Because It’s Pink

For the past few decades California’s prison population has grown into something of an international scandal and three federal judges have ordered Governor Jerry Brown to do something about it.

To be fair to the Governor, the long-term imprisonment of nonviolent drug users was the brainchild of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and Brown was just following a nationwide trend that started on the East Coast and spread across the country. Jerry Brown, in his earlier incarnation as California’s Governor, was just "going with the flow," as the terminology went in those days. But now the pendulum has swung back the other way with Realignment, the recent Proposition 47, and early-outs for prisoners who work the janitor closets and sculleries of our fabulous penal institutions.

One element of the Realignment Program is what’s called Supervised Release, an intense form of probation designed for offenders who ordinarily wouldn't be out among the public; they may not be three-strike felons, but they’re not exactly the kind of person you want to go out for a drink with, either — unless you think it’s justifiable to put a shiv in someone’s kidneys, break his jaw with brass knuckles, or leave him gut-shot in an alley over a difference of opinion. As one thug explained it to me, “We’re none of us actually what you’d call free, but we are loose.”

Once you screw up on supervised release, you have a right to a hearing — they can’t just throw you back in the slammer — and these hearings are not trials where you need to be found guilty by a jury of your peers. It’s conducted in front of a judge and the burden of proof is what’s called “a preponderance of evidence,” sort of like a civil case.

Weapons, of course, are not allowed.

But a bully — no matter how big and strong he is, or how small the guy he’s picking on — needs something to give him an advantage; a weapon like a pistol, a cudgel, a dirk, truncheon, lead pipe, or the perennial favorite of thugs the world over, brass knuckles. Now they come in the form of smart phone cases with stiletto blades that snap out, and you can even get them in pink with peace signs — Sweet, dude.

* * *

Gonzalez
Gonzalez

According to a press release from the Ukiah Police Department, on November 11th at about 4:00 PM Ukiah police responded to the parking lot at Motel 6, at 1208 South State Street, for a domestic dispute wherein the male apparently pushed the female to the ground. Arriving officers located 24 year old Francisco Enrique Gonzalez, of Ukiah, and 22 year old Kaisha Katherine Jackson, of Redwood Valley, walking in the parking lot. Both subjects matched the reported description, and when Gonzalez saw the officers approaching he gallantly placed himself behind Ms. Jackson. Ms. Jackson not being large enough to conceal her wily boy friend, officers saw Gonzalez remove something from his pocket and place it into Ms. Jackson’s pocket.

Both were soon detained. It was just as quickly determined that Gonzalez had placed a set of metal knuckles into Jackson’s pocket. Gonzalez denied having done so, but was anyway arrested for possessing an illegal weapon and for violating Post Community Release Supervision.

Ms. Jackson was found to possess a methamphetamine smoking pipe and was arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia.

* * *

In the subsequent case of The People vs. Francisco Gonzalez, Deputy DA Katherine Houston called Officer Chris Long of the Ukiah PD. Officer Long said he was on patrol about 4:00 pm on November 11th when he was dispatched to Motel 6 on State Street to check out a possible fight between a woman and a man. As Long pulled in the parking lot he saw Francisco Gonzalez and Kaisha Jackson walking through the breezeway that separates two wings of the motel.

“What were they doing?”

“When the gentleman saw me, he positioned himself behind Ms. Jackson, purposely hiding himself—”

Andrew Higgins of the Office of the Public Defender interrupted with an objection on the grounds that Long was speculating.

“It’s his opinion,” Judge Ann Moorman ruled. “He’s allowed to state what he believes was taking place based on 15 years of duty in law enforcement. Overruled.”

“Did you make eye-contact with Mr. Gonzalez, Officer Long?”

“Oh, yes.”

“What else was Mr. Gonzalez doing?”

“He moved his hand to his pocket, then moved his hand around behind Ms. Jackson.”

“Was there anything in his hand?”

“I couldn’t tell. He had gloves on, but I couldn’t see what was in his hand, so I pointed my gun at him and ordered him to get on his knees and show me his hands.”

“Anything in his hands?”

“No.”

“Did you search him?”

“Yes.”

“Find anything?”

“No.”

“Did you search Ms. Jackson?”

“One of the other officers did.”

“Did they find anything?”

“Yes.”

“And what was that, Officer Long? What did the other officers find on Ms. Jackson?”

“A set of metal knuckles with a folding knife blade attached.”

“And did you speak to her, to Ms. Long, about these metallic knuckles with the knife blade attached?”

“I did, yes. I asked if they belonged to her?”

“And what did she say?”

“Objection, hearsay, your honor.”

“Sustained.”

“Well, let me ask you this, Officer Long: What did you do with the metallic knuckles with the knife blade attached?”

“I booked it into evidence.”

“Why? Did you know Mr. Gonzalez was on Supervised Release?”

“No. But I knew he was on some kind of probation.”

“That’s all I have. Thank you, Officer Long.”

“So,” Mr. Higgins said to Officer Long. “You say you this happened around 4pm. Was it still daylight?”

“Yes.”

“And how far away from you was my client and Ms. Jackson when you first saw them?”

“From about here [the witness stand] to the rail, there. Probably 30 feet.”

“Were you in a marked car?”

“Yes.”

“And there was another police car arriving at the same time?”

“No, two others.”

“When did my client move Ms. Jackson in front of him?”

“As soon as we made eye-contact he moved behind her.”

“Did you see the weapon?”

“I didn’t actually see the weapon, no.”

“Did you take your eyes off him as you parked and got out of the patrol car?”

“No, I never took my eyes off him.”

“Did you talk with him?”

“Yes.”

“And did he explain why he moved behind Ms. Jackson?”

“He said he did not want me to see him.”

“Did he deny ownership of the brass knuckles?”

“Yes.”

“And they were pink, right?”

“Yes.”

“Did he say anything about that?”

“He said it was a girl’s color and he wouldn’t be carrying anything like that.”

“Nothing further.”

“Is this witness excused?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Ms. Houston, does the prosecution wish to call any more witnesses?”

“No, your honor.”

“Mr. Higgins, will you be putting on a defense witness?”

“Yes, your honor. We’d like to call Ms. Kaisha Jackson.”

Ms. Jackson, being duly sworn, said she was Mr. Gonzalez’s girlfriend.

“How long has this been going on?”

“A month, maybe.”

“Do you understand that you are under oath and must tell the truth?”

“Yes.”

“And do you know what the truth is?”

“Well, yes. Yes, I do.”

“Very well. So you were at the Motel 6 with Mr. Gonzalez when the police showed up around 4:00?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Did Mr. Gonzalez shift you in front of him?”

“Yes. He grabbed my waist.”

“Do pink brass knuckles sound familiar to you — is that something you would have?”

“Your honor,” Ms. Houston interrupted. “The court perhaps should admonish the witness that she could be making herself liable to criminal charges if she says anything.”

“Yes, thank you Ms. Houston," the judge said. "Ms. Jackson, you have a right not to incriminate yourself; you have a right to legal counsel, and if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one. Do you understand you have those rights?”

“Yes.”

“And do you still wish to proceed with your testimony?”

“Yes.”

“Go ahead, Mr. Higgins.”

“So the pink brass knuckles were yours?”

“Yes.”

“Were you asked by the officers if they were yours?”

“Yes.”

“And you told them no — why is that?”

“I was afraid, and didn’t want to get into trouble.”

“And you denied it several times, but it’s your testimony today that they were yours, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“No further questions.”

DDA Houston asked, “What were you two doing at the motel?”

“Objection, relevance, your honor.”

“Overruled, Mr. Higgins. I want to hear.”

“We were going to get a room.”

“Well, does Mr. Gonzalez — your boyfriend — often attack you?”

“No!”

“Is he so violent that you have to defend yourself from him?”

“No!”

“Well, then why, Ms. Jackson, do you need to arm yourself with brass knuckles?”

“They’re mine.”

“Do you always carry a weapon?”

“No.”

“Why, then?”

“I just had them, that’s all.”

“It was Officer Madrigal that actually searched you, wasn’t it, Ms. Jackson?”

“And then you told Officer Long that they weren’t yours. And then Officer Long found a meth pipe in your purse. And you told him you didn’t know where it came from. So people just put things in your purse you know nothing about?”

“Yes.”

“And in your pockets, as well?”

“No!”

“Well, you told Officer Long you didn‘t know you were carrying the knuckles, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And, Ms. Jackson, did you not ultimately tell Officer Long that you didn’t know how they got there — in your pocket?”

“Uh, yes, I guess I must have.”

“But you knew that the knuckles were an illegal weapon, Ms. Jackson, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And you knew your boyfriend Francisco was on probation and would get into trouble if he was caught with a weapon, didn’t you, Ms. Jackson?”

“Yes.”

“Nothing further.”

Mr. Higgins said, “Just to sum up, you lied to the officer, but the knuckles were yours and you knew where they were?”

“Yes.”

“Nothing further.”

Judge Moorman said, “Do you want hear what I think, Mr. Higgins?”

“Sure, judge.”

“I don’t believe Ms. Jackson. Number One: The officer saw him move her in front of him to hide himself; no one denies this, and then he moves his hand from his pocket to hers. Then she says she doesn’t know why she had ‘em on her.”

“I know it sounds silly," Higgins said, "but whether it sounds silly or not, I think a guy would not carry a pink weapon. And the officer is guessing as to whether my client moved the brass knuckles from his pocket to hers.”

“No, he wasn’t ‘guessing’—that’s his opinion, Mr. Higgins, and I respect his opinion. It was contraband or something.”

“Also,” Houston said, “the court may consider that Officer Long has over 15 years experience watching people’s hands — that’s how you stay alive, watching for weapons in people’s hands, and the court is correct to find his testimony credible and reasonable. Mr. Gonzalez knows he’s on searchable probation and he sees this patrol car come into the parking lot and — yikes! — he got surprised and had to get rid of this weapon before he goes back to prison, and I think Ms. Jackson will lie about anything to help her boyfriend, Francisco.”

“I’m going to sustain the accusation based on a preponderance of evidence. The move from the defendant’s pocket to the woman’s pocket, where the knuckles were found is telling. I don’t find Ms. Jackson’s testimony to be credible, a little bit based on her demeanor and, I must say, the fact that the knuckles were pink, Mr. Higgins, does not influence me at all. I’m gonna give him 150 days in jail. This is a cyclical thing, Mr. Gonzalez. You’re not stupid, but you’ve got to choose to use your time wisely.”

One Response to "Because It’s Pink"

  1. Jim Updegraff   December 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    After he completes his 150 days I suppose Mr. Gonzalez will go back on supervised release,

    Reply

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