As citizens, we have an obligation to disobey bad laws. As humans, we have a duty to defend ourselves against the encroachment of those freedoms we enjoy that in no way impede another’s will, body or property. I am all about being Human. Join me please by elevating yourself and in so doing, elevate the whole world.
Here is my letter to the judge who will be hearing my appeal in NJ on March 18, 2016.
Dear Judge Bauman:
Subject: Brief regarding MA# 16-007
Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude at the extension for this brief to be submitted for your consideration. I read your response regarding the “under God” phrase debate and had to admit that I found it reasonable and fair, given the parameters. Your civility, restraint, and practical and non-violent solution was inspiring. Secondly, I must mention that Tyler has been refreshingly pleasant and uncommonly helpful, while maintaining professional courtesy and respect.
To begin, here is a recap of the events that caused me to be charged with “use of cel phone while driving”, “no reg”, and “no ins” for which I was found Guilty on all charges:
Officer Balmer had stopped a white Range Rover on White Street approximately 30 yards from the intersection of White and Maple at a few minutes before 8 pm which was dusk in July. At the time that he did this, I was in traffic moving through the intersection; the Dodge 2500 Megacab I was driving was the fourth car behind his. Where he parked, as you can see from the photo that I took (the cause for my initial stop), he was blocking traffic in such a way that made it unsafe for oncoming traffic, those leaving both the School of Rock parking lot and the movie theater lot, as well as people entering from Maple, and pedestrians. (The school closes at 8 which means there are about fifteen cars that are trying to exit at that time. Yes, I know this as I was a student there. That does not even include those traveling at that very high traffic time on a summer evening.) If you look at the photo, you can see a car going around his as he is reaching into his vehicle. You can also see that there is a car behind him, also crossing a double yellow line into oncoming traffic, in order to get around him. I was stopped in the Dodge while the confusion sorted out, with the front end in the crosswalk and the remainder of the very large truck in the intersection. Vehicles were unable to safely enter from Maple, even though they had a green light. (Several minutes had passed before the car directly behind the cop’s had gone around him; confusion was on all sides.) When I saw a woman, standing at the edge of the crosswalk, with a grip on each of her children’s hands, look to me to tell her whether it was safe to go, I thought it best to photograph what I was seeing. My reasoning was that I would approach the police chief with what I considered to be a poor policy that caused unnecessary traffic congestion, as well as anxiety. If that brought no policy change, then I would go to the media as I am a reporter for Free Talk Live, CopBlock, Cop Watch and a blogger whose writings are picked up by mainstream media. (The camera has become the best defense against police overreach, which is by all measure at dangerous levels.) So while I was exercising my 1st Amendment right as well as being a good citizen, for which NJ law makes allowances and even encourages with the “See something, say something” slogans and statute exceptions, the cop responded as though I had done something illegal, which I hadn’t. He just didn’t like me photographing him. The only people who don’t like being photographed doing their job, that I know of, are people who are ashamed or who are doing something wrong. Well…and hackers.
He claimed that he approached me as I was supposedly holding a phone in front of my face distracting me. The judge refused to consider that the camera was the size of a rear view mirror and therefore could not possibly be obstructing my view. Further, the cop didn’t approach me; I was parked in the street but rather as I passed him motioned at me to pull over. I stopped, rolled down my window and told him that I would pull into the lot so I wasn’t in the way of traffic, to which he responded that I would stop exactly where he told me, “in front of the car” driven by the woman he was citing. I did. When he was finished, he approached me and told me to move my truck out of traffic. When I pointed out that I was closer to the curb than both he and the person whom he had stopped, he said he didn’t care and that he could arrest me. So I moved approximately to where I had said I would go, in the first place. By this time, I had flipped the Android to film and proceeded to record him for approximately 20 minutes. I showed him the paperwork I had, gave him my driver’s license, and listened to him discuss, with dispatch, whether the vehicle was registered, with him asking three times for clarification, even after he had been told that “yes, it is registered”. I also recorded how the stop was an impediment to those trying to travel safely on White.
The fact that the judge refused to believe that I was photographing, for the purpose of sharing the information as a public good, was not so worrisome to me, because he is very old in technology years and cameras weren’t available for filming during his active career as a judge. He even claimed that in his 30 years on the bench, “the first time in [his] life”, had he heard of someone taking a picture of a cop for the purpose of demonstrating that a cop was doing something unsafe. (He is truly beyond his expiration date on the bench.) But him acting as the prosecutor was upsetting, as well as his obvious disregard for the law, legal precedent, and dare I say, a level of civility which is most common to even the most base of people. Referring to my trial as a “game” was demeaning to the bench even to one who holds the supposed justice system in low regard. The constant condescension, hyperbole, and threats of contempt and jail were all bullying tactics. I expect better from someone who expects me to stand for him and address him as “Your Honor”.
Even I was surprised though when the judge blatantly ignored the law, where the statute expressly permits “the use of either hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone”, with the camera being a function of a Samsung Galaxy (a brand of Android). Further, he refused to consider State v. Malone, 2011 WL 2582730 where The Appellate Division, reading the statute as a whole, concluded that a motorist can use one hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone, but once engaged in the conversation, the use of the telephone must be “without the use of either hand.” I was at no time using the Samsung Galaxy as a telephone, nor was I engaged in a conversation on it. So I see absolutely no cause for a guilty verdict regarding that charge.
One might argue that because I did not have the 4 x 6 registration card, or the credit card-size insurance cards that I was somehow in breach of the law, if in fact that is what the Court said was the issue. But that is not what I am accused of. I am accused of failure to exhibit registration and insurance. The paperwork which I showed Balmer, at the time of the stop had official letterhead and included all the information that is on the “cards” and then some, as well as corroborated my reason for not having the cards. The judge handily led the witness who lied, under oath, about not seeing it, (Tracy seemed to leave that part out of the transcription, as well as a few other details, but I have already shown her to be a liar, so I won’t digress). It was this paperwork that was kept in the vehicle while waiting for the official cards. I tried to show the government mistakes that had led to the problem in court, in between being interrupted, abused, and threatened, but as I am completely unaccustomed to people who treat people so disrespectfully, I was flustered to say the least.
(Incidentally, there were several mistakes made along the way beyond the administrative mistakes by Montana DMV, as well as Geico; I even have a letter that Cathleen Gerber wrote at my request, admitting there had been clerical errors regarding my summons for which an improper arrest warrant was issued…twice! I believe you have been made aware of the many mistakes made by others, as well, for which I seem to be the only one inconvenienced. Well me and everyone who depends on me and who doesn’t work for the State.)
To be clear, I was not driving while using a cel phone device; I was stopped. I was using the cel phone device as a camera which is non-talking/texting application of the device. That charge ought to have already been dismissed. Strangely, the judge dismissed a charge against a woman, just before me, who had been using her device as a GPS as well as a charge against a woman who came after me, who had told me, everyone in line around us, and the prosecutor that she WAS guilty, and had been “caught red-handed talking on the phone”. The judge proved himself to be biased against the one person who he has admittedly come across to dare proclaim their innocence. He further did not require the cop to prove a single thing for which I was accused- so much for “innocent until proven guilty”.
As for the other two charges, I was a “free-to-travel” activist for over a decade and in five states, prior to visiting New Jersey. Nobody, in their right mind, would say that one is guilty of insurance and vehicle registration laws because they lack the correct size paper. That is absurd! And even if I did NOT show the cop the paperwork I had at the time of the stop, which I did, the judge was made aware that I was both driving a registered vehicle and possessed insurance for it, at the time. Had he been reasonable and exercising blindness to his own biases, he would have dismissed it, in keeping with the spirit of the law which is to supposedly protect people against theft, or damage to body or property, and compensation option in the event of such an occurrence.
I have included two photos for you. The one is the initial photo that I took and referenced and the second is from where I sat waiting for Balmer to finish up with the traffic stop he was in the midst of when I photographed him. You can see in the second photo that he at least closed his door. I guess I did provide some helpful influence over him.
In summation, I have had $300 donated for my appeal, which went to the State and a lying, incompetent transcriber. I bothered with all of this, after sitting in a courtroom, watching 10s of thousands of dollars collected from people for cell phone usage, who do not have the time or money to appeal and fight this horrendous statute, that serves no purpose, other than to generate revenue for the State. To be honest, I had this hopeful delusion that Judge Himelman would actually nullify the law. That used to be a thing, back in the day, when the courts served a purpose beyond punishing and fine collecting.
I would love the company of some freedom-minded people. 🙂