Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Ignacio Vazquez probably doesn’t know it, but I am a pretty good chess player.
I’ve been playing since I was a child; taught by my grandfather in Colombia and developing my game in the years after, especially those two years I lived in Europe after college where the game is taken very seriously.
I used to play with the old Spaniards and the young Jews and the drunken Russians and the wandering Aussies, all whom elevated my game to a higher level. I even participated in a few chess tournaments in Dublin, my old stomping grounds, where chess and beer go together like castling rooks.
Canal Street, New Orleans 2004
And I’ve not only played against los viejitos on Calle Ocho, I’ve played against street hustlers in New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, which is where this 2004 photo was taken.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that since my Feb. 2007 arrest, I’ve approached my case as a lengthy chess game; a case that is now in its endgame.
After all, not only is chess a metaphorical reflection of life itself, but it is also a microcosm of courtroom dramatics; a series of charted and uncharted moves that either lead you to victory, defeat or stalemate.
But now my opponent is stalling his next move, hoping he will suddenly see the saving solution that would force this game into stalemate.
Late last month, Vazquez filed for a motion of extension, asking for an extra 45 days to respond to my appeal brief. He now has until Feb. 17th, which is an obvious attempt to unsettle me, especially considering that I was only allowed a 30-day extension to file my appeal brief back in October.
But like a good chess player, I must be patient. It’s been almost two years since I’ve been performing this gambit with the Miami-Dade legal system. Another couple of months is not going to kill me.
And although I believe I am close to checkmating my opponent. I should have checkmated him during my trial but I made a bad move when I decided to testify.
It was a risky move that I later regretted because I ended up coming across as hostile to Vazquez. I am a naturally high strung person, so I came across as nervous on the witness stand. I’m not a career defendant after all. This was all new to me.
But a good chess player can make a bad move and still recover. I can’t count the times I’ve lost my queen only to end up beating my opponent. Although I was convicted of resisting arrest without violence, I was acquitted of refusing a lawful order and disorderly conduct. In other words, I exchanged one piece for two pieces.
And the more valuable piece in this game was the refusing a lawful order charge. That was the queen of all charges, the whole basis of their arrest. They liked that charge so much that they initially charged me with five counts of refusing a lawful order, even though it was only one order I supposedly refused.
By the jury finding me not guilty on that charge, it is evident they believed police were giving me an unlawful order when they told me to leave the area, which we, as citizens, are entitled to refuse.
Now that Vazquez has an extra 45 days to prepare his response, I have no doubt he is perusing my blog, searching for evidence that I have a long history of hatred against police, which is what lead to my arrest.
After all, that is what he did in preparation for my trial. He searched and found a couple of posts I had written in May 2007 where I compared a group of jackboot Los Angeles police officers to Nazi soldiers.
The cops were caught on video bashing the legs of Mexican children and trampling over journalists during a non-violent immigration rally. The incident resulted in multimillion dollar lawsuits against the LAPD as well as disciplinary action against 19 officers.
Now you may or may not agree with my comparison. But I find it impossible to argue that these posts prove I had a history of bias against police prior to my arrest, which is why I would resist arrest, when I wrote them more than two months after my arrest.
It’s like accusing a man of murder because he purchased a gun two months after his neighbor was found shot to death.
My attorney, Arnold Trevilla, argued that this was improper character evidence. Both attorneys went into sidebar with the judge where Vazquez claimed these blog posts proved that I had a “history of hating police”, according to transcripts of the trial. He also theorized that I was “reliving a fantasy world” where I believed I was a victim of Nazi oppression. Vazquez may be a good attorney but he’s a horrible psychologist.
Judge Fernandez ended up agreeing that these blog posts show “a bias against police officers” and allowed Vazquez to continue with his questions. And they didn’t even allow me to explain the context behind the articles. It was made to look like I viewed all police officers as Nazi soldiers, when in fact, these were the only two times that I ever referred to police as Nazi soldiers on my blog.
In fact, Vazquez failed to point that in one of those posts, I also commended the NYPD for acting professionally during an immigration rally I photographed that same year, as you will see here:
I gained a lot of respect for NYPD that day. They handled the situation authoritatively but without going overboard. Had they been a tad bit more aggressive, they would have started a riot that would have dominated the newscasts (and rightly so), but which would have killed the overall message of the rally.
So I have no doubt that Vazquez has been reading my blog in preparation for his answer brief. For all I know, he may even be a commenter.
Disclaimer: I would like to point out that I don’t have a history of bias against prosecutors nor do I have any personal animosity against Vazquez. I believe he is an ethical attorney who happens to be extremely competitive.
I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar.