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by Sirina Elliott
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2003 at 5:45 PM
This is about a couple thrown in jail without anyone to defend them. This is about the United States of America and the war on drugs. This is about a war on their people.
My name is Sirina Elliott. I don't know where to begin. My friend, Michael Kruger and myself were arrested for possession in Santa Monica on March 9th 2002. I will try to make a long story short. I will skip the details of the arrest but I can assure you, there was misconduct beyond belief, but the rest of my story is so unbelievable that it will make the arrest sound like a rose coloured parade. Firstly, our lawyer showed up late resulting in a bench warrant that was lifted upon his arrival. I had tried getting our police reports but was unsuccessful. According to our lawyer, they told him that he would have to wait 'till the arraignment. (I do believe him on this issue, for that is what the clerk told me too.) Upon receiving the reports, our lawyer requested a continuance, in order to have time to review the reports. I was planning on pleading not-guilty. They had not found anything on my person, I was not driving and it wasn't my car and they had not given me a urine test. My boyfriend was not so lucky, he Copt to everything. I know Michael. I also know how much they lie on reports not only from looking at this one but about ten years ago, I sued the LAPD for police misconduct and won about 24,000 dollars, It isn't a lot of money however, the officer quit the dept three months before trial. It somehow restored my faith in humanity. The judge would not grant a continuance, in fact he told us that we had a few minutes in the hallway to review the reports. Our lawyer met us out in hallway and appeared, to be alitte rattled. He asked us if we were under the influence? Apparently, the judge at the bench told our lawyer and the DA , that he believed we were under the influence and if we didn't plead guilty that we would probably be tested for drugs and if found guilty, sent to jail. I could see my friend becoming real nervous, and myself, well I was trying to remember everything I had ever heard on drugs and pot and how long it took to get them out of my system. Confused and Afraid, we took the DEJ program. As we were leaving, the DA, became (in my opinion) hysterical. Stood up in front of the two of us and asked our lawyer if we were driving, if he was going to let us drive like that. Everyone in the court room started laughing, even all the lawyers. We said nothing and headed toward the door. She darted for the door and ran out of the court room, down the hallway to what appeared to be the police dept. Our lawyer told us that he had never seen anything like this in his life. (Now comes the part that really has me pretty much devastated. It all happened in court and all of it should be in the transcripts. Oh Yeah, both, the judge and the DA were objecting to a "conflict of interest" issue. The judge made it very clear that he felt that we should retain two different lawyers and at one point asked us why we had not done so and we expressed to him that financially it just was not possible. We waived the conflict of interest issue and left. Sadly disappointed and afraid. After being arrested, having my friend, David's car impounded and being threatened to be arrested again, I was scared! We came to the conclusion, that our lawyer wasn't acting very much in out interest in fact he seemed frightened. We felt as though we got shafted and we both were fearful of what was to come. The judge had rescheduled another court in approximately a month. I did check into probation. Our lawyer called us and told us that he would not be able to make the court date. So we figured that the date would be cancelled, since our lawyer wasn't there. Giving us a alittle more time to find another lawyer (after we had dropped 3,000 dollars on him) My family found out. My grandmother died two months later and my mom has been in and out of intensive care with terminal illness. Fortunately I called the court to inform them that I might have to leave to see my family and in the course of doing so, I was told that regardless of my lawyer not attending that court date, that my friend and I would have to be there or a bench warrant could be issued to the both of us.
We showed up 30 minutes late. We really thought that the judge would dismiss us and reschedule a court date sometime when our attorney could be present. Instead, what happened is, they assigned us a public defender. We pretty much had no say in the matter. The computers were not showing that we had checked in to probation. (which I had ) The judge, expressed his disdain for our being late and had already issued a bench warrant and had terminated DEJ. He also commented on our appearance, asked me if perhaps I had drank too many cups of coffee or if , perhaps I am just naturally hyperactive. He commented on Michael's lack of sleep. (every single time we have been in court the judge always infers that we are under the influence.) David Lyons, my roommate and a wheel chair bound vet whom I take care of, has been in court with us every time. Another lawyer had commented to him about the judges remarks in the court room saying, that he couldn't see anything wrong with us and that he felt it was unusual. The judge, For whatever reason(s) never liked the "conflict of interest" issue. I feel , that he saw the opportunity to change it and did so. There is another issue that happened with the public defender but I would be discrediting myself, if I were to describe the numerous attacks on us.
In short, the public defender told us that he was going to have the DEJ reinstated. He told us to be sure to check in to probation, enroll in a program and to show for our next court date on time. Again we left thoroughly confused. We didn't even know who our lawyer was anymore.
Am I still in the United States of America??
No counsel? No bail? No questions?
Within 48 hours, I called the probation office., I was told that Mr. Hunnycut, my probation officer would not be returning for about a week or a alittle longer. I asked to speak to a supervisor and Mr. Jew came to the phone. I explained my situation and how uncomfortable I felt waiting that long to check in and to enroll in to a program. He told me that he was aware that I had checked in and that he would make a note of it in the computer. He assured me that I was in compliance with my probation. I called Mr. Hunnycut as soon as he returned. I called Mr. Hunnycut as soon as he returned. I updated him on my case. After looking at my case he told me that the DEJ had not been reinstated, that it had been terminated. Repeatedly I reiterated what the judge had told me. After checking a couple more times he told me that it could be that I had made a mistake and when he found out that my court day was only a couple a weeks away, he told me not to worry about it, to stay out of trouble and to see him after the court date. I pleaded with him about enrollment but he told me that he could not do it so long as the computers were saying that the DEJ had been terminated. I had a bad feeling about this so, I called the supervising probation officer, Mr. Jew and ran down the results of Mr. Hunnycuts efforts . Mr. Jew came back to the phone with the same results, the computers were still showing that the DEJ had been terminated. After several attempts he asked me to call back in a couple of days to see if anything had changed. Mr. Jew has been the most helpful person and the only person that could see my dilemma .He could see and hear the desperation in my voice. I waited for one day and called him back, I even went down to the "High Road Program" to try and enroll but they would not let me without the proper papers. Over the course of about two weeks I called Mr. Jew every other day. He told me if I were to have any problems, to give the judge his name and that he would gladly explain the problems we were having. (Mr. Jew told me that he rarely sees any cases from Santa Monica, and that this was very unusual. 5 days before my court date Mr. J ew told me to go ahead and call the clerk so that the clerk would also see the problem ahead of time. So I did.
She told me that the DEJ had been reinstated, that there didn't seem to be a problem. I asked her if she could tell me when the computers had been updated and she could not. Almost on the verge of tears I explained my situation to her. I asked her if were possible that the computers in Santa Monica were different or were they all on the same system? She told me that she was pretty sure they were n the same system. I called Mr. Hunnycut and the computers were now showing that the DEJ had been reinstated Mr. Hunnycut wasn't really the one I had been corresponding with, he seemed to have his hands pretty much tied. However, he was still my probation officer that was handling my case. I briefly reminded him of my case and asked him if I could go ahead and enroll in to a program. He told me that it was a little too late, besides my court date was now right around the corner. The clerk had told me to call the person I had been corresponding with and to either have him call judge Kamin or write a note to him. Frantically, I called Mr. Jew. He saw the update but apparently the computers did not show the entry date of the update. He told me that he would gladly try call the judge and that I could pick up a letter for judge Kamin the night before my date. I arrived 5 minutes before five and they had closed. From what everyone had told me, everything should have been alright. I had a supervising officer telling me not to worry. I knew that I had honestly put forth my best effort but I was worried. My attorney had called me and told he that he was going to resign the morning of the court date. I wouldn't pay him anymore money. I had already given him 3,000 dollars and he wanted 2,000 more. I won't get into the details, I'm sure that you can surmise for yourself, the problematic positions he had placed us in.
Michael and myself ran into our attorney in the hallway. We were late again and talking with him in the hallway didn't help. He told us that the judge was waiting to see if we showed up before he issued a warrant. Michael had been throwing up that morning he was a nervous wreck . He informed us that he had just resigned. This whole thing just didn't feel right. The judge didn't wait very long at all to call our names. We stood up. (the transcripts would be most accurate) He started off by informing us that our attorney had resigned. The judge said that he could see that we had made no effort at all in trying to comply with the program. I began to defend myself and he became angry, I guess he forgot that our lawyer had resigned, I don't know…He told us that he was going to see if prison would make a difference, without bail. It all happened so fast. It was confusing. They started putting handcuffs on us. I Michael started flipping out when they were handcuffing him. There was a lot of confusion. I was desperately trying to give the judge, Mr. Jews name. He would have nothing to do with it. Michael was screaming and crying. Pleading with me asking me to do something. I tried asking my friend David Lyons something t but they turned me back around. I pleaded with the judge repeatedly to listen as they took us away. Later, I found out that my friend David Lyons asked the judge to please release us. He told the judge that I take care of him, I give him his medications and that he didn't even have a ride home. The judge refused. Even as I write this letter, I realize how sad and scared I am. I have this threat constantly hanging over my head. I am afraid all of the time. I am sad all of the time.
Prison. I had no idea what went on in there. My freedom was not only robbed, I was treated like an animal. I laid on a gurney in a hallway in my own vomit having multiple seizures. The doctors had all gone home. This wasn't supposed to happen to me. Two well dressed, white Americans, without a record? I am still trying to make sense out of a crime that was far worse than any crime, my friend and I had committed.
I know, that my story is long but I can assure you that I have revised it as much as I can. As I have told you before, there is much that I have left out. I shall be as brief as possible. I humbly thank anyone who has taken the time to read my story. May God be with you.
I will not go in to some of the details in prison because , I just can't. I feel like my childlike side has been messed with. My boyfriend, won't talk about it at all. I find him by himself crying. I know that whatever happened inside there has affected him. For me, I'm scared. I'm scared all the time .
I'll just skip to Tuesday when we went back to court. They walked us into the court room. This was the first time I had ever seen or met Michael's father. Michael's grandfather (ex. LAPD captain) was there as well. My friend David was there as usual. Something was wrong, I felt it. Nothing wrong had ever occurred to me 'till that day. I know I must be crazy but the judge seemed nervous. I know that the judge and the DA always wanted us to be put on a program that was more strict. Prop 36 was mentioned a lot. I thought for sure that is what they were going to do. The judge immediately assigned us a public defender. This court room seemed like a circus. First the judge is saying that he felt we should go ahead and be put back on DEJ. Because, Michael had medical insurance they all agreed that it would be good for Michael to go to an outpatient program at Tarzana. A friend of mine showed up with some people from cry-help to see if that would be suitable for the judge. Again he expressed, that he felt the program would be too hard on me…(?) ( I just got out of county) The DA then begins to say, that he feels that my boyfriend and I should be separated. (????) WHAT??? The judge asked the DA if we lived together. Someone replied yes and the judge immediately backed off. For a minute they were actually talking about separating me and my boyfriend. I am 38 years old. And my boyfriend is 33. The public defender advised me, he said to me although, the judge cannot actually separate the two of you, it would be best if we tried not seeing each other as much. (WHAT???) I told him that we lived together. He said, I know. The judge released us and gave us another court date a month away at that time he would determine what program we would be placed on.
Can the California courts really separate two people that love each other?
My friend David told me that when we left the court room (the judge released us with a return court date) he went on to another case. When he had finished with the case that followed ours, the judge brought up our name again. Apparently, there was another discussion about us after he had left. The judge assigned as two separate public defenders. Different than the ones that represented us that day. The following week I needed to speak to the public defender they had assigned to me, only to find out that they had changed my public defender again without notification.
Our next court date was on December 6th. The judge gave us a few minutes out in hall with our new public defender. (remember the judge had not placed us on any program yet. Even if I had wanted too, my probation officer could not have enrolled me in to a program without the reinstatement of DEJ or paper work for a new program.) Unlike Michael, I didn't have medical insurance. When I was talking to my public defender out in the hallway, Michael public defender approached my public defender and said " You know that the judge wants then to go back on DEJ don't you?) he looked at her as though you know what needs to be done (maybe I'm crazy, but I got the idea that the judge had made a mistake by putting us in jail and any ruling based around that mistake could be a problem) My public defender was a alittle annoyed and said well I won't let Sirina make a decision until she hears about the other programs. I agreed to the DEJ. The first thing the judge did when we stood up was infer that I look as though I were under the influence. Secondly, he remarked on how terrific Michael looked. Michael a week before, failed the urine test. Michael had also missed about 5 days in a row after the test. The closer we got to our court date the more terrified we became. I am telling you this with Michael's permission so that you see what we have been dealing with. The negligence of the courts, worked in our favor this time. The judge obviously had not been updated on Michael's progress report. He told Michael how good he looked and said something to the effect of…Too bad that not everyone was doing as well as him. The judge told Michael to come back in May. The judge informed me to be back in one month. (I am going to make this short, I just back from the hospital and I need to rest.) I immediately enrolled into a program was going to my classes. I showed up to court on time. My friend David was with me. The first thing the judge says is " well it looks as though you haven't done anything again" ) I Freaked!!!! I looked at my public defender, she told me to relax.
My public defender told him that I had enrolled. The judge asked me if I had attended any classes and I told him I had. The judge then remarked on how dry my mouth was. David my friend raised his hand and told the judge how the nights before a court date I'm throwing up, I can't sleep, I'm a nervous wreck and that yes, her mouth is dry she hardly had any sleep, She also took something to help her sleep. The judge said well maybe one day it would be nice to see her off all drugs, even prescription drugs. To whom ever it may concern. Please send me some legal advice.
Me and my boyfriend are not doing well at all. my court date was on the 28th. That morning around 3:30 am I went into the emergency with a migraine. David Lyons called my public defender and left a message. I am sure I am in trouble. My boyfriend was sent a letter on the 10th of January stating his next court date which was on the 9th. We kept the envelope. They also informed him of his new court room and a new judge. After all the trouble they gave us about having the same attorney, who do you think they assigned michael to? The same public defender they assigned me to.
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