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In September of 2010, I was arrested. Several months later, I was tried, convicted, and sentenced.
My crime? Resisting arrest.
Here’s the story.
I had recently quit smoking, was irritable, and needed to do something. After drinking a full bottle of ginger-flavored brandy by 9:00pm on this Friday night, I decided to walk to the local bar to get a beer or two. I went in, legally purchased a 12 oz bottle of Samuel Adams, and walked through the room.
The bar was noisy, crowded, and filled with assholes. I felt uncomfortable, even with my buzz, and decided to walk out of the door.
A few seconds after I walked out, I heard noises behind me, which I ignored and walked away. A few seconds later, somebody yanked my beer out of my hand, which I was still apparently carrying in the public parking lot. OK, I thought – no harm done. They took my beer, which I didn’t even have a sip of, but no big deal. I realized I felt more tired than I had originally thought and I continued to walk home; until I met up with officer Jaime Branch of the Manchester Police Department.
“Hey, you!”, he yelled at me. I figured out pretty soon that he was talking to me and I asked him, “Am I being detained?” or “Am I free to go?”. He said that I was being detained. I asked him why and he refused to answer. He spoke with the person that had stolen my beer and another employee at the bar, asking them a few questions, investigating why I was being detained. We were both curious, apparently.
The officer asked to see my identification. I told the him that I knew my 4th Amendment rights and told him that I didn’t need to show him my identification as I was not driving a car. I also informed him that he did not have probable cause that I had committed a crime. I asked him for “articulable facts” that I was committing a crime, as well.
He said that he DID have probable cause that I had engaged in, “possessing an open alcohol container”; which is not actually illegal in the state of NH and the closest ordinance it comes to is “public drinking”, an ordinance violation that prohibits CONSUMING alcoholic beverages in a public place. I asked him again if I was being detained or if I was free to go, and he said I was being detained. I exercised my right to remain silent and he continued in his investigation. He talked to the employees (who I believed were cooperating out of fear that they would get in trouble), looked at the bottle (which was technically stolen evidence), and found that it was full. All of them agreeing that I had not consumed any.
He started asking me more questions, and I exercised my right to remain silent. He decided to write me out a ticket for “possessing an open alcohol container”, which I gladly accepted but he insisted that I showed him identification. I asserted my 4th Amendment rights and refused to show him my “papers”. He then asked for a name. I gave him one but it wasn’t good enough for him.
He then stated that if I didn’t show identification, I would be placed under arrest. I believed this to be a clear violation of the 4th Amendment and proceeded to have a half-hour long conversation about the 4th Amendment with the officer, including me giving him a full etymological history of the phrase “probable cause”. During this discussion I found out that the officer; 1) didn’t know what the 4th Amendment was and could not recite it, and 2) told me that the 4th Amendment, in his own words, “doesn’t apply to my job” – which was repeated multiple times, by multiple officers that night.
The officer asked me other questions such as, what my social security number was; to which I replied, “do I have the right to remain silent?” He said, clearly and emphatically, that I did NOT have that right and that if I didn’t answer the questions, I would be placed under arrest. At this point, I started wondering if he was even a “real” cop.
He then continued his investigation, during which time I continued to ask if I was free to go. At one point, he said “yes, yes, yes”, and motioned for me to leave. I stared walking away and seconds later I was being man-handled by the guy with one hand in handcuffs.
I asked him why violence was necessary. He denied that he was using violence. I thought a demonstration was in order and I moved my free hand to the right side of my body. He told me to move it down behind my back, and I disobeyed his commands. He then yanked my hand down to tie it, at which point I asked a simple question:
“If I did to you what you just did to me, would I be charged with ASSAULTING a police officer?”, simply to show the officer that he was, in fact, using violence.
The question startled him for a second. He said, “yes, but….”, and stood there speechless before he continued his “assault”. I was sent to Manchester police station where I had some laughably painful conversations, then proceeded to county jail.
When I got there, there was a man I knew only as “Wolfy” who was the most disgusting, depraved human being I’ve ever met in my life. He forced me to answer all kinds of questions, promising that I would be able to sleep in my “nice warm bed” if I did. He asked me what my sexual orientation was, what my religion was, what my political affiliations were, all under the understanding that non-cooperation would be punished with violence. He then forced me to strip naked and checked me for drugs, after which I put on an orange jump suit. He then escorted me to my cell. He and a couple other guys decided to play a joke on me and make it look like I was going to get beaten and raped by a particularly insane inmate. I know, that’s hilarious, isn’t it?
I didn’t sleep or eat for those three days. During “free time”, which lasts about an hour each day, I tried to make a phone call, but they made it difficult to the point of being psychological torture. You need to use your inmate number to make a call, and mine didn’t work ( I think that was deliberate, but I can’t prove anything), so I had to violate the rules and use somebody else’s. You can only call land lines (no cell phones) no more than once, and there is a message being played for the majority of the call, leaving you only 10 seconds out of about a minute and a half to actually say something.
I spent 3 days in jail with my cell mate, who was a heroine addict. He told me how easy it is to get his fix “inside” and how many people who “used to be straight” become heroine addicts after doing some time because it’s easily accessible and there’s nothing else to do. He also told me how most people who meet inside hook up later to hang out, do drugs, and get into other criminal activity.
At the bail hearing (after 3 days without food or sleep), Judge William H. Lyons felt that I was too dangerous to let go on my own reconnaissance, so I was forced to stay there until my “speedy” trial 3 months later. Luckily, I was bailed out.
I had apparently signed up for a public defender when I was scared shitless and had gone without food and sleep for 3 days. Her name was Donna Esposito. She didn’t return my phone calls, didn’t return my emails, and didn’t even bother reading the arrest report. Her incompetence was so great that I got the distinct impression that she was working with the state in an attempt to get a conviction. I called other lawyers, who basically said that I didn’t have a chance; not because of the evidence of the case, but because of the “conservative judges” who would find me guilty regardless of the facts of my case. I soon learned why they said that.
The charges were changed several times, the final change right before the trial. The original charge was “possessing an open alcohol container in a public place”, which was dropped because there wasn’t actually a law against that – the cop either made it up or got the law completely wrong (I found out that the cops around here use a “cheat sheet” that has a mistake on it).
The original charge of “resisting arrest” was changed as well. It was originally because I had lifted my hand up to the side during the arrest, making the officer push it down. In the arrest report it stated that I “struggled” with him as he attempted to handcuff me. That was changed to me walking away when I “wasn’t supposed to” (because I thought I was free to go). The reason for the change was obvious; it is circular reasoning to be arrested for resiting that very same arrest, so they had to arrest me for something else.
During the trial, both the cop and I testified. We gave our stories, which matched perfectly except for a couple of things. According to him, 1) I never asked if I was being detained and he never stated that I was, 2) I never even mentioned the 4th Amendment, 3) He never threatened to arrest me for not showing ID, and 4) He saw me “in violation” BEFORE he detained me, rather than the truth that he had detained me before he even started to investigate what was going on. All four of these statements were lies, made under oath. This means he committed perjury, which is a felony.
The reason why he lied is simple: if he DID threaten to arrest me for not showing ID, it COULD have been considered a violation of the 4th Amendment. If he detained me prior to his investigation, it COULD have been argued that it was an illegal detainment. If I mentioned the 4th Amendment and didn’t like his answer, It COULD have been argued that I did not “recognized him as a law enforcement official”.
Still, this shouldn’t have changed anything, as the only thing left I was charged with was the “resisting arrest” charge; and in order to prove that “beyond a reasonable doubt”, they have to show that I “recognized him as a law enforcement official” (which wasn’t actually true, as I recognized that he was breaking the law). They also had to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that I “willfully and knowingly interfered” with him, which I didn’t as I thought I was free to go at the time.
Since both of these things are describing activity IN MY OWN HEAD rather than what was going on objectively, it makes no sense whatsoever to take the cops word over my own. While the cop may be a more reliable witness to what was going on around me, he can’t possibly be a better witness to what was going on in my head, can he?
The judge (William H. Lyons) decided that I was guilty. That’s right, the judge said that the cop was a “more credible witness” to what was going on in my own head. The judge said that this was not an illegal detention because, as he stated in his court order, “Where a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person has been, is being, or is about to commit a crime, he is permitted by the forth amendment to seize or detain an individual”. He later defines crime as, “an offense punishable by a jail sentence”, even though the ordinance violation doesn’t qualify, especially given the fact that the ordinance violation didn’t exist. He was grasping at straws for reasons to convict me. He WANTED to convict me. He was committed to BREAKING the law, not enforcing it.
A couple months after I was sentenced, I received a note that explained that walking out of a bar with a beer is a misdemeanor. It would have been nice to actually be told what crime I was committing BEFORE I was arrested, or at least before the trial or, at the very least, before I was sentenced. Apparently that is too much to ask.
So, in short, I was illegally detained, threatened with an unconstitutional arrest, unlawfully arrested, and sentenced because the judge re-defined the word “crime” so that I would qualify as a criminal.
At that point, I realized a few things.
The first thing I realized is, despite the massive tome of words that is commonly called “the law”, there is really only one law – OBEY THE COMMANDS OF THE STATE. You do what you’re fucking told, or else violence will be used against you. You want a fair trial? Tough shit. You think the constitution protects you? You thought wrong. The constitution is a worthless scrap of paper with meaningless scribbles on it. The people who interpret the law can interpret it any way they like. They can even re-define the word “crime” in order to turn you into a criminal.
I also realized that Judge William H Lyons, Officer Jaime D Branch, and the Manchester Police Department didn’t care about the law they are supposed to enforce or the constitution they were sworn to protect. These people are criminals and should be viewed as such.
That day, something died in me – any hope or faith that I had in my country.
Fuck you, Officer Branch.
Fuck you, Judge Lyons.
Fuck you, Manchester Police Department.
Fuck you for destroying my faith in my country and in the constitution.
Joshua Jacob Albert Freeman