It’s been more than a month since my acquittal and I’ve been wanting to write an in-depth piece on the entire trial, but I’ve had so many things going on that I just haven’t been able to sit down long enough to write it.
So I’m going to keep it short and simple and just post the videos, which will allow you to see the entire trial from opening statements to the not guilty verdict, if you have several hours to kill.
It was a sweet victory but also a complete waste of tax money. But they knew I was planning on suing, so they gave it all they had.
But it was nothing compared to what I had: two experienced, aggressive attorneys who made their prosecutors look like rookies fresh out of law school, which is exactly what they were.
The fact that Assistant State Attorney Thomas D. Graham opted to take this to trial, offering me a couple of weak plea deals along the way, proves he clearly underestimated my tenacity when it comes to these matters.
But it also proves that the system is designed to work against the citizen. That you’re really not innocent until proven guilty unless you have the time, money or connections to prove you’re innocent.
Or in my case, this blog, which enabled me to raise enough money and support to fight the case until the end.
I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my attorney Arnold Trevilla, who’s been my attorney throughout all three of my arrests, never being afraid to take on the cops in court unlike many other attorneys that urge their clients to accept plea deals, which is what my very first attorney did in 2007 before dropping me as a client when I refused to accept these deals.
In fact, Trevilla brought in his friend, Santiago Lavandera, to assist in the trial, who gave an incredible closing argument.
I also wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Chandler brothers, specifically Robert, who was able to pry public records from the Miami-Dade Police Department when Major Nancy Perez was refusing to provide requested public records to Trevilla.
And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you guys, those of you who donated and those who didn’t. The moral support from my readership was one of the driving forces that propelled me to keep moving forward when they kept trying to throw up road blocks.
But most people don’t have all that. Usually when a citizen gets arrested for recording cops, they are very inexperienced in fighting the system because they are law-abiding citizens who are suddenly treated like criminals for the first time in their lives.
It can be a tedious, mind-breaking experience that can leave one exasperated. And the prosecutors know that, which is why they offer plea deals that force people to give up something in order to get their lives back to normal rather than just dismiss the charges without any conditions as they should do.
It’s a game and nobody plays it better than they do, which is why they were confident they would wear me down.
But I was able to force them out of their game where they ended up looking stupid and humiliated and they have nobody to blame but themselves for that.
This was my third time in the legal arena for recording cops, which means I’ve been fighting these cases while those prosecutors were still in law school.
I’d been confident that I would beat the charges from the moment I was arrested because I knew I had not broken any laws. And that confidence grew stronger with each revealed lie and exposed blunder on their part.
Despite Perez’s 27 years on the force and her experience in dealing with the media as a public information officer, I quickly realized I was dealing with an amateur with a tendency to stick her foot in her mouth.
And she did just that on the witness stand when Trevilla caught her in a lie.
I will admit that I had a brief moment of doubt after the jurors had entered deliberations because the judge did not grant us the full jury instructions we had requested.
I was facing a year in jail, but most likely would not have received that if I had been convicted. But you just never know what the prosecutors would ask for in a situation like this, especially after all I had blogged. And you just never know how much bias the judge will end up showing.
So I began planning my appeal as I sat in the witness chair, thinking I could build an argument on the fact that they did not allow our proposed jury instructions, confident I would have this conviction reversed if it came down to it as I’ve done before when I faced a much less impartial judge (Judge Newman was very fair and even-handed as you will see in the videos).
It’s really nothing but a chess game where you anticipate the occasional setback by planning a couple of moves ahead.
But when the jury emerged within 35 minutes, which included the time it took to set up and view the videos, I knew I had won because juries tend to deliberate longer when they convict.
I was on trial for a single charge of resisting a police officer without violence, which even though is normally referred to as “resisting arrest,” it encompasses a little more, as you can read in the statute below:
Whoever shall resist, obstruct, or oppose any [law enforcement or probation] officer or other person legally authorized to execute process . . . In the law execution of a legal duty, without offering or doing violence to the person of the officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
Trevilla had requested that we include statements in the jury instructions asking whether they believed my First Amendment rights were violated, which are not included in standard jury instructions on this charge.
Judge Newman didn’t allow the entire jury instructions we requested but he did allow some to be included, as you can see in video 12 of 13.
Witnesses for the state included Miami-Dade Police Captain Michael Dieppa, who came across as the most credible witness on their end, who said I had come to his attention during the protest because I had been wearing a bandanna over my face, but also said that he didn’t see me arguing with cops or doing anything suspicious.
In fact, their whole argument that night was that they were under the impression I was an activist and not a journalist, even though two of the cops on the stand received an email from the department’s homeland security division before my arrest, warning them of my intended presence at the eviction, describing me as a “Miami multimedia journalist” who has been arrested twice for photographing cops.
The bandanna had been handed to me by an activist when the cops had pulled out their tear gas canisters prior to the eviction but I removed it once it became clear they weren’t going to use tear gas.
In fact, Dieppa, who was overseeing the eviction, can be seen at 3:22 of my video running past me, ensuring that all the activists had been cleared, so it’s obvious he thought I was a journalist.
A few seconds later, he is forced to arrest me because Perez, who outranks him, orders him to do so.
Then there was Rick Bravo, who is not a cop but clearly wants to be a cop, whose job was to video record the activists that night and who is evidently Nancy Perez’s little sidekick.
He kept saying that I looked like an activist because of the bandanna and because at one point in the night, I looked directly into his camera and demanded to know why was I being forced off the sidewalk into the street.
But at that point, I was not wearing a bandanna, so if I had been activist wishing to conceal my identity as they continually claimed, it would seem illogical to look directly into a police camera unmasked and question their orders.
The reason I was doing that was because I did not want to be forced into the street, only to get arrested for standing in the street. I was just trying to protect myself with logic and the law, which is hard to do when you’re dealing with cops.
When Perez took the stand, she basically admitted she had me arrested because I had upset her when I told her to get the fuck out of my shot after she attempted to block me from recording an activist getting arrested.
So as you can see, they really had nothing on me except that I was wearing a bandanna, questioned some cops about why wasn’t I allowed to stand on the sidewalk and used the word “fuck” in front of Perez’s virgin ears.
Speaking of which, Trevilla was brilliant when he forced her say this word “fuck” on the stand. She was clearly out of her element.
And then we brought up our only witness, Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin, who was one of the few corporate reporters covering the eviction that night that was not embedded with the cops.
He not only said there was no doubt in his mind that I was a journalist, but that he had feared for his own arrest once he saw me in handcuffs.
That was enough to show the jury there was no clearly established police perimeter, which they kept saying I had crossed.
I have to make a small correction from my previous article on my trial where I wrote that prosecutor Ari Pregen used the phrase “a real journalist” would not question cops on why they couldn’t stand on the sidewalk. He simply said “a journalist” in his closing argument without the word “real” in front of it.
Prosecutor Graham kept using the phrase “a normal journalist” throughout the trial, indicating those corporate journalists embedded with the police.
I had written the post-trial piece without viewing the video, so I think I still had Alan Kluger’s words in my mind in which he questioned whether or not I was a “real journalist” in a separate hearing less than a week before my trial.
Nevertheless, their point was very clear. That a journalist would never dare stand up to authority. And that’s the main reason why I don’t work for the corporate media anymore.
Now the next step is to prepare my lawsuit, but that’s going to take a while considering I still haven’t settled on an attorney yet.
But before they make the mistake of underestimating me again, they should know I have plenty to choose from.