Charges dropped!!!!

I sent this email out to lots of people. If you're reading it, well that means you care about my dear website so you are invited too! (I sure as hell don't have the email addresses of everyone I wanted to invite...)

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Long story short: the mess is over and I win. Rambling details below. We are having a Victory Party this Friday evening - at whatever evening time - at the new apartment @ 32 Spruce Place, Apartment 200, in downtown Minneapolis, and everyone's invited. I mean everyone. Forward this email around if you like - 'they' are invited too. Here's the GoogleMap to the Apt. - you just drive up Hennepin towards downtown, turn right at Spruce Place (a block before South 13th street) and then go a block to Harmon Place. The building's on the corner, and I'm going to put my red stoplight in the window as a beacon!

My contact info is: 651 338 7661, AIM: hongpong2000, http://www.hongpong.com (as always)

Last night I was walking to the Hennepin Ave. Davannis with my roommate Colin Kennedy, and a random dude asked us for a cigarette, as they do so often. He talked with us as we walked, about how good friends have to give hard advice (as a friend did about the case that night)... I told the dude my dilemma - that I had to go to court tomorrow and decide if I should plea bargain. He said he'd had his troubles with the law and had been caught with 17 ounces of cocaine (someone else's, of course!) and he'd had the option of a plea for 15 years or going up for 40. He said that going to jail was good for him, it forced him to change his life, and he spent 3 years reading law books. The state wouldn't fight hard to force a plea because it costs lots of money to impanel a jury, he said. He told me that I should stick it out and tell the truth, and whatever higher power I might believe in would see that the truth would set things right, and it would be plain for all to see. Best legal advice I'd gotten in a while!

It took almost seven full months, but we stuck it out in court and rotated through three judges in all. However, today I didn't expect anything would happen, except setting a court date with yet another judge. This time around, the new one, Judge Kathleen Gearin, talked with Gary Wood, my lawyer, and the city prosecutor Jeffrey Martin, for quite awhile in the Chambers.

When Gary came back it was some good news. He wasn't sure how the judge was feeling about it but they'd offered a Disorderly Conduct with a $50 fine. I compared that with the thought of hundreds more dollars on legal fees that I can't afford and I decided to go for the plea. We went back in to wait to finish this thing.

I'm recollecting this from memory here... So when we went up to the judge in court, she asked if I wanted to take the plea and I said something like 'Yes, because I can't afford to go any further.' She looked over the police statements and said that there was something about the issue of spoilage of evidence and a memory card. She asked the prosecutor if this memory card ever showed up at the property room and he said it never had. However, he never offered a particular defense or explanation of this. 

She asked me to explain in my own words what happened, and what if anything was contained on the memory card. I said that we, as a senior class, had been on a riverboat cruise that day, and I'd taken around a hundred pictures of everyone gathered together for one last time ... and she said, alright get to the point... so I said that we'd been in a cottage, the police came in, I took a picture of that and took more pictures outside. I said that I know it is legal to take photographs from a public space as long as you obey lawful orders from police, etc. I told her that I took a picture of someone (Andrew Kracziewicz) being arrested, and then the police hit the camera out of my hand and I got arrested. I said that at the jail, the police had showed me the camera and asked if it was mine, and I said that it was, then I got it back when I was released, without the memory card.

She asked if the photos indicated something illegal by the police, and I said something like that they were being forceful and overreacting. Well, she said, they had to be forceful, and that it seemed from the police reports that some people had been out of control. I didn't try to defend the actions of everyone there and stuck to the matter of the pictures. I said that the existence of the pictures proved that I hadn't been shoving Officer Moore -- I'd been taking pictures. The prosecutor didn't try to defend or challenge this, aside from claiming that the police report was the state's full statement on the matter.

The judge said (I wish I had the exact quote) that, with a reference to a precedent of McGill vs. someone, that failing to produce the evidence was prejudicial to the defendant - and that she was bothered by the fact that these pictures never showed up. Citing some statute, she said that the charge of obstruction of legal process of force was dismissed. She seemed quite ticked about how they never brought the pictures. I had never expected such sharp words about it, so it was really great to hear after all this.

I didn't pontificate about any grand concepts of freedom of the press or claim that Macalester students are all saints because that kind of thing would not really resolve the situation. It was easier to deal with all this with no friends or family at the courtroom watching me - it simplified the whole thing mentally, and well, I hadn't actually expected anything at all to happen today, so I never suggested that anyone go with me.

In the end, at the very least I proved to the police that they can't just destroy photos and expect to totally get away with it. Gary thought that they'd fought so hard in this case because of some of the top city attorneys decided to pressure us - they had earlier demanded written apologies with the other plea bargains, but they forgot to do this in writing, so it's not going to happen.

After the case I bragged to my dear old roommate Alison Norman, who is going crosseyed squinting at law books at William Mitchell 60 hours a week, that I'd won one case and now she better catch up!

When all of this was over I remembered what one friend always used to say to me... "Now Dan, drive carefully. I know what your country does and I don't want to go to Guantanamo!" The terrible truth of what happened in this incident was that Audun, an international student, was assaulted by the jail personnel, and his lack of a US passport probably contributed to that. The police also maced Zeynep in front of her cottage. The experience ruptured their sense of what this country's about -- and with the news these days that Cheney is darting around the Capitol begging Republicans to let them keep torturing vanished foreigners, along with news of a secret network of CIA detention camps in Eastern Europe (why would anyone think badly of secret camps around there, anyway?) -- it seems that this contempt for the rights of non-citizens trickles right down from those policies at the top. Inside jail it's not too difficult to see that you're only a few cells on the spreadsheet away from Guantanamo. It turned out that my ever-cynical friend was quite correct.

There's some possibility of a lawsuit down the line, in the hopes that we could discourage the police and sheriffs from abusing people like this, but I won't make any predictions or plans, and I sure as hell don't want to worry about it that much, after having experienced this weird and time-consuming trip through the System. The odometer's finally rolled over on this mess, and I'm happy about it. Tomorrow I'll wake up free of Conditional Release, having won a piece by standing my ground, but oddly winning after I'd given up.

Cheers to all of you and thanks for your steadfast support, far flung you may be. I want to come and visit people sometime in the dead of winter... +1 for the good guys!

--Dan

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