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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dopey dad's bust leads to baby barricade

Hey, a closed case! Asia Culter, 22 was charged for the murder of Donte Harris, 21,* after a woman who helped move his shot-up body from his house to the alley fessed up to police. Cutler then called 911 to say she'd found him.

Bealefeld published a sensible OpEd yesterday in the Sun*

Sexagenarian celebu-cop William J. Bratton is going to Oakland to help clean up the mess our chief Batts left behind. FWIW, Bratton was also Ed Norris' boss in NY for six years before Norris ascended to the BPD chiefship in 2000.

14 years for drug-dealing dad who used a baby as a doorstop. Which would make a great Huggies& ad. "We gave these two babies to two drug dealers. After 14 hours, only one is wearing a diaper that won't leak, even when dad uses the baby as a doorstop. This baby even stayed dry for the entire execution of the warrant. .... Huggies&. Enjoy The Ride." Press release: "Detective Phoenix Jennifer changed, fed, and cared for the infant until the child's mother arrived." ... You know, I'll bet if you're a female officer executing a warrant with a bunch of male officers, you get pretty darn tired of everybody assuming that you're going to be the one who's going to change that diaper. 

The CP has a grim feature on the demise of the Prisoner's Aid Association

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Ok, got the homicide numbering issue fixed. Murder #215 for 2012 was/is Thomas Cunion, 27, 1100 block of Webb Court, shot to death in a double shooting last night.

In the County, an officer shot and killed a mentally ill man with a knife. So sad. If you ever sit and listen to ScanBaltimore on any given day, it's shocking how many calls are for crazy people-- seemingly one an hour. And even if one does have health insurance, it's rather appalling how many plans simply don't cover mental health services at all, or claim that they do but then have no psychiatrists (who can prescribe medication) on the plan, only social workers or whatever, or they do have psychiatrists but they have one or two who have months-long waiting lists.

A Christmas gift for the vengeful: a Glen Burnie card and coin shop owner shot and killed an intruder.

Ugh, Wayne LaPierre, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Dewd, if you've over the age of 5, you are old enough to know that there are no good people or bad people (and for that matter, half of people are not "guys"). There are crazy people, brain-damaged-people, selfish people, people with extremely poor conflict-management skills, "good" people in horrible situations, all of whom may appear "good" as far as the government is concerned. If the solution is to have everyone armed, that is the end of hope for civilization. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012


Apologies for taking so long to post this: Rebecca Ann Coughenour, 23, was stabbed to death by Brandon Jerome Nowlin, 25, on Dec. 20th in the 200 block of Atholgate Lane in Ten Hills. Nowlin committed suicide by hanging himself in a vacant office building in Catonsville.*  Nowlin has a criminal history of assault and unlawful car-taking.