After the failed hearing for dismissal, I wrote a request for discovery with the city prosecutor, then e-mailed the prosecutor, asking for a meeting. I had intended to present the request in person so we could go over it and discuss the case. He responded in favor of the meeting, but, as it turned out, his office was too busy to fit me into the schedule.
As the date of trial neared, I was still unsure about how I was going to handle it. I had not heard back concerning discovery. My main concern was what lies Patrol Sargent Gordon McCracken had included in his report that would make a city prosecutor believe he had a case against me.
I was able to prepare a fool-proof defense against the biking without reflectors charge. For starters, my bike has all the reflectors Utah Code requires, any idiot cop could see that. I also had the owners manual, which contains the specs for the bike and reflectors, and even a statement assuring owners that it meets all federal and state statutes.
A week before the trial, I received an e-mail from the prosecutor’s office notifying me that the discovery I requested was ready to pickup. I was astonished to find that McCracken’s testimony in the police report concurred with the actual events. I took this as a good sign. I was bummed out that no evidence reports had been made concerning the key piece of evidence in the case: my bicycle. I still think it is interesting that my bike was locked up in processing for a week and no reports were made available to me. Of course, such reports would have crippled the city’s case.
In the week of preparation, I polished my own written testimony and contemplated filing it with the court. From several perspectives, it is not a good idea to do that. At long last, however, I decided that I would like to have my own testimony “on file” in case I was able to use the information later in life, such as, in a book for instance. I figured this reason outweighed the opposition. I filed the testimony the day before the trial with both the court and the city prosecutor, though I knew I was not going to testify myself.
The trial was on January 18th, 2006. I was, in a word, unprepared, being inexperienced in court. I know law well, but practical application is different. Not only that, but I had forgotten my key evidence against charge 2-bicycling without reflectors. (I had been prompted several times in the preceding weeks to place the evidence in my backpack ahead of time, but neglected to do it.) It would have taken too long to go back and get it, so, even though I had all the required reflectors on my bike, I wasn’t going to be able to prove it in my defense. However, charge 2 was the least of my worries.
The guts of the city’s accusations was charge 1-interfering with an arresting officer. The only defense I could come up with was to ask McCracken, in cross examination, whether I had performed any of the acts listed in Utah Code Annotated § 76-8-305. So I that’s what I did, with the code section as a guide, I asked, one-by-one, if I had done any of them.
I asked Gordon McCracken, while he was on stand, if I had used force or a weapon, he answered no. I asked him to tell the court what he asked me to do at the time of the arrest, such as where I was to place my hands, etc. so he did. I then asked him if I had refused to do any of it, he said no. I asked him if I had refused to refrain from doing anything he had requested I not do (such as did I talk after he told me not to) he answered no. So then I asked if it was his testimony that I had not done anything to interfere with him that night. He was stumped. When I asked him if I had performed any act that interfered with him, he answered “An act? No, you did not perform an act”. The prosecutor didn’t like that for obvious reason reasons; Utah Code Annotated § 76-8-305 uses the specific word act.
And despite the fact that McCracken had testified for the city prosecutor that everyone has a social security number, when I asked him flat-out what was my ssn, he had to say he didn’t know. The prosecutor was furious at that point and objected to my question. Lucky for me the judge agreed that the prosecutor himself had opened the door wide open for the question. It was classic. 😀
Despite the small victories, I did stumble through the trial and McCracken lied about our previous encounters which I was, in all honesty, not expecting after reading his initial testimony in the police report. To make matters worse, the prosecutor had never mentioned charge 2, nor did McCracken ever offer evidence that my bike did not have reflectors, so when I was finished questioning McCracken, I rested my case having forgotten to at least make an attempt to dispute the charge. I noticed it the millisecond after I had passed control back to the prosecutor, but it was too late, and I spent the rest of the time kicking myself in silence because of the critical error. I am still pretty angry about that.
The judge wasted no time declaring me guilty on charge 2. Arriving at his decision pertaining to charge 1, on the other hand, was an agonizing several minutes when he weighed his thought out loud, which tended to lean one way and then the other several times. At one point, I was sure he had made his final decision, and I wrote GUILTY! next to the charge has I had done with charge 2.
During the whole trial I pretended to be taking notes, I was just doodling, thinking how in the world was I going to get out of this? It was the cities position that because I answered “I don’t have one,” when McCracken asked for a social security number and again when he asked for an address, that I was refusing to perform an act in accordance with the statute.
The judge disagreed. He even said that if that constituted interference according to that code, cops could just approach any homeless person and arrest him for telling the cop that he did not have an address. 🙂
When I left, Gordon McCracken was still in the parking lot. He told me “congratulations, you did a good job in there”. I responded with a “thank you,” and proceeded to my new bicycle. I could overhear him talking to someone else saying, “I mean it too, he did a good job”.