Friday, December 28, 2012

No Bail for the Spectator

So Judge Stewart gave Apollos James Frank MacArthur is still being held without bail. The bail hearing was already underway when I got to Mitchell 215 at exactly 8:30.

I went in to the courtroom, which was crowded with about 30 spectators, took the only empty seat on the benches in the 2nd row, took off my coat, got situated, started scribbling in a little notebook, and just when my ballpoint ink kicked in, this 6'5"+ James-Earl-Jonesish man in the brown Sheriff's-office getup tapped me on the shoulder and said, "excuse me, can I speak with you?"
"Well, sure," I said, and he gestured me off to the side and I trotted behind, fantasizing that because I looked so pro-fessional with my notebook and Pilot pen maybe was going to give me a prime viewing angle.
   "Who are you?"
   "Uhm, what?" It was such an existential question for 8:30 a.m., I was completely confused. Did he want my name? Connection to the accused?
   "I'm a ... Baltimore resident," I sputtered.
   "Well, you can't sit there."
   "Why, is it reserved?"
   "You have to go to the back."
   "But.. "  He walked to my corner of the bench, snatched up my coat and handed it at me in the back-of-the-room direction. So, with every eyeball but the judge's, lawyers' and accused watching me bundle up my coat, purse, pen and such, I slunk to the dunce's corner and perched a cheek on a spare table that had been shoved there. 
   The silverback of the sheriff's office came back.
   "No, you have to sit. Down. On. That. Bench."
  "But I can't hear what anyone's saying," I wheedled. I was not trying to be a Maverick, the problem is, one can only see the lawyers' and accused's backs and rear ends, the lawyer-teams' heads block the judge's face, and it's not always easy to hear exactly what someone's saying, or even who is talking, you just have to try to parse it out from who's jaw is moving, or, if they're facing exactly front, who's gesturing, which is not easy to see when you're short. But this apparently wasn't a conversation the large man wanted to have.
"You don't need to sit up there to hear what anyone's saying."
A white man on the back bench scooted over to let me sit, huffing, "fuckin bullshit, it's a fascist police state." I realized there were, in fact, three sheriff's deputies and three black-suited courthouse security people poised around the room, which seemed kind of excessive to protect the public from two or three shackled inmates in a room. Gotta prove your worth in a job. Or maybe the officer, presented with a large platform, wanted to put on a teachable show for the audience before some gadfly or rabblerouser felt inclined to provide their own. And picked the least physically intimidating person available to act it out with. 

  Anyway, the state, in the form of a white-haired Sandy Rosenberg type whose job it apparently was to organize the relevant paperwork, and a woman in a suit who I couldn't see or hear-- presented the case d'etat. The accused, AFJMcA, said the ASA, has a 10-year-old PBJ from Montgomery County on a weapons charge, but had no violent offenses or "CDAs"(drug charges-- for charges against the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act). There was a felony charge based on an out-of-jurisdiction "event" in California, in which he was charged with 2nd-degree assault and misdemeanors, and then the most pertinent 2008 "modified stock weapons situation," the 14-inch barrel gun for which he was on probation. Didn't catch the make and model of the new gun supposedly found at his house, and those charges are not on the JIS.
  MacArther's lawyer, not Jill Carter but a 20-30-something woman who seemed quite nervous, noted that he had no violent offenses save the out-of-jurisdiction CA "event," was a blogger who had many "people willing to vouch for his nature, he's a hometowner" and a "humanitarian."
   She asked everyone in the courtroom who was there for him to stand. About 20 people did, almost everyone in the room (including me, though really, I can't vouch for his nature). His lawyer pointed out his sister, who waved, and MacArthur surveyed the scene. He's looking very different now, with a shaved head and brown plastic glasses, transformed from a Red Maplesque fedora-and-scarf-wearing hipster with long dreadlocks to to the guy in the office who fixes everybody's computers (but in a yellow jumpsuit).
  Judge Lynn Stewart noted that he's now facing new charges of possession, that MacArthur had put a picture of the recently recovered firearm on his blog (is this true?) and ordered him to continue to be held on no bail.
   "Can I speak?" asked MacArthur.
  "No," said Judge Stewart.
   "And you call yourself a judge," MacArthur bellowed. A pair of deputies flanked him and shuffled him off.
   "We love you James!" shouted the white guy next to me.
   "Thank you all," MacArthur hollered back, as he was hustled into a tiny cutout door stage right. And that was that. Everyone rose to leave, though a man with a lanky boy of about six approached one of the security guards with a question, "guilty!" chirped the boy, zipping his coat, and they and the rest of AFJM's supporters left the courtroom.

    I stayed, though, and for the next 40 minutes four or five more jumpsuited men and their lawyers cycled through the defense table in rapt sucession. The next accused was a guy named Witherspoon who was in a wheelchair and in trouble for weapons and marijuana, 11 baggies, being held on $200k bail. Bail was lowered to $50k and he was wheeled out. Next was a guy who had been accused of being the money man for a drug gang, but had been let out of jail on bail 10 months prior, who was subsequently charged with sexual assault. His defense attorney argued that for the past 10 months he'd been going to work, the accuser was a co-worker, that both of them had been intoxicated, though noted that the accused's story kept changing after he was arrested. He also got $50,000 bail.

   One Kyle Austin was charged with assault and robbery off less than $1,000, he allegedly picked someone's pocket, an event caught on tape. The defense attorney said he graduated from the National Academy and was working for some temp agency called "Labor Finders" and was the primary caregiver of an 18-month-old son. His bail stayed the same. A guy named Derwin Stewart, 21, was charged with attempted murder, he got no bail. Finally one Seneca Rice was charged with assault and robbery, which his lawyer said was a "mutual affray." The victim claims he stole $125 and a phone, the money and phone were never found, and the SAO, said his lawyer (sharply dressed in a leopard suit and with an intensely highlighted blonde bob) said the SAO never interviewed the victim, even though she'd asked them to before he was indicted in October, and that the victim and Rice were acquainted and there's "more to the story." The Judge said she'd leave his bail the same but "encourage the state to follow up."

  And then it was all over, 45 minutes after it began the bail-hearing hour was finished, and though I still had an hour on the parking meter, I left, hugely grateful I'd opted out of law school, without a career that compelled me to process pitiful humans in a grey cube all day.
   So is there a vast conspiracy against AFJMcM? I don't know. No bail for a (generally) non-violent person who is not a sex offender, not caught up in the "controlled dangerous substance" trade seems excessive, considering there were robbers and sex assaulters able to post a bail and theoretically leave that day. And you can say we need to do this or that to fix the system, but ultimately, just a handful of judges have supreme power to decide who goes to jail and who stays home, what society will and won't tolerate.


Cham said...

One of the defendant's lawyers that was there for bail review mentioned that her clients version of events was corroborated with footage available from the city's CCTV camera system, and then the prosecutor admitted they hadn't bothered to review the footage.

Mind you, her client didn't get his bail reduced but I wanted to jump up and down and scream, "You tell'em!" I like it when defendants make the effort to use those cameras to their advantage. Not only are those cameras not the big panacea for making us all "safe", but they are nicely exonerating those that might need exonerating. Go cameras! The police may not got for what they bargained.

mb said...

That was the most disturbing part of the morning. How about Seneca Rice, in jail because somebody with a beef with him accused him of stealing from them, but the SAO never interviewed the victim. Or the guy who allegedly sexually assaulted someone while out on bail from another case, getting to get released on bail again. The only other person who got held on "no bail" other than the Spectator was someone who shot someone in the head. Her rulings to me seemed quite random.

Cham said...

Very few of the one's I saw got their bail reduced, though I arrived late. I noticed that when the prosecutor was talking the judge was all ears, but when a defense attorney was speaking the judge would do paperwork or sip water. That judge had her mind made up beforehand, the bail review hearing was a waste of time.

I heard the Seneca Rice bail review, they were going so fast it was hard to keep it all straight. The SAO didn't review the victim's statement in that case, with CCTV guy they didn't review the video, the SAO is doing as little as possible so that everybody sits in jail for as along as possible, guilty or not. The judge "strongly urged" them to do their job, and admonition that I am sure the lawyers ignored.

The local judicial system is a vortex, if you are black and male once you get enter it becomes hard to get out. The judicial system treats me kindly because of the way I look. The whole thing is a massive scam.

On another side note, I did like the way a couple of the defendants used the fact they were primary caregivers for their children for their bail reduction requests. What is good for the goose can be equally good for the gander. These guys are smart.

I also like the yellow jump suits. I'm not a big fan of orange, glad they are getting away from that color.

Ian said...

"She asked everyone in the courtroom who was there for him to stand. About 20 people did, almost everyone in the room (including me, though really, I can't vouch for his nature)."

But could you? It should be plain to anyone that the man is mentally unstable. I think it's cool what he's been doing, but seriously, no one cares enough about him to plant firearms in his house. Especially BPD.

I'm concerned because the "support" he's been getting only enables his unhealthy behavior. This includes you questioning the no bail decision. He wasn't granted bail because he's openly wondered if the "poor guy [he] takes out might have a family," referring to his arresting officers. This isn't the kind of person who should be subject to possible re-arrest after bail. The man needs help, not people indulging him in his batshit conspiracy theories.

mb said...

I do agree with you. I stood because I was literally "there for him" but not because I was making any warranties about his future behavior. If I was a judge I don't think I would have given him any bail either because his pattern of behavior is that of a person begging for help. But is he getting any psychiatric help or practical help in jail? I also would not have let out the drug-gang guy accused of rape, and I would have lowered bail for Seneca Rice-- so is bail about punishment, or is it about predicting future behavior, or protecting public safety? Or safety but not property? To my untrained eye it all seemed a bit batshit, though surely there is some kind of rubric she's using.

Anyway all signs were towards a "suicide by cop" situation. He does need help. He can't access any media in jail, so no need to worry that coverage is enabling him. I actually got a paper letter from him today asking me to print out and mail him the blog and other clippings and with a missive he wants me to type up, edit and print. Hrm.