Op-ED by PM Beers
January 6, 2016
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(ANTIMEDIA) Los Angeles, CA — Six high ranking LAPD officers had already testified against me, and now it was time for my one and only witness, Jasmyne Cannick, to take the stand.
The charge I was on trial for, for nearly two weeks, was PC647, obstruction of a public place. I was doing a livestream broadcast of the protest on the night before Thanksgiving 2014 during a week of protests in Los Angeles after the news Darren Wilson would not be held accountable for the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. The only admissible evidence against me was a photo of me in a crosswalk with a red hand signal in the background, along with a line of cops blocking oncoming traffic.
Over a year later, in December of 2015, Ms. Cannick was an ideal witness. We couldn’t have asked for a more unbiased or professional individual to provide her eyewitness account. My public defender, James Gates, had gotten enough testimony from the police to show there was no opportunity for anyone to leave before about 130 of us were arrested on the charge of failure to disperse.
Because of this, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, Jennifer Waxler, needed a stalling tactic. She knew Ms. Cannick had a prior commitment and had to complete her testimony by 11:00 AM. Waxler had already gone through multiple 402 motions asking Judge Sztraicher to limit the testimony of Ms. Cannick. Waxler was attempting to prevent the jury from being informed of Ms. Cannick’s resume, which shows she works with police and is highly respected by politicians. She is also well-regarded in the field of journalism. In spite of Waxler’s attempts to suppress this information, the judge allowed Ms. Cannick to list her very long and prestigious resume, which includes working as a press secretary for Congress and working with the LAPD and the mayor of Los Angeles.
Even so, Cannick wasn’t allowed to testify that she was there covering the protest for a local radio station, and she wasn’t allowed to say she was also arrested that night.
It was around 9:00 AM on December 17th, 2015 when Jennifer Waxler told Judge Gustavo Sztraicher that she had “a serious matter to raise with the court.” She fabricated a story about how she was up late the prior night conducting research for this case. In spite of her assertion, the evidence she said she was examining was dated several days prior to when she claimed to have discovered it. Ms. Waxler, who could make petting a kitten look illegal, spoke in a shocked and horrified tone, stating Ms. Beers (that would be me), had been — GASP — blogging.
Waxler stated I had been blogging for the past two weeks, writing what had happened in the trial “word for word.” I silently giggled and took that as a compliment. I tried hard to write down as much I possibly could about what happened during my trial; I know transcripts can cost thousands of dollars, and I was the only person there covering this story. Considering she said my notes were “word for word,” I’m happy she thought I recorded the courtroom proceedings accurately. Waxler told the judge I had “hashtagged, me [Waxler], your honor, and Black Lives Matter.” I had tagged them in the article, and she stated this was a violation of the California Rules of Court 1.150 (it is not). By the way she intoned “Black Lives Matter,” one might think she was referring to something more along the lines of Hannibal Lecter.
Waxler raised the concern that witnesses and the jury might have read my blog. Nevermind they had already been ordered not to read or view any news stories on the trial. She handed the bailiff printouts from my blog and from my public Facebook fanpage. The printouts were dated December 14, 2015. She had been saving this “discovery” for the most strategically advantageous moment. One of the printouts was a photo someone had taken of me walking in a hallway in the courthouse. The photo was posted by someone other than myself, but my name had been tagged on the post, causing it to show up on my Facebook wall. I had posted links to my blog posts in the comments of the photo so people interested in my trial could stay current. Waxler was attempting to make transparency — reporting on what actually happened — look like a criminal act.
Ms. Waxler asked Judge Sztraicher to review everything in the Facebook and blog posts. She asked that the defendant — me — be remanded. At the time, I didn’t know remanded meant to be put in jail. Waxler said my blogging of my trial notes was “interfering with the sanctity of these proceedings.” Of course, accusing me of a doing something that’s not against the law was what was actually “interfering with the sanctity of these proceedings.”
Waxler asked the judge to order me to “cease and desist of any further actions.” She also asked for a hearing from each witness to find out if they had read any of the information I posted. She asked that any witnesses who had read my blog be excluded from this trial. Witnesses are not allowed to watch the trial. She argued that my notes included 402 motions that witnesses are not supposed to know about. Waxler had already failed in her repeated attempts to ask the judge to limit testimony about Ms. Cannick’s work history, which would have made Cannick a less credible witness, so now, Waxler was hoping to use my blogging as a strategy to disqualify Ms. Cannick from testifying on my behalf. Clearly, Jennifer Waxler did not want Jasmyne Cannick to speak before the judge or jury.
My public defender, Mr. Gates, said, “This is a troubling and chilling attempt to stop the freedom of the press and to silence people.” Waxler referred to the California Rules of Court Number Six, which state it “will not permit coverage.” Gates clarified the rule applied to “media coverage.” Judge Sztraicher said he was not familiar with any media coverage because he does not look at media coverage of himself. Waxler said my blog posts were a 777 evidence code violation. However, Judge Sztraicher said, “No exclusionary order was given by the court,” adding that Sztraicher could not “retroactively make an order.” Sztraicher said, “If witnesses speak to one another, the other party may ask if it happened.” Basically, the judge admitted he didn’t tell me I couldn’t blog about my trial, but also decided the lawyers could ask witnesses if they had read my blog.
On that day, both sides went on to argue about what my witness, Ms. Cannick, would and would not be allowed to say. Ms. Cannick took the stand and made it clear that at a certain point, her intention was to leave the protest, but that she was unable to do so because police lines were preventing her from getting back to her car. Further, she testified that she did not hear a dispersal order from police. My lawyer asked if Ms. Cannick was aware I had a blog. She said at the time of my arrest she was only aware I was known as a live streamer. She said she did become aware I had a blog but had not read it in the past two weeks.
Waxler called another high ranking LAPD cop to the witness stand to testify that he had heard the dispersal order. Both sides presented closing statements and my jury was sent to the jury room to determine a time to deliberate. They decided to do so at 1:30 the next day.
I was ordered by Judge Sztraicher to return to court the next morning, Friday, December 18, 2015, at 9:00 AM. That morning, Waxler demanded I be remanded into custody and ordered to cease and desist from blogging about the trial. She referred to Subdivision Six of the California Rules of Court and mentioned “prohibited coverage.” Her voice, scratching on the chalkboard of justice, went on to spew more vile implications as she referred to her copies of “her trial notes and face page from her blog,” as well as the printout from my Facebook page. Speaking with a tone that implied I had committed a violent, criminal act, she stated I had cut and pasted my trial notes onto my Facebook page. Her venomous way of speaking would have been more fitting for a murderer who had cut out someone’s heart and pasted it in a public space. I wondered how many acting classes she had taken — and if taxpayer funds covered that cost.
My public defender, James Gates, clarified the California Rules of Court prohibits photography, video recording, and broadcasting. He added, “I find this motion disturbing.” Judge Sztraicher then referred to Section 1.150 of the Rules of Court. He said, “I don’t find this type of reporting is in violation of the California Rules of Court. Recording does not include handwritten notes. I don’t find the activity in violation of the court’s order. I would point out that it would violate 777 of code…” (I missed the rest of that sentence in my notes). Sztraicher continued, “There was no motion to exclude witnesses by either party.” He added that he couldn’t “retroactively change the rules,” concluding, “Motion to remand denied. Motion to cease and desist denied.”
At 1:30, my jury arrived and began to deliberate, and an hour later they asked to see a video once again. Six minutes into the video, I am seen walking into the area where the dispersal order was issued. The video, presented by the prosecution, was conveniently edited to exclude me taking people and leaving the area before the dispersal order was even given. In spite of this, at 4:15 PM, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict for my charge of obstruction of a public place.
This article (The LA City Attorney Tried to Throw Me in Jail for Blogging) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to PM Beers and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.