** Getting An Attutude Adjustment - Courtesy of LAPD
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - February 9, 2001
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The reason the officer gave for the stop, however, wasn't expected."This car has been reported stolen," he said as I looked straight ahead and placed both hands on the steering wheel.I didn't see how that was possible since I was the owner, but mistakes happen, I guess. The parking lot of a Mobil gas station wasn't the place to argue the point anyway. After I'd produced a valid drivers license, proof of insurance and car registration, the officer went back to his vehicle to run my name through his computer -- but not before three additional patrol cars raced into the Mobil station, sirens wailing, effectively boxing me in.At this point I became concerned. In the past, baseless stops lasted only a few minutes. At worst my car would be ransacked and I'd get an aggressive body search. Somehow this seemed different. After several minutes the officer walked back towards my car. "Did you know you have a warrant?" he asked flatly. I said "no," and asked what the warrant was for. His reply left me more puzzled.HANDS ON THE HOOD"Get out of the car," he said, and stepped back a few paces. I did as I was told. "Turn around and put your hands on the hood of the car. Now." the officer said more insistently.I complied and over the next several seconds was told that I had a warrant out for my arrest. The offense? Driving without a drivers license. ....As I was being frisked and handcuffed, I reiterated my innocence to the officer. "You see that my license is valid," I said, "and the DMV wouldn't have renewed it if I had a warrant." I also pointed out that my car registration and insurance were current, both impossible to get with an invalid license. "You can explain all that to the judge," the officer said, "but right now you're going to jail."I didn't say another word, but as he tightened the handcuffs around my writs something deep inside me wailed. This was insane. I had a college education and a full-time job. I wasn't a criminal. I was an established journalist, a solid citizen who hadn't missed voting in an election in more than 10 years.Over the next several hours, though, I would learn how insignificant all that really was. At the city jail, I was booked, fingerprinted, photographed and tagged like a laboratory animal before being led to an empty, odorous cell. Strange emotions moved through me. For the first time in my life I was thrown behind bars. ....After breakfast we were driven by bus to the Los Angeles County Jail. Prisoners from all over Los Angeles County are brought there before being bused to courts as far away as Compton and Malibu. After several hours, my group was taken to the courthouse that issued our warrants.When we arrived, we were taken to a holding cell and given lunch: a processed meat sandwich, two small sugar cookies and a carton of juice two days away from its expiration date. The taste was unbelievably bad. The judge's attitude was even worse. Earlier that day he sent a parolee back to prison for riding a bicycle at night with no headlight. He was definitely a judge I didn't want to see.When I finally stood before the judge, he told me that I violated parole. Parole? I had never been on parole. .... The judge violently shook a piece of paper I'd never seen before in his hand and again told me I'd broken parole. Again I said that I had never been on parole."Well, we'll just figure all this out at the trial," he said angrily, then informed me I'm to be back in court in three weeks. "You'll be held in custody at the Los Angels County Jail until then."My mouth dropped open. The dreaded county jail -- home to the most dangerous criminals in Southern California, and since my family was not allowed to bail me out at the courthouse, there was no way to defer me from that destination.THROWN IN TOGETHERThe Los Angeles County Jail was worse than I could have imagined. It's a grimy, dirty hold with nothing that suggest its caretakers hail from a civilized society. The cells are saturated with filth, and what mattresses there are for the bunks are as hard as wood and as disgusting as anything you've ever seen.Several of the bunks in my "dorm" (which housed 30 men) had no mattresses, so occupants were forced to sleep on the bare hard steel. Roaches and rats are commonplace here. In fact, rats scurry about with surprising boldness.As I entered the crowded cell, I met various offenders. Some more serious than others, but in the republic of jail, we're all thrown in together. Drug dealers, thieves, murderers and me -- a traffic violator. As I looked around the room, I became horrified at the conditions I saw. Men sleeping on hard metal beds, and dirty toilets in one corner without an appearance of an enclosure. Readily available toilet paper was embarrassingly absent.Yet despite degenerating conditions at the county jail, the guards make it truly unbearable. Undisciplined, unequipped and seemingly untrained, I saw firsthand how the guards take twisted delight in causing the agony the inmates are forced to endure. Each word out of the mouths of the guards is proceeded by a four-letter expletive, and their slightest whim dictates law.Forget the state Supreme Court or local legislators. The Los Angeles County Jail has become an isolated fascist society -- one ruled by would-be dictators of the worst character.I didn't, however, suffer needlessly. My firsthand observation have changed the way I see inmates, jails and authority -- and the way they can all be abused if we don't heed the warnings of the past. History shows us that an attack on the Constitution won't happen instantaneously. It will be predicated by hundreds of small violations we rarely notice....I...stood before a different judge in the same courtroom. It was a speedy trial. And as all charges against me were dropped, I began to feel vindicated. I didn't receive a fine or even, for that matter, a reprimand of any kind. I did, though, get my wake-up call. I suppose everybody gets one. When will you get yours? -Vic Everett
As one having similar experiences as Vic Everett, I must take this opportunity to confirm his testimony. I remember in 1972 when I was called to Los Angeles, I was asked, as a minister, to make visitations upon the inmates there at the request of the inmates. Back then, I had the idea that the jails were only for bad people who had committed some serious offenses against society.Now having had the experiences of being thrown in the County Jail two or three times for rinky-dink charges such as having taken a principle stand against the injustices committed by Lockheed Corporation in conspiracy with the DMV, I have had a serious attitude adjustment. After then spending seven days on that occasion, the bottom line was my being "found guilty" of not having a valid drivers license when I indeed had a bona fided temporary driver's license from the DMV in my pocket. (The DMV refuses to issue me a driver's license because of my religious convictions regarding the Social Security Number). I was given seven days in jail with "time served" for my evil crime against humanity.Mr. Everett above relates to the conditions he encountered while in there. Let me say that I inspected the place as an inmate for Health and Safety Violations. I found a sink that was backed up, no toilet paper at the commodes, slop water infested with urine on the floors, overcrowding, insuffient bedding to name a few. I reported these conditions to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, who is charged with inspecting the place, and also brought suit against the Los Angeles County for these Health and Safety Violations. I alledged therein that if this were any private business, it would be closed down. (Of course, the County had the judges to cover for them.)Also, let me point out some statistics for the benefit of those who do not know. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is obligated by contract to bus around "prisoners," has more "patrons" daily than does the entire commercial enterprise of Greyhound in Los Angeles. For one living in the outskirt states, the jail operations in Los Angeles would absolutely boggle their mind, and one of the biggest enterprises in California is prisons, with the leading employment being guards.I was herded through the system with standing room only taking six hours just to reach the inside where there were no beds available in a convention center size room. After having panned the entire room, I finally found an "available" bed of which I climbed into. No sooner had I bedded down that I was tapped on the should and a man said, "Your in my bed, I just went to the toilet." I quickly jumped out of bed and found myself a place on the cold hard concrete floor for the night. Folks, it is truly a hell-hole which no one who has gone through it, will readily tell you. Keep in mind that this was my experience in which I had not yet even had any charges laid against me four days after my arrest.I have consistently challenged in court the lack of probable cause hearings by a magistrate in arrests in several of my lawsuits. Never once has this grievance be addressed in any court in California in which I brought action. In one civil rights case brought by me for lack of a magistrate before Federal Judge William Keller, of which some of our prior emails have deal, Judge Keller said, "Well, if there had been a magistrate, ...." and I said, "We can not deal with what ifs, we must deal with reality, and the fact is clear, I was deprived of the Constitutional right preserved under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to a magistrate." Did I get that issue heard? Not a all, even though it went clear to the U.S. Supreme Court with a $300 filing fee, and a single word, "Denied."From the account of Vic Everett above, anyone can clearly see the need for a pre-determination of probable cause before being thrown in jail to face a trial three weeks later, and told, in effect, fgo home, forget this ever happened. As Mr. Everett says, it was not all for naught, because he did get an attitude adjustment about inmates, jails and authority.-Ron BransonJ.A.I.L. is an acronym for (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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