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"M" FOR MISDEMEANOR: HOW GARDEN GROVE POLICE MADE UP A CRIME OUT OF

by Duane J. Roberts Saturday, Jul. 09, 2005 at 7:48 PM
duaneroberts92804@yahoo.com

People have asked me if this is true: Did a Garden Grove policeman write up a ticket to an Indymedia journalist who dropped a cigarette butt? After all, this is the same police department we've all been reading about that raided the Westminister home of Theresa Dang in search of a lost flashlight, isn't it? Would it be such a big surprise to anybody now that they actually stooped this low to harass other people whose only real crime was to exercise their constitutional right to free speech and assembly?

<b><font color=#ff00...
gg101255ia.jpg, image/jpeg, 2192x1163

>>> PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY


Friday, July 8, 2005

"M" FOR MISDEMEANOR: HOW GARDEN GROVE POLICE MADE UP A

CRIME OUT OF THIN AIR

Policeman issued criminal citation to Indymedia

journalist who dropped a cigarette butt

By DUANE J. ROBERTS

duaneroberts92804@yahoo.com

GARDEN GROVE, CA -- "The press is not free, it cost me

over 0," remarked Scott Larson, a journalist with

the Independent Media Project, who was quoted in

a brief article entitled, "Journalist Under Attack

By The Garden Grove Police Department," that was

posted anonymously to the la.indymedia.org website

on Wednesday, June 29, 2005.

In that article, Larson recounted a seemingly bizarre

incident that occurred sometime during the early

morning hours after the May 25th protest against

Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist where a Garden Grove

Police officer by the name of Lawton cited him for

dropping a cigarette butt. According to Larson, the

citation issued to him was done with malicious

intent: it was done to punish him for videotaping

this same policeman whom he alleges tried to

"harass and intimidate a peaceful protester" standing

outside on the public sidewalk of Garden Grove Police

Department headquarters.

Among other things, the article mentions Larson later

tried to fight the citation in court, but

that the Commissioner handling his case acted with

indifference. According to Larson, the Commissioner

"seemed to be preoccupied with moving people through

the system as quickly as possible, and did not allow

the opportunity for people to address the court." A

6 fine was imposed.

During the past week, rumors have been circulating

around the internet about the above posting. People have

asked me if this is true: Did a Garden Grove policeman

write up a ticket to an Indymedia journalist who dropped a

cigarette butt? After all, this is the same police department

we've all been reading about that raided the Westminister

home of Theresa Dang in search of a lost flashlight, isn't it?

Would it be such a big surprise to anybody now that they

actually stooped this low to harass other people whose only

real crime was to exercise their constitutional right to free

speech and assembly?

Up until now, Larson, a former Garden Grove resident,

didn't want me to write anything about this matter

until he and his loved ones were many thousands of

miles away from the city he used to live, work, and

play in. "The Garden Grove Police Department is out of

control," Larson told me in a telephone call he made

from the middle of Kansas a couple of days ago. "I

no longer feel safe in the State of California."

On the evening of Wednesday, May 25th, Scott Larson

was an Indymedia journalist covering the protest

against Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, who appeared

at the Garden Grove Woman's Civic Club that night to

deliver a speech before a meeting of the California

Coalition for Immigration Reform. Larson arrived at

the demonstration with a bonafide press credential

that was visible to anybody who saw him; and he

carried all kinds of photographic equipment on him,

including a video camera.

Larson not only shot numerous photos of the

protest as the evening went on, but he captured on

videotape spectacular images of the Garden Grove

Police officers in action, including a scary

situation where about a half dozen policeman suddenly

charged the crowd and tackled a male protester to

the ground, allegedly shoving a nightstick into his

mouth. (according to Larson, this protester wasn't

doing anything to provoke their incredibly violent

attack)

Shortly after Garden Grove Police on the scene decided

to declare the protest an "unlawful assembly",

Larson was one of about 40 protesters, concerned

citizens, and family members who raced to their

headquarters to learn more about the fate of the

persons who had been arrested. There he continued to

cover events as an Indymedia journalist, filming

people marching on the public sidewalk near the front

entrance who demanded that all the protesters

arrested by police that night be immediately released.

But while many people were focusing their attention on

activities taking place directly in front of GGPD

headquarters, a young Mexican woman wearing a bandana

over her face began to look at a small stone memorial

for "fallen peace officers" that was off to the side,

just out of everybody's line of sight. As she

began to read the inscriptions imprinted upon it,

one policeman (hereafter to be known as "Officer

Lawton") began to watch her like a hawk.

At first, Officer Lawton just kept a close eye on her.

But he then looked around to see if he himself was

being watched. Believing that nobody was paying

attention to his actions, he began to walk toward her

in a stealth-like manner: he moved slowly and

silently, just like a hungry lion that was getting

ready to pounce upon his prey. The young woman was too

busy reading the words on the monument to take notice

of him coming towards her.

Although there is no evidence to suggest that Officer

Lawton was planning on arresting or even attacking

this young woman, nobody wanted to risk that

possibility. To the policeman's surprise, a few people

had in fact been watching him from the corner of their

eye; they suddenly sprung up from where they had been

seated and began to rush to her defense. Larson ran

over with his video camera and filmed all of his

movements. He and others began yelling loudly to let

everybody know what was going on.

This sudden burst of attention caused Officer Lawton

to become temporarily disoriented. He began stumbling

around like a drunken sailor, almost tripping over

himself at one point. But when he quickly came to his

senses, Lawton began to back away from the young

woman, apparently realizing how awkward it looked

for him to be in such close proximity to a protester whom

many witnesses agree was doing nothing wrong.

With the guidance of her friends, the young woman

walked back to safety of the crowd. And when things

calmed down a bit, most people sat back down. They

realized that whatever Officer Lawton was planning

to do, it had been foiled by their vigilant response

to his rather questionable behavior.

After that incident, Larson felt a bit nervous. He

pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, lighted it up,

and began puffing on it. The nicotine calmed him

down, somewhat. But when he finished smoking, he

threw the butt down onto the pavement, not thinking

about what he had done. That's when Officer Lawton

sprung into action. It apparently was payback time.

Officer Lawton, who had been staring at Larson, called

him to the side and proceeded to write him up a ticket

for "improper disposal of a cigarette." According to

the citation, Larson was charged with violating

Section 23111 of the California Vehicle Code which

reads:

No person in any vehicle and

no pedestrian shall throw or

discharge from or upon any

road or highway or adjoining

area, public or private, any

lighted or nonlighted cigarette,

cigar, match, or any flaming

or glowing substance.

But this was no ordinary ticket. Officer Lawton wrote

an "M" for misdemeanor on it. Instead of citing Larson

with the usual "littering" infraction, he charged

him with committing a criminal offense that was

punishable for up to a year in jail and a huge fine.

"Is this police harassment?" Larson remembered asking

Officer Lawton as he wrote up the citation. The rather

hefty policeman allegedly smiled and replied, "Yes."

Officer Lawton might have had a few chuckles that

morning by writing up a misdemeanor criminal citation

against a man whose only offense was to drop a

cigarette butt. But the truth is, the last laugh was

on him and the GGPD.

Although various provisions within the California

Vehicle Code can either be enforced as an infraction

or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, there

are statutory limits on how overzealous policemen like

Officer Lawton can choose to enforce these laws.

In Larson's case, he was lucky. A careful examination

of the California Vehicle Code shows that what Officer

Lawton did to him was in direct conflict of existing state

law. Section 40000.28 of the Vehicle Code makes it

explicitly clear that Section 23111 cannot be enforced

as misdemeanor unless the person charged with it is

driving or operating a motor vehicle at the time the

offense has been committed; on the other hand, a

pedestrian who violates this law can only be cited for

an infraction.

Since Larson was standing on the sidewalk the moment

he dropped the cigarette butt, the Garden Grove Police

had no statutory authority to charge him with a

crime other than a simple infraction. Hence,

when they made an attempt to file this case

as a misdemeanor offense, they soon found out

that state law could offer them no justification for them

to do so. In essence, they slammed their heads

into a legal brick wall.

And indeed, the minutes of the "Docket Report" for

Larson's case ( #GG101255IA) obtained from the

Orange County Superior Court on the afternoon of

Friday, July 1st clearly show that the GGPD had

no choice but to handle the citation as an

infraction. According to an entry made by a court

clerk on June 21st, they filed this case as

an "INFRACTION charge of 23111 VC filed as

count 1. Date of violation: 05/26/05". Another entry

posted the very next day mentioned "Courtesy Notice

sent" -- meaning that the court had sent Larson a

letter reminding him of the date, time, and location of

his pending hearing, and information about the

lesser charge he was now facing.

When I asked Larson if he received any letters,

he acknowledged that about a week before his

scheduled court appearance, he received one in his

mailbox. What did it say? It informed him that

the citation issued by Officer Lawton on the

morning of May 26th had been "miswritten as a

ticket".

On the morning of Wednesday, June 29th, Larson

drove from his Garden Grove home to the

West Justice Center in the City of Westminster

and appeared before Commissioner Kenneth I. Schwartz

in Dept. W2. When his name was called, he made an

attempt to argue his case before Commissioner

Schwartz; but Schwartz wanted none of that. Larson

told me that the Commissioner appeared to be

"rushing the cases through system" and was putting

pressure on everybody who came before him to enter

a guilty plea. After squabbling a bit with the Commissioner,

Larson eventually capitulated. According to minutes

of the "Docket Report", Larson plead "GUILTY as to

count(s) 1." Commissioner Schwartz then

ordered him to go forthwith to the clerk's office and

pay 6 worth of fines, fees, and penalty assessments.

He promptly paid it and left the courthouse.

When I asked Larson about what he thought about

all of this, he said it really doesn't matter to

him anymore now because he's thousands of miles

away from California. Although he told me he didn't

originally want to plead guilty nor pay all

that money, he decided to do whatever it took

to settle this matter once and for all; he

didn't want it to stop him and his family from

fleeing the state: "Sometimes I have to realize

that the system does bite back."

--------------------------------------

Permission granted for reproduction for the above work

in any non-profit publication provided that credit is

given to the author of this work.

--------------------------------------

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT SCOTT LARSON

--------------------------------------

Copy of the "Docket Report" for Scott Larson's case

(#GG101255IA) obtained from the Orange County

Superior Court on the afternoon of July 1st can be

downloaded below from the la.indymedia.org website.

Please see below.

--------------------------------------

Statutory provisions within the California Vehicle

Code that pertain to Scott Larson's citation and

regulate how Section 23111 can be enforced by law

enforcement agents and judicial officers:

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc23111.htm

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d17/vc40000_1.htm

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d17/vc40000_28.htm

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d18/vc42001_7.htm

--------------------------------------

Journalist Under Attack By The Garden Grove Police

Department

1Planet1People

6/29/05

la.indymedia.org

http://la.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/131121.php

--------------------------------------

Minutes of Tuesday, June 14th meeting of the Garden

Grove City Council where Scott Larson, Theresa Dang,

and others spoke critically of the police

6/14/05

City of Garden Grove

http://ch.ci.garden-grove.ca.us/internet/pdf/afm/cc/m06142005.pdf

--------------------------------------

To learn more about how you can help people who were

either arrested or criminally charged for various

offenses by Garden Grove Police as a consequence of

their participation at the May 25th protest against

Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, please go to http://www.may25.org or email may25legaldefense@yahoo.com.

Please consider making a financial contribution.

Also check la.indymedia.org regularly for the latest

news on this matter as they are covering this matter

very aggressively.

--------------------------------------

SEE THE FOLLOWING LINKS FOR OTHER INFO

--------------------------------------

Minuteman Flap Leads to Home Search

Daniel Yi

6/18/05

The Los Angeles Times

http://la.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/129652.php

--------------------------------------

GG Police pursue phony criminal charge against woman

hit by Minuteman supporter

Duane Roberts

6/17/05

la.indymedia.org

http://www.la.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/129491.php

--------------------------------------

No probe of police conduct at anti-Minuteman protest

Eleeza Agopian

6/15/05

The Orange County Register

http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/06/15/sections/local/local/article_560039.php

--------------------------------------

The first photo on this page is of Theresa Dang, one

of four persons struck by a minivan driven by Hal

Netkin

LA-IMC

5/25/05

la.indymedia.org

http://www.la.indymedia.org/news/2005/05/127222.php

--------------------------------------

Garden Grove Police Lt. Mike Handfield sends me a

message about Theresa Dang

Duane Roberts

6/21/05

la.indymedia.org

http://www.la.indymedia.org/news/2005/06/130193.php

--------------------------------------

Report this post as:

Downloadable PDF file of the "Docket Report" for Scott Larson's case (#GG101255I

by Duane J. Roberts Saturday, Jul. 09, 2005 at 7:48 PM
duaneroberts92804@yahoo.com

download PDF (640.6 kibibytes)

Downloadable PDF of the "Docket Report" for Scott Larson's case (#GG101255IA) obtained from the Orange County Superior Court on the afternoon of Friday, July 1st.

Report this post as:

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here you go Hex Sunday, Jul. 10, 2005 at 5:15 AM
oh sorry man - here's the whole document Hex Sunday, Jul. 10, 2005 at 5:48 AM

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