By David Beck-Brown
A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing) Newsletter
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak and timid."
Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953
In the last newsletter, I wrote an article entitled A Solid Egg, which detailed the events surrounding the arrest of the happy-go-lucky Humpty Dumpty. Per advice from legal counsel, I couldnít use any actual names at the time. Iím still warned not to use any names for reasons I'm in the process of clarifying as this article goes to print. My faith in the criminal justice system may be on the fence, but my inner voice tells me to trust my legal contacts. Therefore, all I can say at this time is that A Solid Egg is a true story. As an activist, I have learned to protect my sources and the people I write about. As a human being, I avow to support all of the Humpty Dumpties I encounter who face roadblocks on the path toward justice.
If a citizen wants to clear his or her arrest report after the court determines no charges will be filed against him, the first step in the process is to obtain copies of all reports filed with the arresting law enforcement agency. This can be done via polite request, but usually requires a legally backed subpoena process. As I consider what steps I am willing to take to support my egghead friend, the following practical questions keep coming to mind. Can a law enforcement agency be held accountable to a subpoena process in the same manner in which every citizen must be held? Why are 911 tapes so readily released to the media?
This past Christmas, actor Charlie Sheen was arrested in Colorado for Second Degree Assault. His wife reported to the emergency dispatcher that Mr. Sheen had attacked her with a ďswitch blade knifeĒ and was trying to flee the scene. The general public knows this information because the 911 audiotape (supposedly containing Mrs. Sheenís voice) was immediately released to the media, as was a photograph deemed to be Mr. Sheenís mug-shot. The media also informed the public that Mr. Sheen posted bail in the amount of $8,500 following an eight (08) hour time period to process his arrest. Yet Humpty has been advised not to divulge to the public certain details surrounding his arrest?
Who knows what really happened the night Charlie Sheen was arrested? Iíve learned that the police will believe the 911 caller no matter where the truth lies. I won't let Humpty beat himself up for not calling 911, but I often wonder how dramatically that action would have altered his destiny. I still respect his decision to call 411 instead (to get directions to the police station) even though they put him on hold. Heís so thoughtful about wanting to save taxpayer dollars. Regardless, Humpty is now unable to even see his police reports seven (07) months after his arrest. Why?
At what point during a detainment and/or arrest procedure is the law enforcement officer required to read a citizen their Miranda Rights? How many people have been mistreated, or tossed behind the razor wire for simply not knowing Fifth (5th) Amendment protocol? People living on the streets (and in poor neighborhoods) may not have the means, connections nor the wherewithal to pursue solutions to injustice. They may end up in prison serving years behind bars at an annual cost to the taxpayer of nearly $47,000 per inmate (not to mention the best free medical care in California) resulting in an inmate population swollen to nearly 200 percent capacity.
Practical questions aside, when I think of Humpty's fate Iím led to more philosophical musings. For example, how many lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants walk through the San Diego Hall of Justice every day (after clearing the metal detectors), and fail to notice the phrases of our constitution etched patchwork style on the foyer walls? I am not afraid to support Humpty because I ask myself, "What if our American patriots had shown cowardice under the threats of Englandís King George?" Any Historian will tell you the answer is "The U.S.A would have never become a nation with citizens' rights." The problem as I perceive it is that the citizens who own these rights don't seem to value them, let alone fight for them. This citizen does and will.
The issue here is that no one is above the law -- not you, me, a Hollywood actor or a wearer of the badge. The issue here is a matter of Civil Liberties. I am a known prison-reformer having recently testified at a budget hearing at the California State Capital on the topic of rehabilitation program cuts. Injustice cannot hide behind a badge. The Constitution is too precious to this American. I am not going away.
Addendum: Prior to the printing of this article, legal counsel informed me that one (1) week prior to Charlie Sheenís arrest in Colorado, all court records pertaining to Humpty-Dumptyís arrest were sealed and will remain sealed for three (3) years. This is an admission by the SDPD that his arrest should never have happened. In other words, I was falsely arrested