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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

Senior Editor:
Arthur Scott

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'American Justice, a two headed coin'

by Mertze Dahlin 

(The article was updated on August 7, 2008)

Everybody knows that if you must go to court, even if it can go that far in your country of origin, or some country you are visiting, you had better have some cash to pay the low-paid keeper of the law. But if you didn’t have any, or you thought paying under-the-table was not quite Kosher you think surely you have your rights. Finally it might get to the level of facing a court, or Judge or whoever is the person to decide your fate. Now is the time that you wish you were back home here in America.  We often read in the newspapers about some traveling US Citizen who is prevented from returning to his family because he spoke out.  

Here, you are innocent until “they” prove you are guilty. A prosecutor needs to produce evidence that you are guilty and if they can’t do that, you are innocent. If the proof is questionable, all you need to do is provide your own evidence that will surely free you and have a convincing lawyer that will demonstrably prove your innocence. In addition to that, you may have a jury, consisting of your peers, watching and listening to the proceedings. They will undoubtedly see and understand that you are innocent. They will discuss it and give their decision to the court. How can anyone improve on this fair system of justice? 

Of course, time and again, justice has been met by this procedure for every Tom, Dick and Harry. Then there is the time, which I am speaking of, when someone has an Arabic or other Muslim sounding name. It can even be that your skin is tinted other than typical Caucasians as if you are a foreigner or you are obviously of low income. One needs to then also be wary of being a whistle blower wishing to expose public corruption among County level government employees and their associates, as they know how to retaliate against you. 

This seemingly divergent account from the actual occurrence, which developed was because of providing business help to an elderly, yet wealthy man who had a remarkable, museum-quality collection of historic photographs. His family tried their best to proclaim him incompetent due to his elderly age so they would have no trouble to have access to his bank account. This person with the Muslim sounding name helped him to such an extent that all the photos were now on display in a private museum. The owner of the photos was so pleased with the results of her efforts, that he included her in his will to have control of the museum after his death. The family, composed of professional employees of state and local governments, saw fit to break in and remove all the displays and keep them for their own disposal at some later time. A short time later, the man died and it was discovered that the priceless artifacts are now missing. It became apparent that recovery might only be possible through court action.    

In this case, these perpetrators were actually law-keepers in their normal day of public service located in the Los Angeles area and in Santa Clara County. They were aware of how far they can go, which is extreme, to keep their victim intimidated and unable to press charges. However, they met this one who had no fear about pressing charges, especially since she was the one who was the victim of the illegal / criminal acts and despite the fact that she was reaching pretty far up the ladder of command by her developing lawsuit. However, by this families’ reasoning, all that they needed to do was to discredit her and she would have no credible ability to continue her case. 

In order to curtail her Civil Rights and promote a Retaliatory Prosecution agenda, a conspiracy developed in which three different Counties, from where these “law-keepers” were employed, arranged Wrongful Arrests based on Fabricated Allegations. Uniformed Deputy Sheriffs entered her home in Santa Barbara County without a search warrant or court order and attempted to intimidate her into “leaving town” by confiscating her business equipment and documents. Another step was to arrest her on an erroneous Arrest Warrant, which was forged to make it fit her description. To accomplish this was to simply change the warrant from MALE to FEmale. This continued with repeated false arrests to defame her good character and to destroy her credibility in filing justifiable claims against them. 

These arrests, of course, resulted in her being wrongfully placed in jail with no bail, withholding of food, lack of hygiene and sanitary conditions, religious practice, attorney visits, phone access and effective counsel, all conditions that “normal” incarcerates may be provided. After serving time for seven days, the false allegation was dismissed by the D.A. for lack of evidence. 

This was reason enough to sue the county for false arrest, wrongful imprisonment and abuse plus misconduct by officers during the arrest and incarceration. The County knew that she could win her legal proceedings trial because the charges were bogus. Next they filed a false Forgery charge pretending that her Driver’s license was forged. It is not uncommon that a driver’s license occasionally gets a name change under normal conditions such as a woman accepting her husbands name as a marriage provision and as with her, she accepted a “Muslim” name upon accepting Islam. The forgery charge was later dismissed.  

Of necessity, the corrupt county law officers knew they had to get her back in jail by any means. A false perjury charge was the next key ingredient to get her wrongfully imprisoned for 17 consecutive months in Los Angeles County. Her 12- year old child was also detained during her arrest and then released into the streets of Santa Barbara, a hundred miles from home. Those several false charges were all dismissed finally. 

During this time she was the victim of severe abuse in the jail, resulting in broken bones, a possible heart attack and an illness (rhabdomyolysis) requiring her to use a wheelchair. To further harass her, she was placed in solitary confinement in a cell kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Deputy Sheriffs and even jail guards in different counties perpetrated many of these criminal acts. All these fraudulent charges were intentionally meant to overwhelm the plaintiff. This Harassment continued during her entire incarceration in hopes that she would plead guilty to any false perjury charge and therefore fraudulently be labeled a perjurer who is not credible in any future presentations. 

Harassment continued in other ways such as transporting her to the Correctional Center for Women in Santa Clara County, hundreds of miles away and then refusing to respond to requests about her whereabouts and denying requests to inquire about her child. Abuse and sexual harassment was the norm for this new location and attempts to report it was met by the Correctional Officers accusing her of being a “snitch”, so that the other inmates felt free to beat her up. This imprisonment continued on for 44 days. Her release was accomplished by smuggling a note out through a Priest in order to contact someone on the outside to intervene and get her released on bail, which did occur at 3:00 a.m. in 32 degree rainy weather wearing only her Southern California clothes.  

After filing lawsuits against the Defendants in several governmental agencies, more false allegations of Perjury were invented resulting in being arrested several times over, in front of her minor child. Again, she to had to endure wrongful incarceration.  Despite finally dismissing the arrests for lack of evidence, retaliation continued by a Santa Clara County Prosecutor of false charges of Forgery of her Driver’s License and false Statement to Police. Complicating the arrest occurrences that seemed never-ending, was an occasion to board a Southwest Airlines plane in L.A. The metal in the heel of her shoe caused the metal detector to beep, and perhaps because of her last name, she was not allowed to board. She was on her way to a court appearance in Santa Clara County. She explained that she would be late, but a bench warrant was issued, and later held. 

 Any time when a trial date was getting into the offing, by producing alleged new evidence a speedy trial was inhibited. New evidence was fictitiously submitted and meant only to make the court believe it was real new evidence. All this amounted to 2 years of pre-trial jail time. No trials, convictions or sentences. No charges remained. All were dismissed. The Deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara County continued to make false statements and information with the courts and finally came up with a “failure to appear” charge of one court date from over 150 court appearances of an already dismissed perjury charge. This was an occasion when she was directed to submit to a medical treatment by her doctor at the same time that she was scheduled to appear in court. Despite notifying her lawyer and subsequently the judge, it was determined to be a “failure to appear” and subject to arrest and trial. This period of false arrests and imprisonments occupied a time period of 6 miserable years. 

Finally, after several months of “court dates” alternating between Los Angeles and Santa Clara County, a trial was scheduled. It became quickly clear that the Judge and Prosecutor were working together to insure that she would be unjustly convicted so that the years of malicious prosecutions would be covered up. After all, a half million dollars of taxpayer’s money was used to cause this fraudulent entanglement. Her previous lawyer felt unable to further represent her in this case so she, who was now the defendant, decided she could represent herself, as Pro-Per. She could do nothing about preparing for the legal ramifications because she needed time to prepare. The judge would not permit the preparation time or for a public defender to take over and ordered the trial to continue. 

Her previous attorney, now a witness, had received the faxed document, which showed that she was in a medical clinic for mandatory medical procedures for her life threatening condition on the date she was scheduled to appear in court. It was from this that the charge of Failure to Appear began. The Judge now had the document, but covered it up so the jury could not know about the medical excuse for missing the court date. On another occasion, the prosecutor was witnessed tampering with and altering defense evidence, the Judge did nothing. 

Time after time when fresh testimony was presented, which would have proved her innocence, the judge denied it. Although the defendant was ‘Pro Per’ in defending herself, each time the defendant protested, the Judge admonished her. The Judge would tell her in a shouting manner using her Arabic last name, BE QUIET, or tell her that ‘IT IS NOT YOUR TIME TO SPEAK’ or even tell her that she will be gagged. The Judge at one time stopped the trial in order to send the defendant to be examined in the Hospital. This impressed the jury a lot, particularly by the emphasis on her name as a thought that perhaps she could be a terrorist. 

It became clear to me that the Judge and the Prosecutor both worked together as a prosecuting team at the taxpayer’s expense using power-point presentations to impress the jury while the defendant worked with no help – no team of lawyers to help on this ‘Failure to Appear’ charge which was on a previously dismissed case. She had appeared 171 times waiting for a trial date for cases that were dismissed. Despite the court being notified of her medical condition. The jury, not told of this and otherwise duly swayed, convicted her of “Felony Failure to Appear”. 

During the sentencing phase of the conviction, the prosecutor wanted to include as punishment, 7 more years in jail. However, it was decided that the previous 2 years would suffice. Yet, she was required to report to the parole office every week for three years, an office hundreds of miles away from her home. The Parole office conceded that a telephone report would suffice after she reported for three weeks. Another admonition imposed by the judge was to pay several thousand dollars as court costs or fines. This was extremely difficult for her, as she had no money, and now, no hope of getting a job. Fortunately, she had done some business transactions for a person who became a partial benefactor and the court received the money. 

On her attempts to Appeal the verdict and remove the FELONY conviction, she named several persons who all then filed to dismiss with prejudice in order to make sure the case could never be reopened. 71 attorneys and county councels, the best that Taxpayer’s money can buy, presented these filings. 

Despite her debilitating disease, ‘rhabdomyolysis’, and the lack of willing lawyers, or even friends knowledgeable in legal matters, she managed to bring the truth out which resulted in the reversal by the 6th District Court of Appeals of her conviction. They judged the appeal only on the validity of an actual Failure to Appear and found it was not valid. There were many other incidents that could have been considered but this alone was enough for the judgment to be completely reversed. It is my belief that these results can be considered as a ‘precedent-setter’ for those under similar conditions to appeal their case. This was only accomplished by the Herculean efforts of this extraordinary woman, the plaintiff herself, although it may ordinarily take the services of a high priced lawyer. 

To add insult to injury, one would think that your fines and court costs would be returned to you since you are now judged to be innocent. This now meant that it required another day to face a judge. The resulting decision was that the money should stay with the court because the court appointed lawyers should be paid with your money. 

Quite sadly, but ordinarily, there would be no hope for a just result of such victimization of a plaintiff because the only intention for a justice system is to win. The state has unlimited tax-supported funding and spending does not have to be accounted for. There is nobody outside the system to evaluate the conduct of the trial procedure since it is ‘self-policing’. Cases such as this are not the exception, but rather it is the rule. 

This glimpse into a recent local case which is still on going represents hardly one tenth of what actually went on and is still challenging the life of this Caucasian single parent third generation American woman of Italian heritage.

Mertze Dahlin is a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of International Studies.