US Police State
so astonishing and unbelievable, even now I can scarcely believe
it happened. I want to write it all down fast, in one sitting without
stopping, so I don't miss anything, and so everything is recorded
accurately. Here's the exact truth, to the best of my ability to
recall it, of my arrest for (and I have to look at the paperwork
given to me at the jail when I bonded out, because even now I don't
really know), for "concealing one's true name or identity with the
intent to obstruct the due execution of the law, or to hinder or
interrupt a public officer or other person in a legal performance
of his duty or the exercise of his rights under the laws of the
United States or of the State of New Mexico," is exactly how the
charge reads on the complaint, and for get this! the offense
of "Idling," which I never heard before now was a crime. But I learned
quite a lot of new and exciting things on Sunday night.
is exactly what happened. Back in November I bought an IBM Thinkpad
with an integrated wireless LAN client. For several years now I've
been fascinated with the potential of mobile internet access, for
work, and to improve my life in general. So when I ordered my laptop
I made sure to get one that was 802.11b compatible.
I just moved to Farmington, New Mexico, and have been so busy with
work that I haven't found time to order a DSL line for my apartment.
So I've been restricted to using my computer at work, which isn't
a great idea because of the disreputable and waaaay un-pc sites
I frequent, and using library computers that have 30 minute time
limits, which is barely enough time to check email.
on Friday I finally spoke to the phone company people about having
a high speed line hooked up. On Sunday night, wanting to learn a
bit more about my laptop's wireless functions, because I was thinking
of buying an 802.11b DSL router to use with it, I clicked on the
Wireless Lan Client icon on my laptop's desktop.
my surprise a window popped up which said "Signal Strenght = Moderate,"
and "Network Connection = Tibbitts Bridge." To me this seemed to
mean that I was already connected to something, but I had no idea
what. I double clicked on the Explorer browser icon, and it tried
for a while, but then displayed the standard DNS error page that
always comes up when you aren't connected.
I guessed it was just some weird error. But then, as I was walking
around my apartment, I kept thinking to myself, "Tibbitts what
the heck is Tibbitts?" Suddenly it dawned on me that Tibbitts was
the name of the public school one block down from my apartment and
across the street. I remembered the name because I drive by the
sign every once in a while on my way to the gym.
picked up my laptop and walked down the sidewalk towards the school.
Amazingly, the signal meter turned completely green when I walked
into the Tibbitts Middle School parking lot, and clicking on the
Explorer icon caused the MSN site, the default homepage, to flash
onto the screen so fast it was almost instant.
was quite a strange situation. I was standing in the middle of an
abandoned public school parking lot in a hick town in Northern New
Mexico, and enjoying the fastest broadband speeds I've ever seen.
Just standing there for a few minutes I downloaded the Limewire
Gnutella client, and searched for bands and albums on Yahoo using
a few song fragments that had been running through my head lately.
what a lucky break this was, and basically internet starved, I walked
back to my car, which was parked in front of my apartment, drove
back to Tibbitts, and parked in a space near the playground fence.
I listened to the car radio (laptop speakers blow!), checked my
accounts, updated my blog (and made plans to revise it entirely),
and surfed around for some quotes from some columns that I've been
don't know what the ethics of using an open broadband network, on
public property, are. Maybe the school is giving away access to
the public. Maybe (and this is what I think is most likely) the
school has tech equipment that is far more sophisticated than the
available teachers to run it, and have no idea they're broadcasting
a wireless signal to the whole neighborhood. In any case, that's
why I was sitting alone in the driver's seat of my car in the Tibbitts
Middle School parking lot at about 10:30 Sunday night with the radio
on and notebook computer in my lap.
I was blinded by red and blue flashes, and I caught a glimpse of
two police cruisers turning into the lot. I started my engine. Why
I started the engine was because never for a moment did I think
the police were there for me. I suppose I was thinking that I'd
better clear out, if there was going to be trouble at the school.
was only when an enormous (at least 6'3") Farmington Police Officer,
with a military bearing, whom I'll call Patrolman Frank, strode
directly up to my driver's side window and banged on the glass,
that it dawned on me that the police were here about me.
rolled down the window and the Officer ordered me to turn off the
engine. He then demanded my name, and demanded to know what I was
doing there. I've never been good at following orders, especially
from military style bullies like this guy, so I told him that I
wasn't doing anything wrong, I was on public property, and I was
behaving perfectly legally. Again Frank insisted that I tell
him my name. I said no. Then he demanded my driver's license, and
I refused. I pretty vividly recall telling him that I was under
no obligation to reveal anything about myself unless I had done
this is legally right or not under constitutional law decisions
and state law, I have no idea. But one thing even my limited experience
in criminal law has taught me is that the cops have no idea either,
so you just have to be assertive.)
turned purple at this and ordered me out of the car. He was so furious
that I complied. So we stood there in the parking lot looking at
each other. Then he once again demanded my name, and where I lived.
I told him that unless I was under arrest for something, I was free
to leave whenever I felt like it, and then I said I was leaving
and turned away from him towards my open car door.
said I was not free to leave. And when I turned back to face him,
and the other cop who had just joined him, the fresh cop, a younger
guy with a big police mag light, shined it through my open door
into the interior of the car. I was pretty angry at this point,
and I yelled at him to cut it out because he had no reason to search
just basic 4th Amendment law a government search of private property,
like the interior of a car, requires some reason. At that point
they had nothing, and if he had discovered anything, his ignorant
incompetence at that moment would have caused the case against me
to fall apart. Thank goodness for his career that the only incriminating
thing in my car was a notebook computer and a pair of roller blades,
and not a haul of cocaine or a dead body.)
I recall repeating that I was leaving unless I was under arrest,
and I turned to go. Somehow during this exchange Frank grabbed my
shoulder and I shook his hand off. And that was pretty much that I was up against my car and he put the cuffs on, telling me that
I was under arrest. In hindsight I suppose I could have fought him
off. He was big, but pretty old and out of shape. But all my public
defender clients who resist get a second misdemeanor resisting charge
added to their case, so I just let him handcuff me.
roughly very roughly, out of all proportion to my compliant demeanor patted me down, and when he felt the cell phone in my breast pocket,
I said, "that's a cell phone." I was astonished when he didn't take
it. What a stroke of luck! Then he led me to his police cruiser
and put me in the back seat. I asked him if he would shut the door
of my car and bring me the keys. Frank replied that my car would
no way you're towing my car," I said. He then shut the door on me,
leaving me imprisoned in his police car, and he and the three other
cops began to search my car.
is totally bogus," I was thinking. My hands were cuffed behind my
back, and I was uncomfortably twisted towards the window to keep
from sitting on them. I have weirdly long, chimp-like arms, that
hang almost to my knees when I'm standing up, so it just took a
little stretching to get the cell phone out of my pocket. I started
scrolling down the speed dial list, thinking I needed to talk to
someone fast so they could get over here and stop these morons from
towing my car, which I know to be a nasty government racket where
the police get commissions from corrupt tow truck companies on the
absurdly high impound fees they charge for releasing one's car.
the libertarian LRC angle, I object even more to these kinds of
"private" companies that collude with the government, than I object
to the government itself. What a sleazy business.)
recently graduated lawyer Iíll call Cindy, who I work with at the
Public Defender's office, lives only a few blocks north of my apartment,
so I lit her name up on the speed dial list and hit send, feeling
bad because it was really too late on a work night to be calling
anyone. But this was kind of an emergency.
picked up on the second ring, just as the police popped open the
trunk of my car, from which they pulled out my roller blades. "What
a bunch of idiots keystone cops," I was thinking.
I can't tell you how powerful and excellent it was to hear her friendly
voice on my cell phone. I felt a sudden rush of overwhelming relief
and defiance towards the government bullies who had kidnapped me
and falsely imprisoned me in this mobile jail. Now I understand
how important and empowering it was for those hero-victim passengers
of the Sept. 11 high-jacking attacks when they made their doomed
cell phone calls to their families, and to the authorities, in defiance
of the terrorists who intended to kill them.
there's any last hold-outs against cell phones out there, and my
dad is probably the last one (he calls them "leashes") but if
there are any final cell phone resisters besides my dad, you simply
must get one. Cell phones are a miracle of capitalism, empowering
you by allowing you to contact allies and alert friends in whatever
situation you find yourself in.
me locked in the cop car while the police tampered with my property,
or like the Sept. 11 victims, or whenever there are violent criminals
using force against helpless victims, a cell phone will definitely
come in handy. Get one now!
even a cell phone can't always save the day.
hurriedly told Cindy what happened: "I was sitting in my car in
the school lot across the street from my apartment using my laptop and all of a sudden it was a cop party. This jerk demanded that
I identify myself and tell him where I lived, and I told him that
I wasn't doing anything wrong and didn't have to tell him anything.
I tried to walk away, but he arrested me and I'm in the back of
his stupid car right now and they're going to tow my car. Can
you come over here and take my car back to my apartment? Otherwise
I'll be charged by some sleazy tow truck company for a tow."
was like "Oh my gawd!" and she said she'd be right over.
five minutes later, as the Farmington Police thugs tore apart my
car, Cindy's gray Toyota truck pulled into the lot. She stopped
and walked over towards the officers. When they saw her coming,
Frank walked out and met her in the middle of the lot. I saw them
converse for a while, but I couldn't hear what they said. For those
of you who've never had the experience, the back of a police car
is the vehicular equivalent of a bomb shelter. Frank's was completely
I got the story later. She told him we were both public defenders
and that she was here to take my car back across the street to where
I lived. Frank, an unsurpassing dunce, couldn't understand how she
got there. "He must have called you before he was arrested," he
said, apparently unaware that cell phones work anywhere, even in
the back of police cars. She asked again if she could take the car
back to my place, but they refused to release the car to her, even
though there was no tow truck in sight, claiming that once a suspect
had been arrested the car must be towed. (I wonder what the police
cut of the towing fee is? 50%? It's as if they're working on a kind
of perverse commission system.)
Cindy what a pistol!, what a gal! demanded to meet with "her
client" right then. But the police refused, claiming that I'd been
uncooperative, which makes absolutely no sense, because the preposterous
claim that I had refused to cooperate was the basis for my arrest,
but had absolutely nothing to do with whether I can meet with an
murderers are allowed to meet with lawyers. Perhaps and this is
giving him much more credit than he deserves Frank intended to
say that the back seat of the police car in the school parking lot
was not a good time or place for me to meet with my lawyer. But
I seriously doubt that Frank, or any of the police there, are much
capable of any sort of sophisticated thinking.
any case, the police seemed a bit confused and taken aback by the
speed with which I'd been able to summon legal aid, so Frank walked
over, got in, and began driving me to the police station. I suddenly
realized that, so interested in the school's wireless network was
I when I left my apartment, and thinking I'd only be down the block,
I hadn't actually locked the door when I left. So I asked Frank
if I could at least lock the door to my apartment before we went
to the jail, and of course he refused, behaving faithfully to the
thuggish and menacing demeanor he maintained throughout the incident.
As a result, the door to my apartment remained unlocked and vulnerable
to intruders for the next five hours.
got to the jail, and I was booked in on entirely bogus "idling"
and concealing identity petty misdemeanor charges. I'll stop here
with recounting the events of that night, but rest assured there
was much more, including the conducting of an extemporaneous legal
clinic in the booking room for the benefit of the other detainees,
charged with bread and butter DUI, driving on suspended licenses,
domestic violence, and other the other standard nonsense, for which
I was punished by removal to "an isolated holding cell," as Frank
put it in his barely literate report, where I nearly died of boredom.
Which, incidentally, I relieved by stuffing a wad of crumpled toilet
paper into the camera hole which protects the video camera
used to monitor the inmates in each cell. You should have seen the
reaction that provoked!
what's the bottom line? First of all, I want to add mine to the
chorus of objections to our mediocre Republican President's assertion
that we live in the "most free country in the world." Apparently,
in the heartland of our most free country, you can be arrested and
roughed up, and have your car torn apart and searched, for sitting
by yourself in a parking lot on public property typing on a laptop,
and failing to fall to your knees and cower before the police when
they order you to reveal your identity, purpose, and residence.
in nobody's army, and I therefore take orders from nobody. But apparently,
failing in instant compliance when questioned by the government for absolutely no reason is a criminal offense, in "the freest
country in the world." Attempting to assert your right to walk away
from the police, and break off the contact, when you've done absolutely
nothing wrong, as one would expect to be allowed to do in "the freest
country in the world," is also a crime, subjecting you to fines,
jail time, and the confiscation of your car.
another note about what a corrupt racket the government police run my friend Cindy was there and available to take custody of my
car, and I would have consented to that if the police had just come
over and asked me, but of course "official police procedure" had
to be followed. Rest assured that doing it by the government's book
is inevitably going to cost you money. Lots of it.
I reported to my local "Performance" Ford dealership at 8 a.m. the
next morning, which, in addition to gouging consumers on cars we
ought to be allowed to buy directly from Ford, moonlights (literally)
as a police towing contractor, I was charged 86 dollars for the
tow. The car was towed down to their lot, about a mile from my apartment.
That's 86 dollars per mile, if my math is right. Otherwise they
would keep my car, which I own outright. Their "service" also included
leaving the car outside in an insecure, fenced in dirt lot, in an
obviously bad part of town, with fifteen hundred dollars worth of
computer equipment sitting in plain view on the front seat. It was
a miracle my laptop wasn't stolen, and a very luck break for "Performance."
the police have the gall to arrest people for theft. Who are the
real thieves? What a corrupt racket! I wonder what percentage of
towing fees the government steals.
a tip for when you find yourself dealing with towing companies after
you bond out. Don't make a stink. I did, and I lost the opportunity
to pay with my credit card, and then stop payment on the charge.
I was impatient with the incompetent and rude counter lady, because
I was already late for work, and she couldn't find my paperwork
or my keys. So they insisted on cash. I would have loved to stop
that payment, but I may pursue a theft case against them, for the
following reason -
discovered, on retrieving my car, that my community college gym
membership card, which I always hang from my rear view mirror, except
when I go in to work out, was missing. I'll probably pursue a theft
case against the towing company and the police for this, but I have
to make certain that it wasn't misplaced by me first, because I'm
a bit absent-minded.
note about government theft. In order to be released from my "isolation
cell," the cops demanded a two hundred and sixty dollar extortion
payment, which is commonly known as bail. There was a list of bondsmen
posted on the wall behind the booking area, where I was allowed
to make my one phone call. At that point it was so late that I couldn't
bring myself to contact the heroic Cindy again, but after trying
the numbers of two different bondsman without an answer (it
was then after 2 a.m.), I decided to call her again.
I couldn't find her number in the phone book the police gave me.
I never memorized her number because it's programmed on my cell
phone, which had been confiscated (stolen) by the police when they
booked me in. The butch looking booking cop, who had nauseating
red tattoos on her neck (I've found that many cops mimic the born
to lose behavior of the underclass criminals in their system, and
are sometimes even bigger losers), began to assert some idiotic
rule, in defiance of any common sense, that I could not have my
cell phone until I was released.
Joseph Heller! Here was an unexcelled Catch-22. You can have Cindy's
number when you get out; you can't get out until you get Cindy's
number. Fortunately some small bit of reason intervened in the form
of a Patrolman, sitting behind a glass booth, who called information
and got me her number. She answered right away, and listened as
I asked her for the huge favor of getting 260 in cash and bringing
it to the police. Within 15 minutes she had surrendered the extortion
payment to the police, and I was outside, a free man once again,
after over five hours in custody.
it occurred to me that it might have been a better move to get a
bondsman to post a bond, instead of putting up my own cash, because
I've learned that once the government gets its hands on money, it
very rarely gives it back. In fact, many people who post their own
cash as bond have it confiscated outright. The police and courts
legitimize this theft by asserting all kinds of obscure fines, and
processing and booking fees, as if one asked the police to be arrested
and imprisoned on bogus petty charges.
writing this now on Tuesday night, two days later and what's the
score? So far the police have provided me with a comical police
report, written entirely in illiterate baby talk police language,
which relates a story bearing almost no relationship to the actual
events of Sunday night. As soon as I can get it transcribed into
English, I'll post the police report on my blog web site. If nothing
else, it's good for a few laughs. In fact, I imagine that I will
eventually post most of the documents relating to this case on my
site. I'll call it "The Crime Blog," or something like that.
I hope to post the audio recordings of my arrest in Real Audio or
MP3 format on my site, once I force the police to turn them over
to me as discovery. Then the true version of what actually happened
on Sunday will be available to everyone on the internet, if anyone
cares. I expect most LRC readers won't, but I'll do it anyhow. This
will be the first real time, pro-se criminal defense conducted on
anyhow, the score? Right now, it's police $260 in cash, five plus
hours of my time, tow truck company $86 in cash, and Russ, a few
choice retorts to some of the more idiotic things the police said
to me during my encounter with them, and one partially conducted
booking room legal clinic. But this is only the second inning, and
I'll have home field advantage when we get to court.
fully intend to defend myself against the absurd and abusive charges
against me, and I deny any wrongdoing, in general, and in particular.
I'm going to wage the full Milosevic, and the Farmington authorities
had better prepare for war. As the excellent Paul
Craig Roberts keeps pointing out in his column, government police
and prosecutors are only emboldened by the weakness inherent in
guilty pleas, and unless a strong and assertive defense bar fights
back, in trial after trial, the government's pursuit of false convictions
at any cost, and money, and power, all coming at the expense of
private citizens, will only grow worse.
if I can help it.
Stein [send him mail]
a defense lawyer out West. Here
is his blog.
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