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Subject: I got to talk with Robbie last week
From: Butterfly Bill
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2007 22:58:19 +0000
I heard Robbie tell this story to all of the people who came around to his house and called up on his cell phone, and if you know Robbie Gordon, you know that's a lot of people. I've heard it repeated enough that I think I've got most of his original words right, tho he did change them a bit sometimes himself. But I'm gonna tell it in the third person:
Robbie was reading "The Lord of the Rings" when he heard a helicopter outside, so he went out to take a look. Robbie has the use of only one leg, so he had to do this on his hand-carved canes that he uses like crutches.
It wasn't flying as low as it had been the last two times they came around to his house on the mesa and busted him for growing marijuana. [Little more happened from those two than that they hauled off all his plants and he got a fine.] It was flying at what he would estimate about 300 feet, circling his house several times.
He saw in the distance 10 assorted kinds of cop cars parked at a road intersection about a quarter mile from his house, and he got some descriptions of them from friends who were nearer to them: two New Mexico state, two Taos County, two New Mexico Fish and Game Commission, and 4 Forest Service LEOs. There had been a downpour the previous evening, and for about two days after such an event the totally unimproved dirt roads that lead into his "subdivision" and to his house are deep rutted quagmires until they dry out again into rock-hard dirt. Only one state police car drove all the way to his house. Robbie was standing outside on his canes as they approached.
They got out of their car, and there was a lady officer and a young man. The lady did most of the talking. The first thing she said was, "Are you having a nice day?"
Robbie answered, "Well, I guess I was until you guys showed up", and he gestured toward the helicopter. It had stopped circling and was hovering in front of him so that he could see people in the helo looking down at him.
She said, "Is your name Robert Gordon?"
He replied, "Yes it is. What do you want?"
"We have reason to believe that you're growing marijuana plants."
Robbie then reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a card and handed it to her. He said, "I have this card from the New Mexico Department of Health that says I am authorized to smoke pot and possess up to eight medical marijuana plants."
She looked it over and said, "I haven't seen one of these before."
"Yes, it's a new law that just started on July 1st."
She hesitated for a second and finally said, "Yeah... I've heard of it. Then she said more deliberately, "Might I ask how somebody gets one of these cards?"
"Well, first you have to go to a doctor who will see if you have one of six medical conditions that can benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Then your doctor writes a letter to the health department, and they will certify you."
"What are these six conditions?"
"They are glaucoma, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and my condition, which is damage to the spinal cord resulting in intractable spasticity."
She handed the card to the other officer, and he looked it over and gave it back to her. Then she said, "Do you mind if we look around?"
Robbie answered, "No, I do not give you permission to search my property, and this is my property."
She looked at the other cop, and he looked back, and finally she gave the card back and said, "Thank you".
Robbie said, "You're welcome", and they got back into their car and left, as did the helicopter and all of the other vehicles. They didn't go to any of the other residences in his neighborhood, even tho there are others there who had been busted for pot in the past.
He showed me the card when he told me about this the first time. It was about the size of a driver's license, a piece of inkjet printed paper laminated in plastic, that said: TEMPORARY MEDICAL MARIJUANA PASS, along with a number and his name, the words "good until 10/07", and a rainbow colored logo for the NMDoH in the bottom right corner. It had no portrait picture, and could very easily be manufactured by someone with MS Word and an inkjet printer. That may be why it was temporary; some less easily faked ones are to come in October.
I missed Robbie at the gathering in Arkansas, which he didn't attend, so I drove to Taos last week to visit him at his adobe house on the mesa to the west, absolutely totally off of any grid, and a drive down deeply rutted roads from town. I wanted him to give me some peer review on what I've got done of the book I'm writing about my Rainbow experiences, and he wanted me to give him some advice on his legal case from being arrested at the regional gathering they had started late in July of this year at the site of the 1995 national near Tres Piedras, NM. I printed out the comments and responses article of 1993 on the proposed new regulations, the 1988 court case brief, and the 1999 one for him to read. His arraignment, as well as those of 10 other people who were also arrested at the gathering, was on Aug. 23rd, and I accompanied him there and to the meeting they had with their lawyers the previous afternoon.
Robbie's charges were, as the officer wrote on his tickets:
"Use or occupancy of National Forest land without special use authorization", and
"Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any Forest officer engaged in his duties'".
Robbie related the events that led up to his being charged thus:
In the evening of Thursday, June 26 a line of FS LEO vehicles came up and stopped in front of a group of people and the cop in charge of this group got out of his car and said, "All right. The party's over." He then told everyone there that they had until tomorrow morning to leave the forest. Anyone still there the next morning would be subject to arrest. A lot of people did leave, but a few stayed behind, and Robbie was one of them. He had erected his tepee, as he usually does at any gathering.
Robbie was inside his tepee when he heard a voice from outside saying, "Who's in charge here? How come this tepee hasn't been taken down?" Robbie crawled to the door and said, "This is my tepee, officer, and I'm not taking it down because I don't intend to leave."
Robbie then took out one of some small cards that he said he had been carrying since July of 1972 for situations like this, that started out with "I do not consent to a search" and went on to quote the Fourth Amendment. He handed it to the officer, who gave it a brief look, and tried to hand it back to Robbie. Robbie didn't take the card and let it fall to the ground.
"You know, I could arrest you for littering because of what you've just done", said the officer. But I won't do it if you co-operate with me.
Robbie said, "I am not going to cooperate."
The officer said, "Stand up", and Robbie replied that he couldn't without the aid of his canes. Another officer said, "He's lying. He can walk. I saw him last night."
He was ordered to stand up again by the first, and Robbie didn't because he really couldn't. He told me that his legs had gone stiff in a bent position, a case of the intractable spasticity that his marijuana was medicating, happening at this moment because of the stress he was feeling.
The other officer said, "Make him stand", and the two grabbed him under the armpits and tried to leave him standing, but when he began to collapse again they laid him face down on the two poles he has attached to one of his wheelchairs so they can be picked up like the poles of a rickshaw. There they handcuffed him with the arms behind his back and then attempted to search him, going thru his pockets and unclipping the suspenders on his pants. Robbie said to them, "You can turn me over, but I'm not going to cooperate."
Then, as he put it, "I remembered all the non-violence training I had had back in the sixties. I just went limp and didn't move." The cops again picked him up beneath the shoulders and dragged him to a police truck, about 30 feet, with his hands in cuffs and his feet sliding on the ground. When they got to the truck they first leaned him against the side, then they opened his door, and got his rump up onto the seat. Then they tried to bend his legs so they could turn his body the rest of the way into the truck. But his legs were stiff and couldn't be bent far enough.
Then one officer pulled out a baton and said to him, "I'm going to administer pain compliance technique."
Then he hit Robbie's thigh twice with the baton, sudden sharp blows. Then he did it to the other thigh. Then, as Robbie said to me about it, "All of a sudden the stiffness was gone and they succeeded in moving my legs far enough to get them into the car." He was not hit any more, and he and 10 other people were taken away in police vehicles.
For reasons not made clear all of the arrestees were transported down to the county jail in Bernalillo, the seat of Sandoval County, even tho the gathering was in Rio Arriba County to the north. The trip was about 120 miles, that included long periods of sitting in the cars while they were parked and the officers were discussing on the radio and waiting for replies or for other officers to show up. They finally got to Bernalillo at 10:34 pm (Robbie checked the clock), but Robbie was taken to a hospital (probably BCMC in Albuquerque) to "be examined".
Robbie was now alone with two Forest Service officers, and he told me that "I was tired, they were tired", and they all started relaxing and engaging in conversation with each other. One thing that Robbie especially remembered was one of them saying, "When you call 'Shanti Sena', and then lots of people stated running toward us and then surrounding us, we feel threatened."
They got to the hospital, wheeled him in, and a doctor examined the scars on his back, and gave him some reflex tests with a rubber hammer. They got him back to the jingleslam at about 2 in the morning.
They spent the night in the drunk tank, a large communal cell that they shared with 5 genuine drunks. They were taken before a judge at about 9 in the morning, and he gave them a court date and released them all on their own recognizance, except Kalif, who had some legal problems beyond Rainbow.
When I got to Robbie's place late in the afternoon of Sunday a week ago, there was a sister and two brothers who had been arrested and who had been staying since the eviction at Robbie's place. A third brother who lived nearby stayed at Robbie's house Tuesday night. (Kalif had also been staying with him too, but he and Robbie had some disagreements and Kalif had left.) They all left in an old Cadillac sedan that the sister owned at about noon on Wednesday to try to make it to a meeting with their lawyers in conference room at the Public Defender's office in Albuquerque. The lawyers, a man and a woman, were acting pro bono and were not court appointed, but the woman used to be a PD and was still able to get the use of the room.
The meeting was supposed to be at 4:00 pm, but the Taoseños didn't make it until about 4:35. Another Rainbow brother showed up before 4, as did I (who drove down by myself).
The lawyers told them about an offer from the prosecutor that they plead guilty to illegal camping and all charges of resisting arrest would be dropped, they would be put on "unsupervised probation", and would have to pay $200 in "court fees", a $1000 fine, and a condition of their probation would be that they stay out of any National Forest for 365 days. They knew in advance that nobody would agree to this.
Robbie and the sister had decided to plead not guilty and demand a jury trial, but the lawyers told us that only offenses for which the possible jail time was more than six months were eligible for a jury trial. The occupancy and the resisting arrest charges were both misdemeanors of six months maximum, so the case was going to have to be decided by a judge.
Some of the other Rainbows still wanted to know if they could still just give up a "forfeiture of collateral", which meant simply paying the fine amount on the ticket (typically $400), and there was confusion over why they still would still have to go to trial if they did this. Two of the brothers lived in California, and others were also from out of state, and didn't have the resources to return to Albuquerque for the trial
The lawyers discussed possible defenses, and they knew about "reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are content neutral and narrowly tailored to specific governmental needs", and didn't waste much time on another First Amendment defense, the kind that has already lost in court several times. There was considerable doubt over whether there were truly 75 or more people there, which they thought they might could exploit. There were some stories of blatant brutality that they thought they could present during the discussions of the interference with an officer charges. They had asked for a $10,000 bond form us, which had never been done before to us or to anybody else.
Finally we were told to "dress appropriately, that means at least no shorts".
Robbie called around in the few days before this event trying to find someone in Albuquerque who would offer a place to crash, but he was not successful. One of the people he called recommended a motel on Central near the university, so Robbie rented a room for two people and tried to see if he could sneak the three others in too. (I rented a room by myself.) But they were found out by the manager, and three people had to leave. But Robbie managed to make another phone call to someone who lived in Albuquerque who this time offered to take them in, so the three brothers left and the sister stayed with Robbie. It was 50 dollars a night plus room taxes, and not worth the price in my opinion. (For 50 bucks I expect at least a microwave, fridge, clock radio, and shampoo along with the soap, none of which this motel provided.)
Thursday morning all of us arrived on time at 9:00 am at the federal courthouse on Gold Street twixt 4th and 5th. We had to go thru a security check with the x-rayed bags like at an airport. Then we were admitted to a room with wood paneling on all the walls, and matching furniture. There had been two more Rainbow brothers who had showed up that morning for the arraignment. One was wearing sandals, and the other had on jeans cut off at the knees. A man in a suit who had a badge on his coat breast pocket that said "Court Security" did not let them into the courtroom.
I had on a red rayon dress with the hem at mid calf length, knee high trouser socks, dress loafers, and a black suit coat, and nobody said anything to me about it. There was also a woman in a pants suit who had on some open toed dress shoes, with a short high heel, who walked in and out of the courtroom.
Four Forest Service LEOs showed up in their green cargo pants, khaki shirts, and gun belts before we all went in, and some of them were chatty with some of the Rainbows. The two who had taken Robbie to the hospital greeted him with "how's it going", and Robbie responded cordially and made some small talk.
The was a desk at the front for the judge, a table in front of it behind a partition that separated it from the rest of the room with two computer monitors on it, two tables in the middle of the room each with six chairs around them, and three rows of benches that looked like church pews in the rear of the room for the spectators.
There was another case besides ours being taken care of during the same hour, and there was a man in an Air Force dress uniform with captain's bars at the table, and an airman 1/C in camo utilities sitting in the pews along with a lot of what looked like family members, mostly women, in civvies.
After "all rise", the judge entered, and he started with our case. He asked each of the defendents to state their name, address, and phone number or any othere means of contact. He asked, "Do you understand the charges against you? Are you on any kind of medications? Could any of these medications impair your ability to testify in this court?" Then he asked for a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Some of the people asked his honor about forfeiting collateral, and he said that it might depend on the individual circumstances. Finally he said that he would enter a nominal plea of not guilty for everyone, and anyone who wanted to forfeit any collateral could come to the office individually before the trial date. He set a time and date for the trial of 9:00 am on September 20, "in this room".
At one point the judge looked at one of the Rainbow brothers and said, "I notice you're smiling. Is there a reason for this? Do you find this amusing?" The brother said, "No, I'm just smiling because this is a beautiful day", and then he quoted the Bible, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." The judge then said, "I can send you to a place where you can commune with your Maker in private." The brother knew by then to shut up.
We were all out of there before the Air Force case was taken up. I hugged Robbie and said a bunch of goodbyes to the rest.
So on 20 Sept. at 0900 at the federal court house at 421 Gold Ave. in Albuquerque at least two Rainbow brothers and one sister will get their day in court before a judge who doesn't like for you to wear short pants or smile. As much as I hate driving (690 miles one way from Muskogee), I am extremely tempted to attend myself. Robbie said he would love to have me.
– Butterfly Bill
I did not go because the trial was postponed. On November 30, 2007, they finally went before the judge. Barry Adams (Plunker) reported the results to his e-mail list thus:
"Judge dismissed all counts of resisting and interfering with officers on grounds that conduct merged into permit offense and also because statute vague and no one could tell what conduct was unlawful (we had raised other grounds which he rejected, but who cares). Then he found everyone guilty of permit violation, fined them $10 each, and $15 costs, all of which he suspended, including the mandatory special assessment, saying he wasn't sure if he could suspend all, but was doing so anyway. He also praised Garrick's testimony as very knowledgeable and made it clear to all that he thought the prosecution was a whole lot of fuss about not much."
This post was the basis for the seventh chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.
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