I Fought the Law

In September of last year, I was pulled over by a quota-driven cop and given a ticket for speeding. The ticket carried with it a significant fine and the addition of 4-points onto my license. This past Thursday (May 28, 2015), I successfully defended myself in court, and had the charges dismissed. Leaving aside the fact that I had committed no real crime (there was no victim), the financial ramifications of this “crime” would have hurt me significantly, and I felt a strong urge to fight the charges and pursue true justice.

Just a month prior, I had received and was eventually convicted of a separate traffic “crime” which also carried a significant fine and was a 2-point violation. Had I been convicted of the second September “crime,” I would have not only had a significant increase in the cost of my insurance, but because the “crimes” took place within an arbitrary time limit, I also would have been labeled as a Super-Duper-Violator-of-Arbitrary-Traffic-Laws-and-Limits-on-Velocity-of-Travel (or something like that) offender. This carried with it an additional $750 fine.

When I first went to the courthouse, I was told to speak with the prosecutor. He informed me that I had two options, plead guilty to the charges as they were, or plead guilty to a lesser “crime” that would have had a much more significant fine, but would add 0-points to my license. He looked at me waiting for an answer. I was somewhat surprised because he never indicated that I had the option to plead not guilty and proceed to trial. I said to him, “well, actually I’d like to do neither, plead not guilty, and proceed to a trial.” He looked at me as if I had three heads. Apparently not enough people pursue this route.

I sat around in the courthouse for what seemed like an eternity waiting for my chance to appear in front of the judge. In the meantime, the prosecutor had called in the cop who had written me the ticket to discuss the matter with me (intimidate me into pleading guilty). The cop essentially said that it was going to be his word against mine, and that the judge would always take his word over mine. I asked why that was. His explanation was less than satisfactory. We went back and forth a little while (probably a mistake on my part because you should never talk to the police), and eventually I made a statement along the lines of “this seems to be all about revenue generation and not about safety.” With that, he huffed, rolled his eyes, and walked away saying sarcastically, “have a nice day.” I got a small amount of satisfaction from this encounter.

Finally, the prosecutor and I appeared in front of the judge. I informed the judge that I was pleading not guilty, and that I wished to proceed to a trial. I also indicated to him that I would be requesting all of the documents that the state had associated with my case and any proof of guilt they had. At this time, I learned that the legal term for this is ‘discovery.’ The judge was fair and said that this was all within my rights. He then instructed the prosecutor to send me a letter with instructions on how to attain that discovery. He instructed me to wait for that letter.

Instead of receiving this letter, I received a notification from the court that I had been scheduled for another court date. I wrote a letter to the court saying that this was out of order, that I had not yet received the judge’s ordered letter, and stated that I would not be appearing until I received the prosecution’s letter. A few weeks passed and again, the same thing happened. No letter, but a notification of a new court date. I proceeded with the same type of letter, only this time more strongly worded, and I insisted upon dismissal of the charges on the grounds that I was being denied my 6th Amendment right to a speedy trial. More than a month passed, and I thought maybe the court had agreed with me and that this had been the end of it. This proved to be naïve on my part.

Two new notifications from the court arrived on the same date. They indicated that my court date had again been re-set, and that if I did not show up, there would be a warrant issued for my arrest (see how quickly a minor traffic “crime” gets escalated into violence?).

Because of this threat of violence, I opted to go to the courthouse and argue my case before the judge instead of writing another letter. Nearly seven hours, and another meeting with the prosecutor later, I was finally before the judge again. I stated my case, that I had been before the court several months prior, opted for a trial and made a request for discovery, and that the judge then had instructed the prosecutor to send me a letter. I also explained how I had never received that letter, had written letters to the court requesting the letter, and still had not received it. I then requested that he dismiss the charges as per my 6th Amendment rights.

The judge took his time looking through my file, examining the letters I had written; I came prepared with copies of my letters along with proof that the court had received my letters, as I had sent them certified and had documents with court representative signatures indicating they had been received. Being as how I had been sitting in the courthouse for almost a whole day’s proceedings, I had become familiar with the judge’s actions. After reviewing my file, he picked up a stamp which I had come to identify as the ‘dismissal’ stamp. I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. He proceeded to go into an oration of his decision, that I had been within my rights as per all of my requests, and that it was obvious that I had gone above and beyond in my attempts to receive discovery and defend myself in trial. He concluded that he had no choice but to dismiss my charges on the grounds I had argued. “You are free to go, have a nice day,” were his last words to me.

To add icing to the cake, the judge also informed me that my file indicated I had paid $150 bail previously in association with this case, and that since the charges were now dismissed, I was entitled to reimbursement! As I left the courtroom, I unleashed an epic Tiger Woods-style fist pump, and walked out with my arms raised in the air. I got a few chuckles from the courtroom audience. More people should pursue this route. Even if not victorious, the time added to the courts would force them to change the laws, and as I’ve said before, these laws are making all of us poorer, and are keeping the most poor among us from rising out of poverty. It could be considered a technicality, but I felt like I had won true justice for myself. Victory tastes so sweet.

Traffic Court Letter 2

April 27, 2015

Franklin Township Municipal Court

495 Demott Lane

Somerset, NJ 08875

Re: Summons # G 197490

Dear Judge Rodriguez,

I am writing because I am insisting upon dismissal of these charges on the grounds that I am being denied my 6th amendment right to a speedy trial.

On the afternoon of April 15th, I received a call from a woman named Christina who said she was a representative of the Court. I was unable to answer her phone call because I was working. The voicemail she left instructed me to call her back (at x6261) so that she could inform me of the necessary procedure for requesting discovery.

I returned her call the following morning at approximately 8:30am. I stated that with my work schedule it was not possible for me to call during the hours available. I asked that she have the prosecutor write me a letter informing me of the procedure for requesting discovery as were your instructions the last time I was before you in court for this matter on March 17.

After that, I received no letter from the prosecutor and no return call from anyone in the Court’s office. Instead, I received a notice dated 04/16/2015 stating that my court date had been rescheduled for 05/14/2015. This is out of order as the prosecutor has yet to comply with the judge’s instructions to send me a letter with the procedure and instructions associated with requesting discovery.

Please write back to me with confirmation of the dismissal of these charges as a result of the the prosecution’s denial of my 6th amendment rights.

Sincerely,

Jared Wall

Traffic Court Letter 1

April 2, 2015

Franklin Township Municipal Court
495 Demott Lane
Somerset, NJ 08875

Re: Summons # G 197490

Dear Judge Rodriguez,

This letter is to request the dismissal of the charges associated with the above listed summons. When I was in front of you last, on March 17, you addressed my request for discovery by instructing the prosecutor to send me a letter with instructions on how to obtain that discovery. You instructed me to wait for that letter. I recall writing my name and address on a blue slip of paper in large letters and handing it to the prosecutor for the purposes of said letter.
Since that time, I have not received any letter from the prosecutor, but instead received a notice informing me that I have a new court date scheduled for April 9. If it is your decision to proceed with that court date, I will still have the same unaddressed request for discovery, while the prosecutor has not provided me with a letter pertaining to that discovery as was your instruction in this case. We would again be unable to move forward with the proceedings and my 6th amendment right to a speedy trial will have been denied.
In the interest of the township’s taxpayers, the court’s time, and my 6th amendment rights, I ask that these charges be dismissed.

Sincerely,
Jared Wall

How US Tax Dollars Helped to Fuel the Murders in Garissa

What causes me the greatest sadness and heartache is the loss of innocent life. It happens too often and it happens all over the world. Whether it’s victims of drone bombings, suicide bombers, terrorists, deranged lunatics, overly-zealous cops, or even accidents, every time I hear about such an occurrence, I feel a sorrow that cuts deep. When I think of the victims and their families, I am overcome with sympathy.

When gunmen raided Garissa University College in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 2nd, it was one of the more appalling recent examples of such loss of life on a large scale. At least 147 innocent people (the majority being young students) were shot and killed in the attack.

This event in particular hit me even harder than most. Two of the most amazing women I know are from Kenya. One of them is currently living there, and the other likely will soon be. Given my relationship with the latter, it is increasingly likely that I could end up living there one day soon as well. While every time I hear of innocent people being killed, this particular event struck particularly close to home for me. I can only imagine what the survivors of that attack are feeling – not to mention the families and loved ones of the victims.

Shortly after these attacks, I was discussing it with my girlfriend (the woman I mentioned above). It was a brief discussion but it was remarkable how quickly we got to the heart of the matter. First, of course, we grieved. We both expressed our sadness and tried to wrap our minds around the insanity and unfairness of what had taken place. We moved onto who the murderers were, and why they had done what they did. Finally, we discussed ways to diminish the potential for something like this to happen again.

The organization known as Al-Shabaab quickly took credit for the attack. That group of idiots and psychopaths is predominantly located in Somalia, so I was curious as to what would drive them to come into Kenya. She told me that the Kenyan government routinely sends its military into Somalia for the purpose of carrying out attacks against Al-Shabaab.

From what I know about how US foreign and military aid works, I commented that the Kenyan government is probably on the receiving end of large amounts of US aid – mostly military in nature. It turns out I was right, as she went on to send me these links (see here and here). Sure enough, the US sends upwards of $1 billion annually to the Kenyan government. Kenya is annually in the top 5-10 of recipients of US money. Just today, John Kerry announced sending $45 million in additional aid to Kenya. Furthermore, 4,000 Kenyan soldiers have been incorporated into AMISOM, a “peacekeeping” (read: military) organization that is largely funded, supported, trained, and directed by the US State Department.

When that kind of money is on the table, there’s no doubt that it comes with certain strings attached. Would the Kenyan government still be receiving billions of dollars from the US if they refused to provide their soldiers to AMISOM? Once those soldiers are committed to AMISOM, does the Kenyan government have any say in how they are used? Is the Kenyan government corrupt (all governments are corrupt) to the point that the “leaders” of Kenya don’t even care about their own troops’ mission, so long as they remain on the receiving end of so many US dollars? These are questions that must be asked. Unfortunately, the US government reports that I linked to above are sufficiently vague as to keep the necessary ‘plausible deniability’ that senior government officials love so much.

AMISOM’s prime focus (and indeed, it’s namesake) is on Somalia. Right or wrong, the fact is that Al-Shabaab retaliates against perceived Kenyan military aggression by conducting attacks like the one that just happened to all those innocent young people (mostly Christian women). The 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi was another example and was equally as horrifying. These attacks will continue to happen as long as Kenya continues to play lapdog for the US.

Here’s what her and I came up with. Kenya needs to reclaim it’s sovereignty. Reclaim their soldiers from AMISOM. Refuse to go along with US-directed “peacekeeping” missions which only seem to incite anger and retaliations, but never seem to bring about any actual peace. Forgo the aid received from the US. The people of Kenya don’t benefit from it anyway, and as we’ve seen it probably hurts them if anything. It certainly hurt those 147 innocent people. Use those troops to secure the border between Kenya and Somalia to prevent a rogue attack from Al-Shabaab or whoever else.

The rallying cry of “#147notjustanumber” is exactly right. The people affected by these murders are countless in number. Let both Kenya and the US change their ways before any more innocent lives are lost in the name of revenge and retaliation.

To the victims of Garissa, requiescat in pace.