|(From "Photography Is Not A Crime" Web site)|
Based on my own experience of being charged with resisting arrest in Shelby County, Alabama, I would say the answer to all three questions is yes.
Someone else must think so, too, because we found the above photo/graphic on the Web. It shows a training officer telling a group of police-academy trainees, "Remember class: Always say, 'Quit resisting,' and 'I feared for my life.'"
These issues particularly resonate now because of two important lessons from recent days:
(1) The case against Alabama officer Eric Parker, in the beating of Indian grandfather Sureshbhai Patel, has wrongly been classified as a misdemeanor (third-degree assault). Under Alabama law, it must be classified as a felony (second- or first-degree assault). This suggests that someone in the aforementioned "justice infrastructure" is trying to let Officer Parker off easy.
(2) No citizen can be charged with resisting an arrest that was unlawful in the first place. Alabama law says that citizens have no duty to submit to anything other than a lawful arrest--and, in fact, we have the right to use reasonable force to resist an unlawful arrest.
As for the questions at the beginning of our post, let's consider the words and actions of Shelby County Deputy Chris Blevins in my case. I saw video of the incident during my resisting-arrest trial in January 2014--and having lived through the incident and seen a replay of it--I can't help but almost double over with laughter at the photo/graphic above. It's as if Chris Blevins was one of the dudes sitting in that class.
On the video, Blevins enters our garage, even though he has not shown a warrant, has not said he has a warrant, and has not said why he is on my property. I clearly tell him to get out of my house, but he ignores that. As I get out of my car and try to get to some stairs to walk up to our kitchen, the dash camera in Blevins' vehicle loses sight of us. Blevins follows me, and the garage door closes behind us--I must have reflexively pushed a button that closed the door, although I don't remember doing it. In fact, I remember saying to myself, "Don't close the door because you want this guy out of here."
We lose video of what takes place inside the garage, but the audio picks up everything. We also have Blevins' own account of the event from his incident report. (See report at the end of this post.)
What do we learn? Here are a few things:
(1) Blevins repeatedly is heard saying "Don't fight me, don't fight me," even with all kinds of noise in the background--which is the sound of him pushing me up against a heavy dog pen, hard enough to move it several feet, and through two stacks of boxes. By Blevins' own words in his report, he initiated physical contact with me, not the other way around, and the only action I took was to raise my arms in front of my face, which I did mainly to keep my glasses and/or nose from being broken. Our photo/graphic above is supposed to be a joke, but it isn't; like most good humor, it's based in reality. Blevins used slightly different words--"Don't fight me," instead of "Quit resisting"--but otherwise, it's like he was sitting there taking notes from the training officer in our illustration.
(By the way, Blevins does state several times in his incident report that I 'resisted,' but he never says how. In fact, his own words show that I did nothing that amounts to resisting arrest. Also, Blevins admitted at my resisting-arrest trial that his actions amounted to a traffic stop, under the law--and that has profound consequences for what took place on the night of October 23, 2013, inside my garage. More on those two issues coming in a future post.)
(2) Is Blevins trying to create the tried and true "I feared for my life" scenario? It sure looks that way when you read his words in the incident report. First, he states that I put my "right hand in my right front pants pocket." This seems to hint that he feared I might have been reaching for a weapon in my pocket--perhaps an assault rifle was stored in there. What was the reality? I had just gotten out of my car so--surprise, surprise--I was putting my car keys in my pocket. (By the way, Blevins says he grabbed my arm as I put it in my pocket. And yet, he says I pushed a button to close the garage door. How did I manage to do that if he had grabbed my arm? Did he push the button to close the garage door? I don't know.)
Then, Blevins states that the garage was "darkened," with "only a dim bulb on the garage opener." Most garages, particularly those (like ours) that are partially underground, tend to be fairly dark. But ours has a large window on the side wall and six to eight small windows across the double garage doors. There was quite a bit of light coming in, and Blevins' vision should have been good enough to see that nothing in our garage posed a threat to him--and he never says I was trying to grab any object anyway.
I think Blevins and his colleagues intended to rough me up a good bit--Officer Jason Valenti can be heard on video threatening to break my arms while assisting in handcuffing me--and I think they also planned to set up a "resisting arrest" scenario, one that was contrary to facts and the law. A resisting-arrest charge, I'm guessing, takes the spotlight off their own misconduct and puts it on me.
As for the "justice infrastructure," prosecutor Tonya Willingham was instructed to turn over copies of any warrants, and she replied "Your Honor, we have no warrants." And Judge Ron Jackson, having just been told that this was not a lawful arrest, convicted me of resisting arrest anyway.
The trial was on January 14, 2014, and I had been in jail since October 23, 2013, with no opportunity to prepare a defense. Jackson denied my request for a continuance, so in essence, I was not allowed to actually prepare a defense on resisting arrest. Even so, I knew that resisting applied only to a lawful arrest, and I argued that this did not involve a lawful arrest--after all, it was a matter of court record that no warrant existed.
Jackson wasn't hearing any of it--his mind clearly was made up before the proceeding even began--so I was faced with an $845 fine, and I now have a criminal record. I also have had the pleasure of seeing my photo listed on "Shelby County's Most Wanted" for several months, long after the fine had been paid.
Last time I checked a couple of weeks ago, the "Most Wanted" photo finally had been removed--only after I alerted the sheriff's office that the fine had been paid for months.
I've written extensively about the emotional and physical trauma of being roughed up inside my own home and being incarcerated for five months. I'm still living with that, but the resisting-arrest case presents a more subtle form of damage that members of the "justice infrastructure" have inflicted on me--and I'm sure countless other citizens have had to deal with it.
It was bad enough that my picture was on the Shelby County Sheriff's Web site for the five months I was an inmate--on a contempt of court charge that is contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But imagine having your photo on a "most wanted" Web site for a "crime" you did not commit, even after the fine for said "crime" long has been paid.
What kind of smear job does that do to your reputation? Where does a law-abiding citizen go to get his reputation back?