Plead guilty or else we drop all charges

Outlandish tactics by D.A. in pursuing drug conviction

District attorney Bonnie Dumanis
  • District attorney Bonnie Dumanis

On Tuesday (June 9), Devin Whitaker, a 23-year-old African-American with dreadlocks, filed suit against the county, sheriff William Gore, three sheriff's deputies, and others for unlawful arrest, excessive force, battery, negligence, and other alleged offenses.

On August 15 of last year, Whitaker was waiting to catch a trolley at the Lemon Grove trolley station. That day, the sheriff's department was participating in "Operation Lemon Drop," a dragnet operation in Lemon Grove. Whitaker charges that the sheriff's deputies illegally seized, detained, and searched him, looking for drugs or drug paraphernalia.

According to the suit, the deputies found a meth pipe at the trolley station and claimed it was Whitaker's. However, says the suit, there were no fingerprints indicating it was his. Whitaker says the deputies claimed that he was acting nervous, which Whitaker denied. After a bit of a scuffle, Whitaker was jailed. He claimed that his face received permanent scars as a result of the rough treatment.

The district attorney's office attempted to get Whitaker to plead guilty. He would not. On the morning of the trial, the D.A. dropped all charges. Now Whitaker is suing.

The sheriff's office refused comment and the county did not answer queries.

There appear to be similarities with this case and Kolender vs Lawson from 1983. A black youth in dreadlocks was arrested 15 times by San Diego police in 18 months. The young man, Edward Lawson, went to court to challenge a law requiring persons who loiter to identify themselves. The United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the statute used against Lawson was vague.

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Thanks Don, for reminding me of another 'black youth in dreadlocks' who was repeatedly arrested in San Diego. Jefferson F. Poland was a popular member of our local Mensa organization; tall, handsome, intelligent and educated. One of his many interesting activities was 'walking while black'. He would walk in the posh neighborhoods of our town waiting to be arrested. He dared the police to challenge his right to walk anywhere he wanted. But for the name, he could be the same person.

But that was the least controversial of his long list of activities. Please do not risk being offended by reading a brief expose here:

swell: Many thanks. This looks quite interesting. Best, Don Bauder

Al Pistachio: The headline writer used irony -- effectively, in judgment. Best, Don Bauder

Absolutely the most frightening pic in the files! One who would be both Inquisitor General and Executioner if possible. Since the latter should still have to wear black hood, maybe . . .

Just joking, just joking! Dig the irony out of this one.

Twister: Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord High Executioner comes to mind. He has a little list... Best, Don Bauder

Just going to have to state the obvious--how utterly moronic. I am otherwise at a loss for words.

eastlaker; What do you mean utterly moronic? The man was in Mensa. Didn't you see that? Best, Don Bauder

don bauder. In order to join Mensa, a person merely needs to have attained a "score within the upper two percent of the general population on an intelligence test that has been approved by the International Supervisory Psychologist and that has been properly administered and supervised" . That's it. There is no requirement based on ones morality or or even good judgement. Since moronic can be used to describe lacking in good judgment, it seems to fit.

danfogel; When somebody repeatedly brags that he or she is in Mensa, one has to wonder whether the repetition reveals deep feelings of inferiority, very possibly justified. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder I suppose that is possible. Nevertheless, because someone with an extremely high IQ can also be lacking in good judgement, "utterly moronic" could indeed be an appropriate description, Mensa membership not withstanding.

danfogel: I have always wondered what Mensa members do at their meetings. Do they sit in a circle and boast how wonderful it is to qualify for Mensa? Best, Don Bauder

danfogal: Be that as it may I am proud to be a member of Densa (no I did not misspell it)

AlexClarke: You are not the first to come up with Densa. I know. I was asked to join but could never locate the meeting place. Best, Don Bauder

Don, my meaning was this--that it was utterly moronic of law enforcement to go after Mr. Whitaker with essentially no case. Given the environment of San Diego, maybe we won't get anyone any better than Bonnie Dumanis, but it sure would be great if San Diego law enforcement could up their game by several parasangs.

eastlaker: But it happens all the time. Prosecutors pursue a case against someone they know is innocent. They may bully the person to a plea agreement. Best, Don Bauder

Teflon Bonnie Dumanis is yet another example of why more elected officials should have term limits.

aardvark: But she wasn't able to get elected to a higher post on the totem pole. Best, Don Bauder

its a shame they don't have to take an oath like doctors , the part about "do no harm" comes to mind in the hippocratic oath

Murphyjunk: Who has to take the Hypocritic Oath? Best, Don Bauder

Actually, the phrase first do no harm isn't in the hippocratic oath, in either the modern or original form. The phrase is said to have come from another of Hippocrates' works.

and all along I thought it was from Sam Jaffe (dr. Zorba)

danfogel: One could look that up, but I am too bushed at the moment. Best, Don Bauder

MichaelValentine: Sucking up to the 1% is a time-tested way to get campaign cash and get elected in San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

Jensen Bound. Tell us more about the University of Barsoom at Helium. Does it have a football team? Best, Don Bauder

Christopher Lynn: Sadly, you are right. Prosecutors go after an innocent person, offer him or her a deal (light sentence if they confess), and the prosecutors get another notch on their pistol. Best, Don Bauder

Chris T. Harris: Right you are. The prosecutors say if you plead guilty, the government will pick up your defense bills. If you don't plead, you will go broke defending yourself. The lynching of Bob Filner is a classic case. Best, Don Bauder

Prosecutors often file charges to discourage civil suits for battery, deprivation of civil rights under color of law 42 USC sec. 1983, or wrongful death (they allege a reason for the shooting or claim suicide in in-custody hangings). It is incredible that prosectors would engage in blatant attempts to use the full weight of the criminal justice system to protect wrongdoing by officers. This practice compounds the injustice.

District Attorneys oftentimes roll on the scene with police officers and sequester witnesses and seize videos. Witnesses on probation or parole are sometimes threatened with violations to recant testimony favorable to the victim of police misconduct.

Any plea makes prosecution of a civil suit more difficult, if not impossible, because the victim must stipulate to a factual basis for the plea to the charge.

Officer-involved shootings (OIS) reports are privileged to a large extent. It is necessary to subpoena officers in the preliminary hearing and to put on an affirmative defense. This requires an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Most lawyers and victims plead out the case. This practice is used to defend the most egregious police misconduct cases.

Not all DAs roll on the case. But they usually understand that some arrests are unjustified, even as they file charges to prevent civil suits. In such cases, a more serious crime is being committed by law enforcement. These crimes are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. This is a huge flaw in our system.

Diogenes: Right you are. I do think it is healthy for our society that police shootings of unarmed and innocent African-American men are being challenged all around the U.S. It is high time our citizenry learned of these egregious abuses. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, I think it would be "healthy" for our society if law enforcement simply didn't shoot/kill innocent and unarmed individuals in the first place, regardless of their ethnicity.

danfogel: I agree. I would like to see police officers not even carry guns. However, it is too late for that, with so many trigger-happy people walking around with guns, thanks to the NRA. Best, Don Bauder

when will life guards and the water cops be issued firearms ?

Murphyjunk: Gun manufacturers would love that. Best, Don Bauder

Plenty of criminality is within the law. Social mores work better. No single person should ever have the power of final judgment. Laws in search of crimes and criminalizing people for no really good reason are compounding. Putting dumb anuses in charge of their "administration" is nothing short of criminal.

Twister: I have been preaching for 50 years that scams are often legal. Best, Don Bauder

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