Monterey Court Retaliates Against 62-Year Old Homeless Woman

NOTE BY NORSE:  Sunny Fawcett’s struggle to be left alone by police was described in an earlier HUFF e-mail at  .  I also interviewed her on Free Radio at  .  Another article describing this travesty is at  (“Traffic Stop Becomes Criminal Case for Homeless Woman”).
Homeless folks living in vehicles will be facing a confirmed crackdown in Palo Alto as well when the Habitation Ban comes up for a final  vote Monday August 19 shortly after 7 PM at City Council there.  Folks are encouraged to e-mail their outrage at this attempt to criminalize the only affordable housing available to most homeless people–a vehicle.  E-Mail

the Palo Alto City Council can be e-mailed at  For more information in the issues there, go to and check  out other stories on the thread.
Santa Cruz homeless vandweller Robert Brunette reported that a local judge turned down his request that he be allowed access to his towing-company-snatched van even though he never received adequate notice of hearing, and when he went to a CHP hearing, was denounced and expelled by a CHP officer.

If you wish to comment on this or any other HUFF e-mail, go to the HUFF blog and post there ( ).  If the e-mail hasn’t been entered in the blog yet, send your comments back as a reply to the HUFF e-mail.

LOCAL SPIN 08.15.13 – Homeless woman who annoyed cops gets her sentence.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 12:00 am

Mary Duan



Let’s go back to day one, says Monterey County Superior Court Judge Albert Maldonado: “Sept. 19, 2012. This is what should have been done.”Maldonado is on the bench and speaking to Sunny Fawcett, a 62-year-old homeless woman who lays her head down most nights in a Dodge Minivan she parks in or around Monterey. “Day one” is a date rife with woulda, coulda, shoulda – both for Fawcett, the Monterey Police Department and ultimately, the criminal justice system.

Fawcett was driving down a very dark Garden Road, doing 20mph in a 40mph zone as she looked for a quiet, semi-safe place to bed down for the night. Her van was pulled over by Monterey Police Officer John Olney.

That simple traffic stop set in motion a 26-minute farce, recorded on Olney’s dash cam, during which Fawcett refused to roll down her window more than an inch or two, refused to turn off the car’s engine, repeatedly questioned why she was being pulled over, demanded Police Chief Phil Penko be called to the scene and took her sweet time handing over her proof of insurance and identification.

She was annoying and she was provocative and she was a frightened woman alone on a dark road. None of those things are illegal. Olney let her go without a citation, but a few weeks later, she received one in the mail; Fawcett was charged with criminal counts of obstructing a police officer and refusing to follow the lawful order of a police officer. Multiple hearings followed, taking multiple hours of court time, culminating in a multi-day jury trial in July.

The jury bounced the obstructing charge, but found her guilty of the other one.


“Alacrity is not required in encounters with the police,” Maldonado said Aug. 9, the first day of Fawcett’s sentencing hearing. (He would continue it to Aug. 13.) “We don’t live in a police state. Everyone has a right to question why they are being pulled over.”

What nobody has a right to do, though, is refuse to identify themselves to the police.

But between the trial, the thousands of dollars – between the prosecution, defense, court time, research attorneys and security – spent on the case and Maldonado’s exhibition of solid common sense, something went really wrong.

The Monterey County Probation Department, which investigates a defendant’s background and then recommends sentencing, apparently sent a letter to Fawcett requesting she come in for an interview, but sent it to the wrong P.O. box. She never received it, a mystery because her correct address was available on the police report – we know that because the ticket sure found her.

That was problem number one.

Problem number two: Someone at the probation department was apparently having a bad day when they decided to recommend Fawcett should spend 60 days in jail. When Deputy Public Defender Charles Shivers read that one in court at the outset of the sentencing hearing on Aug. 9, he conjured the dramatic intensity of the Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction to express his outrage: “It would be Draconian,” Shivers said. “If she can be jailed for this, I don’t want to be a part of this system.”

Maldonado said he was disregarding the sentencing recommendation. He seemed baffled by it.

“They want you to serve what I consider an extraordinary amount of time,” he said. “This should have been in traffic court. Traffic court, not Superior Court.”

What should have happened on day one, Maldonado said, is that when officers could not get her to show her license, they should have required her to stick her thumb through the open window and put her thumbprint on the citation. And if she refused that, they should have taken her before a magistrate immediately. There’s one on call 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

But, he said, “I have 12 ordinary citizens, jurors, who found you violated the law. You asked to be treated differently than any other citizen. In essence you asked for anarchy, and anarchy isn’t the answer.”

Maldonado waived the $1,000-plus fine Fawcett faced, but said he couldn’t do anything about the $214 in fines mandated by the state. He ordered her to serve three years on probation and turn over her identification to police if asked.

And then, in a breathtaking moment, he ordered the bailiffs to take her into custody to serve one day in jail. Less than one day, really: just enough time to book her and release her.

In the hallway after the hearing, a number of Fawcett’s supporters gathered and murmured that it could have been so much worse. But if the prosecution of Sunny Fawcett is to be used as a baseline for how the criminal justice system is functioning, we have bigger problems than anyone realizes.

Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at

BOB OLIVER posted at 12:15 pm on Thu, Aug 15, 2013.

“But if the prosecution of Sunny Fawcett is to be used as a baseline for how the criminal justice system is functioning, we have bigger problems than anyone realizes.”1. The Criminal Justice system : This was a “non case” which serves multiple purposes to those in power. It prevents there being enough time, resource and money to try real criminals (by design). It cost the tax payers about $40,000 , (by design). It intimidates nearly everyone – by design.

2. This case was eventually turned into a Charade – when people began to take notice of it. The “acting” was good though. But then also, do we really need to hear “fiction” by those operating our Judicial System?

3. Simply: Sunny Fawcett has been a homeless person living on the Monterey Peninsula with the help of family and friends and her own abilities to meet her needs without being a major burden on others.

She was “illegally” stopped by Monterey Police on more than three occasions. These stops were then used against her in a court of law. Sunny Fawcett was “framed” by the City of Monterey, the Monterey Police, and Judicial System of the Monterey County.

Sunny effected her own defense by doing everything “her way”. I commend her. It was creative and it had some good points. Through “the school of hard knocks” I am certain she is more aware than most of the condition of our country, and more so the condition of the Monterey Judicial System.

As a homeless person, Sunny can better relate to homelessness than most of us. The homeless always have been victimized for the injustice this country does in “our” name. Many more of us will become homeless as the present becomes the future and water prices here in our own community rise from 15 times the average price to 30 times – or greater.

Should we all continue to “not mobilize”? How much longer do we wait for others to “wake up”! Will it be to late? NEVER!