony counts of conspiracy and vandalism, as well as misdemeanor trespassing.
Those charges were dismissed earlier this year against Bradley Allen, Alex Darocy, Edward Rector, Grant Wilson, Franklin Alcantara and Cameron Laurendeau. Young later re-filed the charges against Laurendeau and Alcantara, and their new preliminary hearing will be heard by Judge Ariadne Symons later this month.

A group declaring themselves to be "acting anonymously and autonomously but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz" took over the building late last year with the announced intentions of turning it into a community center in protest of the banks' role in the national economic downfall. Amid numerous police negotiations, the group left the building peacefully after close to 72 hours.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter: @jmpasko96

NEXT COURT DATES: July 23 2012 preliminary hearing  -- Dept 7 --Franklin "Angel" Alcantara and Cameron Laurendeau

August 20 2012 preliminary hearing -- Dept. 6 -- 9AM -- Robert Norse Kahn, Desiree Foster, Gabriella Ripplyphipps, Brent Adams, and  Becky Johnson

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Judges affirm that sleeping at any time or place is illegal

 Attorney Ed Frey is arrested for sleeping on August 7, 2010 as part of Peace Camp 2010
protest against sleeping bans. Photo by Bradley Stuart


Santa Cruz Superior Court Appeals Panel

affirms 6-month sentence for Sleeping

by Becky Johnson
June 17, 2012
(updated June 29th)

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- A two-judge panel has affirmed the conviction of Ed Frey and Gary Johnson for sleeping.  The law, PC 647 (e), the statewide anti-lodging law, outlaws illegal lodging. But it was clear from evidence introduced at trial, statements by Judge John Gallagher, and finally statements by the two appeals Judges, Paul Marigona and Timothy Volkmann, that "sleeping" equals "lodging" for "the people."

The judgement upholds the conviction for the two men, and Gallagher's draconian sentence of 6 months in jail for sleeping for each man. Unmentioned at the appeals hearing was that Gallagher had also set bail at $50,000 each, a bail that was later modified to $110, which was the bail schedule all along for this "crime."

Of course the "crime" in the case of PC 647 (e) violations is to use the extremely broad activity of "lodging" as an arrestable crime against homeless people who have no other choice than to live in public places, and against protestors, in this case, set against the backdrop of Occupy Santa Cruz.

A homeless man sleeps as part of Peace Camp 2010, in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse
on July 12, 2010  photo by Becky Johnson

Appeals Court Judge, Paul Marigonda began in support of denying the appeal by claiming the defendants were claiming "a right to sleep anywhere." He claimed that neither County law nor the 9th Amendment to the Federal Constitution did not provide "any such right. That government provide any such place to sleep, is not there either."

Marigonda then referenced three sources. He said that "lodging can be setting up in a place with the intention of spending the night," language which he cribbed from section "c" of the Santa Cruz City Ordinance 6.36.010 Camping prohibited.

"It can be to occupy a place temporarily," which Marigonda got from a regular dictionary.
"It can be to settle in or live in a place temporarily, that may include sleeping," which is the definition Judge John Gallagher cobbled together to give to the jury that convicted Frey and Johnson in May of 2011. He asserted that "time, place and manner restrictions" were "entirely reasonable."

Marigonda then addressed the six month sentence handed down to the two men. "It's not unusual when the two men involved refused to accept the terms of the probation."  Frey and Johnson had turned down 400 hours of community service and a 3-year probation including 'obey all laws'.

A homeless kitten explores at Peace Camp 2010
Photo by Chris Doyon

Johnson, who is homeless, had objected to the 'obey all laws' clause saying that he "needed to sleep" and that he couldn't go three years without sleeping. Gallagher had resolved that by jailing Johnson on the spot telling him he "could sleep in jail." Frey had called the 400 hours of community service "slavery." Considering that DA Sara Dabkowski had sought 50 times what a conviction for MC 6.36.010 section a, also known as "the sleeping ban," the law they were there sleeping in direct violation as an act of civil disobedience.

Ed Frey, who was both a defendant and the defense attorney, began by correcting Marigonda.

"We weren't attempting to say we had a right to sleep anywhere, we say we have a right to sleep somewhere.  We're asking the Superior Court to acknowledge that sleeping is a valid form of expression. We're all physical embodiments. Will we say to anyone who doesn't have any property rights or access to a physical abode, that you don't have a right to live?

Judge Timothy Volkmann assured Frey he had read Ed's brief "four times." "While sleeping is expressive conduct, it is subject to time, place and manner restrictions."
"The statute itself says you can't lodge anywhere in the State. And not at any time in a 24 hour day. And the California State Constitution doesn't allow cruel or unusual punishment. Has anyone else you know been sentenced to six months in jail for sleeping?"

"You didn't take advantage of your probation offer," responded Volkmann.

Marigonda, referencing his experience as "10 years as a prosecutor in domestic violence felony cases" he said it was a common practice to charge the maximum sentence for defendants who refused probation terms. "And it could be just a touch."

Frey countered, "We generally sentence based on harm to a victim. How did Gary and I harm anyone by sleeping in front of the courthouse when all the workers were home in bed?"

Marigonda: "Judgement of lower court is affirmed in its entirety."

But Frey and Johnson were not immediately jailed to complete their 6-month terms for sleeping.
Frey sought permission from the court to certify the case for further appeal, which the court granted. However, on Friday, June 29th, the court turned him down. So now he is preparing a writ of Habeas Corpus to appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of California.