Posted on CALibs yahoo group.
As some of you may have heard, the jury in my prostitution case came back with a unanimous verdict yesterday, after a little less than three hours of deliberation: Not Guilty! Needless to say, I and all the folks who were there to support me were very happy. Once we had a jury selected, a process that took all of last week, things went pretty rapidly. The actual trial started Monday with the opening arguments, followed by the testimony of Officer Heather Fox, the Fremont Police vice cop who lied and pretended to be a client in order to lure me into this entrapment.
I do feel she was honest in her testimony about the events, though I have serious doubts about her testimony when we recalled her outside the presence of the jury. District Attorney Suzanne Simpkins was required by law to turn over to us any documents the police had relating to this arrest or to undercover sting operations in general, and she told us there were no such documents. On the witness stand however, Officer Fox mentioned being given about a week prior to the arrest a list of slang terms used on the Internet, for help in deciphering ads such as mine. Even judge Keith Fudenna, who was no friend to me or to justice during most of this case, appeared to agree that this would have been covered under the discovery request. But when we were able to query Officer Fox about it, she (1) said that she no longer had a copy of the document, (2) did not know whether any other officers were given copies of the document, (3) did not know whether the Fremont Police Department still had the document, and (4) reaffirmed the D.A.’s previous contention that the FPD does not have any written policies, procedures or documents relating to undercover sting operations. I think this was a pack of lies, especially #4 which is just not credible, but unfortunately there appears to be little we can do to prove it, since the judge did not press them on it.
The D.A. surprised us by calling no further witnesses after Officer Fox, so the following morning I testified in my own defense, followed by a client of mine who was good enough to volunteer to come forward and testify as a character witness. After both attorneys got to ask all their questions of the various witnesses, they gave their closing arguments. Erica’s closing argument was terrific, one of the strongest parts of her whole performance on this case, for which I already give her high marks. I would strongly recommend her as a criminal defense attorney to anyone who might be in need of one. While it got off to a rocky start when the judge prohibited her from talking about the Fremont police chief’s memo to the community letting people know the department would no longer investigate burglar alarms unless there was a verified problem, and was cutting back on auto theft, robbery, and street crime investigations, all due to an alleged lack of resources — “alleged” because they seemed to have no lack of resources for entrapping prostitutes on the Internet for intending to engage in sexual activities among consenting adults — it was all uphill from there. Erica demolished the contention that the cop saying “OK, that works” in response to hearing my rates for time which could include “being fucked” meant that we had an actual agreement, noting that if you go to Best Buy and a salesman is telling you about various TVs and how much they cost, and you say “OK, that works” but nothing subsequently happens such as you taking a TV to the register, it does not mean that you have committed to purchasing one. She also recounted a recent phone conversation in which someone from the D.A.’s office in San Francisco had called her and let her know that some motions would be filed, and she said “OK.” Then when she was in court, the D.A. tried to say Erica had not objected to these motions, but as Erica explained, she was simply acknowledging the D.A.’s statement, not agreeing to what was being stated. I suspect that these personal, common-sense examples had a powerful effect on the jury.
The juror who had been the foreman (Charlie Messinger, who happens to be an elected member of the Newark School Board) and stayed around to talk with a few of us after the trial concluded yesterday afternoon, confirmed this, saying that the jurors felt my attorney Erica Franklin was very persuasive in explaining how no actual crime was committed, and how the D.A. had not proved the three elements she needed to prove for them to convict (intent, an agreement, and an act in furtherance).
More soberingly however, he also added words to the effect of “there might have been a crime if they’d waited another 10 minutes before making the arrest.” He also told us the jury felt I was likable and honest in my testimony. He said that when I mentioned that I would have had sex with the two female vice cops for free, he said “us four guys in the back were all going ‘Me too!'” The conversation was a pointed indication that despite the favorable verdict, I could have easily been convicted if the circumstances of the case had been only very slightly different in any number of different specifics. I do not think the jurors “got it” as far as understanding that prostitution is not a real crime, or that this arrest was a travesty and an injustice from the get-go. Messinger said he had never heard of FIJA (the Fully Informed Jury Association), and appeared to be unaware of jury nullification (I talked about it a little bit, and wrote down FIJA’s website for him — http://www.FIJA.org). Clearly more public education in these matters is desperately needed.
Meanwhile however, those of us who believe in freedom can savor this hard-earned VICTORY! It is the best outcome I could have realistically hoped for, and justice was at least partially served — the police and D.A.’s office will not face any penalties for violating my rights, and I’m still out a few thousand dollars and many hours of my life plus the small amount of property I believe the cops stole from me when I was arrested, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that the Fremont authorities put in a substantial amount of time, money and resources into this, and after nearly two years came away totally empty-handed except for the taxpayer money that they are all sucking up as a normal part of their jobs. I want to get a copy of the transcript of this trial and put it on the Internet for the benefit of sex workers and others who may have to fight such injustices in the future and could be helped by knowing more details, but I have learned that obtaining it will mean paying the court reporter $2.50 per page, or a total of several hundred dollars more, despite the fact that as the official record of a public trial it should be public information. Just one more way the system is designed to rip people off! If you have not already supported me with a donation or your presence or both, a small contribution toward covering this last expense would be most welcome.
Likewise I will also be publishing the various motions we filed in this case, as well as the details of my police report, the transcript of the undercover tape the cops made of the arrest, and whatever other info I can get out there (minus only a few details of personal information such as my driver’s license number and so on that I will redact). If anyone has any specific questions or comments about this case, please feel free to email me or call me while it’s relatively fresh in my memory and I will be happy to give you more details, at least until I get tired of recounting them. 8)
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))