Case against Santa Cruz Eleven is crumbling

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

August 18, 2012

Original Post

Santa Cruz, Ca. — The case against eleven mostly long-time and well-known activists or alternative media journalists seems to be falling apart.

On Friday, DA Rebekah Young was made to answer for video discovery not delivered, potentially exculpatory evidence not turned over, billing sheets confirming allegations of damages still missing, and promises made not kept.

“She still has not turned over the second videotape mentioned in police reports about my client,” charged defense attorney, Alexa Briggs. “And the first tape is exculpatory as it shows my client, Mr. Laurendau leave the building when warned.”

Judge Burdick cancelled the Preliminary hearing on August 20th and ordered Young to show cause why he should not dismiss all charges.

A 9am hearing is scheduled.

Six Months in jail for SLEEPING? Is this America?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

July 20, 2012

Original Post

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.

Jury Trial date set for Linda Lemaster October 15th

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

July 8, 2012

Original Post



 A depiction of the outrage of the Sleeping Ban as depicted by a local homeless artist.


Trial date set in case of Santa Cruz Peace Camp protester Linda Ellen Lemaster

First published:   07/06/2012 08:09:28 PM PDT

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

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

July 8, 2012

Original Post

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

Posted:   07/05/2012 01:09:29 PM PDT

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

Judges affirm that sleeping at any time or place is illegal

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

July 1, 2012

Original Post

 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

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.

Does Santa Cruz jail people for sleeping?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 14, 2012

Original Post

 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.

Does Santa Cruz REALLY put people in jail for sleeping?  You bet they do.

Hero or Criminal?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 12, 2012

Original Post


In this SCPD police photo taken on November 30th, Desiree Foster, age 19, is seen
standing in front of the building around 4:30PM. Rocks placed inside wooden pallets
can be seen weighing down the ends of the banner drop, which were needed due to high winds.

 In a world gone Topsy-turvy, a 19 year old activist who served as a media representative is charged with serious felonies and misdemeanors while a greedy corporate bank which has carelessly left a valuable physical asset boarded up and unused for several years, most likely as a tax write-off, is the “victim” and is prosecuting protesters and whistle blowers while seeking $30,000 in “damages.”

by Becky Johnson
June 12, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — The youngest of the Santa Cruz Eleven, Desiree Foster was arrested as she and her boyfriend were leaving her home on her way to the Santa Cruz County courthouse in an attempt to  quash her arrest warrant by agreeing to appear in court on a date certain. Instead, she spent the next nine hours sitting on plastic seating watching a deputy-controlled television set, having been arrested for two counts of felony conspiracy to trespass and vandalize, and two misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism with bail set at $5,000. Her mother, suffering from cancer attempted to raise the $500 to bail out her daughter, when, inexplicably, Desiree was released on her own recognizance.

But the pressure of the felony charges, the financial instability of her family, and the fear and dread that she faced in dealing with her mother’s cancer, proved to be too much. Desiree took an overdose of pills and wound up in Dominican Hospital, treated for a suicide attempt.

Desiree, a passionate and idealistic young woman, had found her voice attending Occupy Santa Cruz general assemblies, and volunteered for many tasks. At home, she and her mother struggled to pay bills.  Desiree is her mother’s primary caregiver, as she undergoes chemotherapy.   Desiree, like many in her generation, knew that something is inherently wrong with our system if she and her mother had to struggle to keep a roof over their heads while her mom was being treated for cancer.  She lived in a world where with or without a college education, young people could not find good jobs.

Without stable and affordable housing, reasonable wages for jobs, and quality health care for all who need it, too many of the 99% who have followed all the rules, worked hard, paid their taxes, are falling through the cracks. Too many still lack health care, are paid inadequate wages, and must pay housing costs that are through the roof.  Wells Fargo is a key player in the housing foreclosure crisis.

On November 30th, 2011, a group of activists and community members entered a long-vacant bank building leased to Wells Fargo, and attempted to turn it into a community center.   During the occupation of that building by 100 to 300 different people, Desiree volunteered for the task of media representative for the ad hoc occupiers.

“I spoke to the Sentinel, KION, Phil Gomez of KSBW, the Mid-County Post and the Santa Cruz Patch,” Desiree told me by phone.  “I spoke to everyone. I told them that we wanted it to be something better than what it is now, just a vacant spot.” She was interviewed on Community Television as well.

While Police Chief Kevin Vogel and DA Bob Lee have characterized Desiree and the Santa Cruz Eleven as “vandals” and “trespassers” who are disrespectful of private property, the truth is something quite different. For the persons who whole-heartedly embraced the temporary and largely symbolic takeover of 75 River Street, which Wells Fargo had all but abandoned, they meant to use it as a focal point to educate the general public about what that building COULD have been used for instead.

SCPD photo of signs left behind at 75 River Street
naming what that building could have been used for.

Most of the occupiers believe that our democratic system has been hijacked by the wealthy. The wealthiest 1% (Wells Fargo) is profiting at the expense of the rest of the 99%.  For business as usual to continue, it means that you and me, the citizenry in Santa Cruz must live and work around Wells Fargo’s ‘dead spot’ –an empty building sitting for four years now, without a single tenant, providing no jobs, no services, and very little tax revenue to the community, but undoubtedly providing a HUGE tax write-off for the ultra-wealthy bankers of Wells Fargo. While public funds are used to evict Wells Fargo’s “trespassers,”  more public funds are used by a DA to conduct a witch hunt against a largely arbitrary list of “felons.”

Truly those courageous and bold activists who gained entry to the dusty and unused interior without damaging the building in any way, did so for a purpose bigger than their own lives. They took considerable personal risk for doing so, and were unlikely to benefit financially from the takeover. Finally, they performed the occupation by using a consensus process, where they formally agreed to refrain from vandalism.

Indeed, police have thus far failed to provide any photographic evidence of this ‘vandalism’ in the hundreds of photos turned over to the defense as part of discovery. Other than some graffiti and an anarchist sticker on the ROOF air conditioning ducts, no other damage has been documented. Yet prosecutors Lee and Assistant DA Rebekah Young used a figure of ” approximately $30,000″ in damage in their indictments in statements written “under penalty of perjury.”  Yet, even in court, Det. Gunter testified that the last time he checked “That number had been lowered to about $22,000.”

SCPD photo of an anarchist sticker on the roof
access hatch at 75 River Street.

The trespassing claim may be questionable as well. For a person to be found guilty of trespassing, they must first be warned, and, upon that warning, fail to leave the premises. None of the eleven defendants fit that description. Police Officer William Winston testified that the first and only verbal warning was given by Sgt. Harms “between 7:30PM and 8PM” and “after dark.” No signage is known to have been posted until the next day at the earliest.

None of the indictment documents include any evidence that Desiree was warned, and after that warning, failed to leave. Now this may be a technicality, the ability and authority for police to remove unauthorized people from private property involves a series of steps to be taken in a certain order. On the night of November 30th, Desiree met with various members of the press and facilitated answering their questions and providing them with interviews, statements, and at points, access.

During the 72-hour occupation, no protester or police officer was injured. Communication was facilitated between three of the protesters and police, public officials, and media. After 72 hours, the group decided to leave peacefully and even spent a few hours cleaning up before going. Their message had been communicated through the media to the public. In the end, the action spoke for itself.  Wells Fargo had been exposed as the thoughtless, land-hoarder that it is.  The public had been made aware of the building’s occupation and the reasons for it.  And no one was hurt.  No confrontation with police occurred. No tasers. No percussion grenades. No tear gas. No batons swinging. Very little vandalism.  And there were no arrests.

So who is the criminal and who is the law-abiding good citizen? The greedy corporation that will use any property under its control to bilk more money for itself; dollars that should rightly have been paid to the government in taxes? Or a 19-year old girl who participated in a largely symbolic occupation to protest against that greed, that misuse of a valuable asset, and to fight against the fundamental inequities in economic justice system rigged by bought Congressmen and Judges to benefit the richest 1%?

Of course, if Desiree and the Santa Cruz Eleven ARE convicted and sent to prison, this is good news for Wells Fargo as well. For Wells Fargo is the biggest investor in the for-profit prison industry.

A BENEFIT DINNER  on SUNDAY JULY 1st to raise money for Desiree Foster’s family will be held at India Joze Restaurant in Santa Cruz between 3PM and 6PM.  The first $500 raised will be designated to help the Foster family.  For more information:

Santa Cruz Eleven case stalled

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 2, 2012

Original Post

 Endless hearings ordered to appear before Judges where nothing of substance

happens is part of the problem, and part of the abuse

by Becky Johnson
June 2, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — In what has become a long series of dreary court hearings where almost nothing happens, Judge Sillman did not fail to disappoint. Friday, the June 1st hearing was ostensibly to install defendant, Brent Adams’ public defender, to consider whether DA Rebekah Young had finally turned over sufficient discovery, and to set a new, NEW date for a preliminary hearing (This will be my THIRD date for a preliminary hearing).  In all of these hearings, should any defendant not appear in the proper court at the proper time, a warrant is issued for their arrest.

I call it punishment prior to conviction.  DA Bob Lee and his henchwoman, Rebekah Young have been hanging up the lives of 11 citizen activists, overcharging them with duel felonies and misdemeanors, and smeared them as “vandals” and “trespassers” who “don’t respect private property.” His attack on alternative media journalists is naked and self-serving. How can one journalist covering the event be ignored and another charged with felonies for the same actions? But this is the essence of the charges against nearly half of the defendants. One hundred to three-hundred people went into the building in 3 days time, but only these 11 have been charged.

In court on Friday, June 1st, Sillman curtly announced that the attorney he had appointed for Brent Adams the previous week “was not available” and that he was in the process of locating whether Attorney Charlie Stevens was in the building and could be appointed. Adams, who has been appearing pro per since his former PD, Ryan Murphy, discharged himself a week ago, told Sillman ” I’ve already spoken with a Public Defender and he’s agreed to represent me.”

“Who is that?” Sillman asked.

“Jonathan Gettleman,” Brent replied.
“We are not in the process of reaching that particular name,” Sillman replied and ordered all defendants back in court ANOTHER week later at 8:15AM rather than appoint Gettleman on the spot. That means all 5 defendants, their 5 attorneys, press, and supporters must yet again rearrange their schedules, find transportation, parking, and appear under threat of arrest AGAIN because Sillman refused to appoint a PD that the defendant wanted and would be satisfied with.

For me, it’s deja vu all over again.  Judge Ariadne Symons took five hearings to appoint me a public defender, when she could have appointed the attorney I wanted on day one. She accused me of having “other income” and challenged  that since I own a 15 year old car that I had recently purchased for $1,500,  as “proof” that I was income-eligible for the services of a public defender.

We all saw the results of failing to appear at one of Sillman’s hearings. When DA Rebekah Young refiled charges on two defendants whose charges had previously been dismissed by Judge Paul Burdick, she ordered defendants Cameron Larendau and Franklin “Angel” Alcantara to be present in court at 8:30AM. When neither defendant nor either of their attorneys appeared, Sillman ordered a warrant issued for each of them. But supporters murmured that it was highly unlikely that all four people had blown off the hearing. A far more likely scenario was that DA Rebekah Young had made yet another misstep and failed to notify anyone properly.

This judicial merry-go round is getting me queasy.  The next surreal act is scheduled for June 8th at 8:15AM in Dept. 6.  Meanwhile, “victim” Wells Fargo Bank has not rented 75 River Street yet, and with an asking rental of $35, 231.34 per month, it’s going to be a cold day in hell before anyone rents that building. And if the 11 (now 7) defendants wind up in prison with felony convictions, well, Wells Fargo wins. You see, Wells Fargo is the biggest investor in the for-profit prison industry in the United States. Not only do they tell the police and DA to do their bidding at public expense, but they profit from anyone jailed, whether justly or not.

They are a bank. It is all about numbers for them. They charge 11 people with “trespass” and “vandalism” and attempt to extort a phony “$31,000” in damages from the defendants. Later, while under oath, Det. Gunter of the SCPD testified that when he checked “The damages were not as severe as we first thought.”  Now the damages are “$21,000”. The only “proof” of any damages were police photos of graffiti on the air conditioning ducts on the ROOF of the building! It is doubtful it cost $21,000 in spray paint to restore the ducts to their original…beauty.

I suspect the ACTUAL damage to the building to be in the hundreds, NOT thousands of dollars range. Perhaps DA Bob Lee should investigate Wells Fargo for putting up such outrageous claims of damages that it amounts to fraud.

I’ve been thinking about Rosa Parks lately.  I compared Rosa Parks to the people who occupied 75 River Street– a vacant bank building–and tried to turn it into a community center.  It was a noble idea. To turn a blighted building, hoarded by a greedy and heartless bank purely for tax benefits, into a vibrant building serving the public good. I’d long eyed that building as a perfect homeless shelter, since it sat empty year after year employing no one, sheltering no one,  and taking up useful space uselessly.  In 2010, while 75 River Street sat empty, four homeless people died of exposure out of doors in Santa Cruz.

Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of that bus, and she was arrested.  She broke the law intentionally, but did so for the greater good. The people who occupied 75 River Street were like Rosa Parks. They intentionally broke the law, but did so for the greater good.  Now let me make one thing clear:  I am no Rosa Parks. In this scenario, I would have been the person who stayed at the bus stop and never got on that bus in the first place. I’d be like the person who SAW Rosa Parks’ brave act and cheered her on from the sidelines.  You see, I never went into the building. I’m a big chicken.

Yet the toll for the defendants is piling up. “Angel” Alcantara was able to make it to court that day and quash the warrant. But Cameron Larendau could not. He lives in Oakland, CA., doesn’t own a car, and it takes him 3 and a half hours by public transportation to come to each court appearance. Desiree Foster, the youngest defendant at 19 years of age, is taking care of her mother who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. When Desiree was arrested, her mom bailed her out of jail, but they really couldn’t afford the $500. Shortly after that, Desiree attempted suicide and was hospitalized. In my own case, I was handcuffed at my home, carted to jail, and spent the night locked up in “G” Dorm.

The costs to our 1st amendment rights are harder to calculate. Who has been too chilled to join a march since the prosecutions were announced? Who no longer wants to associate with the 11 activists charged lest they be next, or with anyone involved in Occupy Santa Cruz?  And what photographer, journalist or blogger isn’t chilled when the CONTENT of their reporting is being charged as “aiding” and “abetting” criminal activity? Yet “the people” as represented by DA Bob Lee march forward, entirely at public expense, and push forward Bob’s dirty little dog and pony show, where our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, our rights to peaceably assemble, and our rights to seek redress of government grievances are severely challenged and truncated just to promote the interests of Wells Fargo and the status quo.  Where is State Attorney General Kamela Harris on this? Does SHE approve of what DA Bob Lee is doing?

Linda Ellen Lemaster and Steve Pleich: Homeless must not be scapegoated

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

May 27, 2012

Original Post

 Steve Pleich attending a Take Back Santa Cruz
“positive loitering” event, Jan 21, 2011 -photo
by Becky Johnson
May 27, 2012


No words can describe the depth of sadness we feel as a community over the recent and shocking murder of Shannon Collins, which took place midday in a Santa Cruz neighborhood. How can we best — while sharing our grief and despite our differences — respond to such a senseless tragedy in ways that reflect the true measure of our community? In solidarity with our neighbors, we are speaking from our heartfelt concern about a generally anti-homeless policy package that now would attach itself to our grief, to our collective fears and to our rightful rage.

At this time when our community is most in need of strong, creative, compassionate leadership, an ad hoc committee of three Santa Cruz City Council members presents a slate of new policies and regulations that echo the fear and anger many in our community share. Taken together, their package affords none of the depth of reason and cooperation we sorely need in this dark hour. These proposals would prove, by turns, to be harmful, impractical and arguably unlawful.

Let’s not make already dicey tensions morph into a greater conflict. Rather, let’s work more closely with our neighbors, all: housed, homeless, transitioning, students, even our guests. Restoring and creating a better community can include every one of us, and we can develop policies that could actually generate greater safety and human dignity — we all, including homeless human beings, deserve this.

We can lead with compassion and hang onto the notion that every human being deserves dignity. We are offering community engagement rather than a widened divide. Civic safety must include everyone. Make no mistake about who we are calling homeless. We have learned through careful studies, professional surveys every other year, and one-to-one interviews, that 67 percent of the people who are homeless on our streets either grew up here, or were formerly established residents in Santa Cruz. Nationally, adult homeless men, both by personal choice and by exclusive policies, are dying 25-35 years prematurely. Working together, we can help change this grim picture, at least locally.

If the city of Santa Cruz needs to suppress needed emergency sheltering for which it shares responsibility, or to divert city funding to manipulate trafficking of homeless people through our city as if they were of a subclass, or even a subspecies, it behooves everyone, including the city attorney, to create a less reactive and way more inclusive approach beforehand.

We feel the agenda of this ad hoc group promises limited safety while ensuring greater fear, an expanded underground economy that will touch us all, and increased criminalization of uprooted folks that will waste even more court, jail and other staffing resources. Collaborating with the county’s mental health resources is already legally required of the city and focused civic leadership is long overdue, as is restoring funds for an existing homeless resource officer within the Santa Cruz Police Department.

“We all know that there are problems with the system, that there is a large transient population in our city, and that Santa Cruz has its issues,” shared Ken Vinson in a courageous public statement right after his wife and best friend was suddenly, tragically, killed. “But I want to be very clear about one thing: none of these things caused this horrific crime. A single individual did. …
“This crime could have occurred in any city in any state across our union. It is an utter, unfathomable tragedy that it occurred here, and to such a beautiful, young woman. But I implore you: Do not blame the system. Do not blame an entire population. And most of all, do not blame Santa Cruz.”
We agree. If we permit our civic leaders to promote greater bigotry and to further scapegoat homeless people, we will again see increased “troll busting.” There are better solutions, many already in the works, more needing community collaborators; community-based solutions which protect everyone’s human dignity and don’t further trample human and civil rights.

Steve Pleich is director of Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project and Linda Ellen Lemaster facilitates Housing NOW! in Santa Cruz. Both are active in community groups engaged with ending or easing homelessness, including the Interfaith network and Homeless Action Partnership.

Jailing Attorney Ed Frey is an Outrage!

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

August 5, 2012

Original Post

Attorney Ed Frey retrieves the Peace Flag from deputies and returns it to Peace Camp 2010 while protester, Vamp, stands by July 13, 2010.   Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson

August 5 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — Respected local Civil Rights Attorney Ed Frey, has been ordered to report to the Santa Cruz County Jail on Wednesday morning of August 8th at 9AM. He is scheduled to begin serving the remainder of his six month sentence for “lodging” which is a highly-suspect section of the statewide disorderly conduct code. For instance, “lodging” is not defined anywhere in the code section, so law enforcement (and local DA’s and Judges) can interpret what constitutes illegal “lodging” anyway they wish. And since it is a misdemeanor, a violation can result in immediate arrest. Activists consider it an end-run around loitering laws which have largely been declared unconstitutional.

Testimony by several sheriff’s deputies at Ed Frey’s trial cited observing defendants “sleeping” with no other index of criminal activity reported. During the 92 day protest, not a single littering ticket was issued. Ed Frey provided a porto-potty every night as he and hundreds of housed and homeless people alike slept in civil disobedience of laws which criminalize sleeping.

This model of protest was copied and expanded with Occupy Santa Cruz a year later. Ed Frey served on the legal support working group and defended the encampment in court.  In each of these cases, Ed worked tirelessly, providing a powerful voice, setting a moral and ethical framework for dealing with the influx of homeless people who joined the encampment primarily to meet their own physical needs. He even took a pregnant, homeless woman to his home for several nights.

Judge John Gallagher sentenced Frey in a fit of anger he later grew to regret.  The law Ed Frey was primarily focused on opposing was MC 6.36.010 section a, a.k.a. “the Sleeping Ban” for which the maximum fine would have been 8 hours of community service. DA Sara Dabkowski sought 400 hours of community service, which constitutes a 50 fold increase in sentencing. When Ed Frey refused to serve 400 hours of community service, Gallagher angrily sentenced him to the maximum sentence he could issue: 6 months in jail for a 1st offense.

Frey asked to be released on bail pending appeal, only to have Gallagher set bail at $50,000!
Frey served 14 days in jail before being set free at a hearing before a much calmer Judge Gallagher who set bail at $110 which was, apparently, the bail amount for that charge normally.

Frey’s only real chance at appeal took place before appeals court panel, Judge Paul Marigonda and Judge Timothy Volkmann. Marigonda claimed the 6 month sentence was not excessive since he, as a prosecutor, had commonly sent defendants to jail for the maximum sentence when THEY refused community service.  Of course his defendants were involved in domestic violence cases, while Ed Frey was engaged in 1st amendment activities which victimized no one.

The bottom line is it is a CRAZY use of police, court, and jail resources to arrest people for SLEEPING. Be it protestors at a protest or homeless people who can’t afford a roof over their heads. It is wrong. Mean. Cruel. Counter-productive. Selective. It is a human rights abuse done under color of law. And NO ONE who is convicted for sleeping will ever refrain from future sleeping. Sleeping is not a voluntary act.  Every living thing must sleep in order to live. Enforcing a sleeping ban is torturous and causes sickness, mental illness, depression, fatigue, poor immune function and yes, death.  The sleeping ban causes death.

Under these circumstances HOW CAN THEY SLEEP AT NIGHT?

How can DA Bob Lee, County CAO Susan Mauriello, County Counsel Dana McRae, Sheriff Phil Wowack and Judges Gallagher, Connolly, Marigonda, and Commissioner Baskett sleep at night knowing they are the chief conspirators to foment this policy of persecution and judgement.

Attorney Ed Frey made a mockery of our local justice system so that Gallagher had to make up language to feed to his hand-picked jurors in order to get a conviction.  Gallagher even used language cribbed from the 1851 Indiana State Constitution which stated  “No Negro or Mulatto shall come into, or settle in, the State, after the adoption of this Constitution,” when he defined “lodging” as “settling in or living in a place which may include sleeping” as HIS definition of what constituted illegal behavior statewide.

Please attend a protest beginning August 7th at 6PM to oppose the Jailing of Ed Frey. Assert our rights to seek redress of government grievances, our right to peaceably assemble, and our right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment or excessive fines.