The post below was sent to CopBlock.org via the submission tab and written by Josh Bethune. While recognizing that “Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights” and utilizing a camera to prove that (time and time again) are the main aspects to CopBlock.org, Bethune’s story below is one of value to those who film the police. While you may want to fight a false arrest, bogus ticket or other offense in court the system has endless resources to all too often beat those who try to fight it into submission. In fact, this is basically what happened to Brian Sumner and myself in our Noblesville, Indiana case.
On February 13th, 2015 I was just finishing up my bus route and getting ready to head home for the day. I got a call from my boss stating I needed to report immediately to the bus barn but no further details were reported. As I pulled in I noticed Ottumwa Police Officer Blake Lefler, Wapello County Supervisor GREG KENNING, and 10-15 Transit director Jay Allison standing outside. I backed the bus into the garage and Blake, Greg, and Jay all approach the bus.
Before I even had a chance to close the door Blake stated to me, “I’m Sgt. Blake Lefler with Ottumwa Police put your bag down.” I put my duffel bag on the ground and Blake then proceeded to rummage through my bag taking out my baton. He then asked me if I had a weapons permit, said that there was a complaint that I supposedly displayed this baton and that he watched a video of it. I said, “I don’t answer questions.”
He said, “Did you display this weapon and remember an interaction with a citizen that complained”
I repeated, “I don’t answer questions.”
Blake then said “do you or do you not have a permit to carry this?”
I said, “no.”
He then told tell me to put my hands behind my back, that I was under arrest for carrying weapons without permit. Then Jay said, “You are being terminated as of today you can leave your car locked up here and come back and get it when released from jail.” At that time I was transported to Wapello County Jail.
Blake got really cocky with tough guy syndrome asking me for my social security number, address and the usual stuff. Again I stated, “I don’t answer questions.” That pissed Blake off to the point where threw his hat and yelled, “look damn it, I saw the video. Tell me your social security number it’s part of the booking process!” I gave him the number because I was in fear that he would proceed to beat the crap out of me with his cop buddies if I did not.
A judge stated that I would be held on a bond but I don’t remember the exact amount. It was way up there though. I basically had to pay $400 to bond out but the actual price was way up there for the full amount. So after being held in a jail cell with others who would not sleep, nasty food that was barely enough to keep one alive and no pillow or blanket – I bonded out.
I quickly found another job that was in another town to keep myself fed etc. I showed up to my public pretender office a few days later where he told me what he thought and that I would most likely be convicted of this charge. He then went on his usual mumble jumble about how “we” could plead this or that but would most likely take it to trial. I don’t remember all the exact details of what he stated to me but let’s put it this way, he did not seem interested in taking on this case from the start. Basically this attorney was all about waving this and that for the process.
I showed up to my first court appearance, keep in mind I had moved quite a distance from Ottumwa so I had to take time off work then to drive to the appearance so I would not get arrested – as they had threatened if I did not show up – for these proceedings and basically it was a waste of time. My attorney stated “we are waiting on video from the bus camera but other than that I have nothing for you.” So that was one of the many times that I had to show up for this bogus charge of supposedly displaying and threatening a citizen with this so called dangerous criminal weapon.
I had to show up to another court appearance where I thought the sentencing or something would take place. After taking more time off work and waiting around for almost an hour and a half I finally asked the clerk of court what was going on? She said, “oh we mailed you a letter stating you were not due for court today you didn’t get it?” I said “no, I did not get any letter. The only one I got was to show up to this proceeding or have a warrant issued for my arrest.” I know I gave the court my mailing address when I filled out the form in the jail for public representation because I cannot afford my own. Obviously the “courthouse” is not that bright in Wapello County because they mailed the form to the apartment I used to live at but did not get mail there any longer. So, I made sure to give my PO Box – again – to them for the 2nd time hoping maybe they would get smart and mail the next form there. Again I traveled to court for nothing.
This happened 4 – 5 more times. I’d take off of work, travel to the courthouse, waste gas and time all under the threat of arrest. In fact the court tried to pull a fast one on me by not sending me one of the dates for court to me and then I get this letter stating I had missed court. That my bond money was going to be forfeited and that I had better show up to the next proceeding because I would be arrested if I did not show. During all this time the attorney, Allen Cook, that was supposed to have been representing me sent me a letter saying he was resigning and that Thomas James Augustine was going to represent me.
Allen stated he would keep contacting the county attorney for this “bus video” that never seemed to appear at all during this whole thing, but yet somehow officer Blake Lefler saw this right? At the last deal I travelled to Cook said to me, “Well the county attorney hasn’t got the video, so we can do one of two things. You can take a plea of guilty and basically it would be wiped off your record after you complete court probation but you would not have to report to any probation officer but you must pay the fines and stay out of trouble.” Allen stated to me this is what the county attorney offered as the county attorney and him were standing there talking in a room that morning laughing it up and joking around.
The 2nd option was that I could wait and take this to trial of a jury but that Allen thought that would not be a good idea because even though there was no evidence there was still a good chance that the jury would side with the police officer because of his testimony. Allen felt that the jury would side with the police office and that would sink my case. After all the traveling I had done and all the time off work I had missed I had finally had enough of this crap and I think the county attorney and my attorney both knew this. So I went ahead and took the plea deal. Although looking back I wish now I would have taken this to trial as there was no evidence whatsoever but I was tired of this corruption, tired of the wasted time, tired of nobody representing me right.
I really wanted this behind me and not to take a chance of having to report to some probation officer. I paid the $852 dollar fine off and have had it paid off for several months. I think this whole incident was set up to get me fired. The boss man was looking for a reason to get rid of me for speaking my opinion online on different topics. He had mentioned to me in the past that I was not allowed to voice my opinion working as a county employee because it supposedly reflected back on his company. He’s in goody goody with Greg and the Ottumwa Police Department. Yet, it was the system that made me plead guilty.
– Josh Bethune
While we focus on the police here at CopBlock.org the problem each and every one of us faces is much larger. The police, courts and political arenas are all broken. Josh is one of millions of people who are pushed through the court systems each year. The systems that exist aren’t about seeking truth or justice. They’re simply about maintaining control, a loop hole that must exist to justify the wrongful acts their own (any government agent) and a circus act to make people feel like they’re being protected. It’s really a very sick and twisted cycle.