Monday, September 26, 2011

Eris Parader Gets Prison Time; In spite of evidence to the contrary, Judge finds parader guilty on all counts.

In the State of Georgia, a black death row prisoner is executed, even though evidence against him is highly questionable, yet in 2008, the same state commuted the death sentence of a white death row inmate, even though he confessed to committing the crime.

On the streets of New York City, thousands have gathered to protest, not only the sheer  rampant greed of those who juggle our nations monies, but their attempts to have any criminal prosecution for this removed from the realm of possibility.

While these stories are, and should be, National News (except the main stream news is a complete sell out to Wall Street, keeping pathetically silent), there is a battle in the same Culture War raging on the streets of New Orleans.

In February of 2011, an unpermitted parade, which had attracted a vandalous element, was stopped and summarily attacked by the NOPD.
 While an investigation was promised, none was ever performed, short of ridiculous & meaningless 'investigation' of their commanding officer, Bernedine Kelly, as though she were to bear the responsibility of her entire district, by being it's commander.
Since she wasn't even there, she was cleared, and no other measures have since been taken, an obvious cover-up by the 5th District, if not the entire NOPD.

Furthermore, the 12 Eris arrestees were still held on fabricated charges, even after their mistreatment at the hands of these rogue cops.

William R Watkin, known as 'Willie' was visiting form Missouri, and took part in this parade, dressed as Peter Pan. He walked near the front, and was, as many were, unaware of the trouble following the parade. He was not an organizer or a trouble maker. He was arrested for looking at the cops when they commanded everyone to look away, a completely unconstitutional order.


Even after video evidence was presented, proving it impossible for him to have committed any of the acts he was charged with, he was found guilty and sentenced to 45 days in prison.
 While this is not a death sentence, imagine yourself going to prison for a month & a half, simply because you looked at a cop.

What follows is the complete email from another of the Eris Paraders falsely accused & charged, in it's unedited entirety. His name has been omitted by request, as his own court date looms.

Make no mistake; power, money & position have declared war on poverty, hard work & freedom of expression. Your rights are already being stripped, and at an alarming rate.Whether it's a permit raid on a home art gallery, an arrest for handing out fliers, or the stopping of bicycles to check for 'licenses' the City no longer issues or has the means to store, we are under attack.STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.

And please, after reading this, consider writing to Willie.
45 days in hell is a long time, people.
Remember, people mysteriously die in OPP.

The Email:


Only a few of us heard, mostly by chance and at the last moment, that one of the 12 Eris arrestees had his trial last Friday. We showed up and watched his lawyer try the case in fine style. The charges against Willy were ludicrous, and fortunately there was clear video evidence showing Willy's arrest-- showing that at no time was he anywhere near the officer whom he's alleged to have shoved, which single fabricated shoving originated all 3 of his charges.

So the lawyer presented the case well, and then NOPD took the stand and contradicted themselves and each other and their own written reports, and the video showed it all unambiguously, and the lawyers summed everything up in their closing arguments.


But none of it mattered, because Willy got a really bad judge. The judge rolled her eyes and looked away in boredom-- closed her eyes, even, during the presentation of evidence. She sneered at Willy, berated his lawyers, and huffed in impatient adolescent exasperation at each motion or objection from the defense. As soon as protocol permitted, she declared Willy summarily guilty on all three counts.


The lawyers pleaded for clemency in sentencing, citing Willy's clean record, and she shouted at them some more and bared her teeth like a cornered possum and gave Willy 45 days in the House of Detention for his three bullshit misdemeanors. He was cuffed right where he sat, his lawyer was given the chance to take off Willy's bowtie and empty Willy's pockets, and then we were all kicked out the courtroom, just because, and Willy went in shackles down the back stairway to the prison bus with all the other poor orange-jumpsuited bastards who had the misfortune to be in Judge Robin Pittman's courtroom that day.


I know we all know the system is fucked, it's unfair, etc., but I really do need to specially mention that Robin Pittman is vile and literally, medically, provably insane. She is not just a "mean judge," she is a mean judge who is off her rocker. Her jaw-dropping displays of viciousness, paranoia and immaturity, her talking on her cell phone and reading her bible during trials, her ugly, unprovoked and unprofessional insults towards the defense (not just Willy's, everyone's) and above all her histrionic savagery towards the human wreckage dragged before her in chains daily make Pittman not merely a bad judge, but a sad, bad, mad judge, the most pathetic and repugnant specimen among the whole twisted pantheon...  the unhinged and monstrous Queen of Hearts holding forth in her bizarre, Kafka-like crawlspace courtroom, a "blind and aimless Fury" ruling the rafters of our criminal courthouse's nightmarish Wonderland.


So that's Pittman, and that's why Willy is in prison right now.  I can't speak for Willy, but I would rather do 45 days in prison than have to spend a single day inside Judge Pittman's head. Being her is a terrible punishment, and it's HD video crystal-clear how deeply unhappy she is. She is not the smug patrician haughtily handing out hell, she is the deranged sufferer, the clawing ravening sufferer who is frenziedly punishing the rest of the world with every drop of power she's permitted. I don't believe in karma, but I do believe we have the means to make ourselves miserable, and Pittman is a horrifying living example of that-- raving and grimacing, shrieking and glowering, embarrassing and delegitimizing not only herself but any system that would make her its representative.


There is a great deal to be said about this whole Eris debacle, and how it's been handled (or not handled). I personally feel there is enormous and genuine goodwill towards the arrestees from the community at large, goodwill that has gone frustratingly untapped. There have been so many missed opportunities, to get help, to tell the paraders' side of things, to form alliances with the street musicians and Mardi Gras Indians and others who've been fighting this same battle for far longer. People WANT to help, people WANT to know what's going on, but they haven't been given the means, which compounds everyone's alienation... the result is the disempowering sense of being stuck outside a tragedy, unable to be of use. But that is a different e-mail.


Let's help Willy. This sweet young man, a homeowner from Missouri who visited us for Carnival, who dressed as Peter Pan for Eris and doesn't have a mean bone in his body, has been absolutely screwed over by our system. He's certainly a lesser victim compared to the lives our justice system grinds up and throws away daily, but he's still a victim, and he's one I've gotten know and like. He wasn't one of the "bad elements" using soap to draw penises on cars; he was just in the wrong place in the wrong time, and, as shown in the video, did nothing worse than turn and face one of the police officers attacking the crowd. For that, he was tackled, stomped, tazed, and falsely charged. Yes, he was foolish to turn and look at the police when the fleeing crowd had been commanded to face the other direction ("I don't wanna see no faces, I wanna see backs!") but it was only ignorance; he didn't know how our NOPD is.


Anyone who witnessed the quiet dignity, earnest goodwill and courage with which Willy conducted himself in the face of Judge Pittman's violent imprecations and bullying would be moved.


Now Willy's in prison, and will be for some weeks. As a visitor, he doesn't have a lot of close friends here. The House of Detention can be a scary place, and everything scary is worse when you are, or feel, alone.

If you could write him a letter, donate money towards his fines, and/or put some cash in his commissary so he can have an occasional magazine to read or a meal that isn't baloney sandwiches, you would be doing something worthwhile for a guy who needs it.


45 days isn't a long sentence until you're the one serving it, in the round-the-clock deafening, round-the-clock floodlit uniformly hard-surfaced mouldering medieval cages of our parish prison, in windowless fluorescent-flickering metal crates where time and the cycles of day or night lose meaning, where there is only one harsh, cacophonously echoing endless eternal now, a blur of unhappy angry people in an untenable and inhuman situation. Boredom, discomfort, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, fear, uncertainty, exhaustion, and nothing ahead but more of the same. What if they DON'T let you out when they're supposed to? What if someone attacks you, and you defend yourself, and you get hit with additional time? What if you get sick? What if one of the times you get stored down in the peeling-paint transitional cells in the basements where no-one can hear you, they forget about you?


The house of detention is no vacation, least of all for someone who lacks local connections and support networks. Willy needs our support.



WRITING TO WILLY

This would be lovely. Wouldn't you want a letter from the outside world, some personal note to let you know you're not as isolated as you feel? Something inane and friendly, cheerful and encouraging, something from a friend or from a stranger taking the time to let you know that you're missed and valued... think what that would mean to you.
You may send Willy mail at this address:

William R Watkin
Folder 2303771
3000 Perdido Street,
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70119

There is a big list of what you CANNOT send Willy here: http://www.opcso.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=58&Itemid=182 Basically, nothing but letters, money orders, and photographs (!) . No books, magazines, or 'zines, no toiletries, food, or tobacco, no clothing, no envelopes, no stationary, stamps or writing utensils... any of those things Willy wants, he must purchase, if he can, at exorbitant profiteering prices from the prison Commissary.


PUTTING MONEY IN WILLY'S COMMISSARY


Willy, an avid and ambitious leisure reader, can't be sent reading material besides personal letters. He will not have the means to write letters to his loving sweetheart back in Missouri or his frantically worrying parents, nor will he have access to remotely wholesome or even pleasurable, good-tasting food, unless money is put in his commissary account.

You can put money in his commissary by mailing Willy a signed money order with his name (William Watkins) and his folder number (2303771) on it, or more easily by visiting the Sherriff's office (that same "temporary" trailer behind the jail where you go to bail people out) and using one of their anti-ATM devices there on-site, or most easily of all by visiting
http://www.tigerdeposits.com/ and following the fairly straight-forward steps. "Watkins, William R." is of course in Louisiana >> Orleans Parish >> Orleans Parish Prison.  Note that in accordance with the standard predatory capitalism of our privatized prison system, the helpful folks at "Tiger Correctional Services" will charge you a 7.0 percent fee.

If your experience with Tiger Correctional Services really turns you on, you'll no doubt be gratified upon the conclusion of your transaction at the opportunity to follow them on twitter or "like" them on facebook. They just posted a picture album of their staff enjoying fresh-caught trout at a fishing tournament. I bet that trout was delicious! Delicious, and yet not half as delicious as the roaring blackout nihilism viewing the photo gallery engenders.



DONATING MONEY TOWARDS WILLY'S FINES.


Judge Pittman assigned Willy a grand or so in fines and fees, but additionally, at the request of NOPD, she has sentenced him to pay reparations. Apparently Willy shoving the officer didn't merely send the officer to the hospital and require the officer to take several days off, but the same single shove destroyed the officer's new and (apparently very expensive!) eyeglasses and police radio. So, Willy has to pay for replacements, which are hundreds of dollars.

Willy ain't got that kind of cash. Please make a donation via paypal or credit card at
http://eris12.org, or if that link doesn't work for whatever reason, or you don't want to use plastic or paypal, e-mail me and we'll figure it out. In the blessed but unlikely event that the amount thusly donated exceeds Willy's fines, it will be applied to the thousands of dollars of lawyer fees the other equally nice Eris arrestees have paid & still owe.


VISITING WILLY


After fruitless hours on the phone and web, I have been unable to nail down exactly how to visit Willy, because he's not in the state system yet the way he needs to be for me to get the ball rolling on visitations. This may be because he has not yet been assigned a DOC number, and may still be down in holding rather than up in the 96 tiers of the prison itself.

Rest assured, I will figure this fucking shit out (or the lawyers will, and will let me know). In the meantime, if you'd like to visit Willy, drop me an e-mail and I'll keep you in the loop on that. One proactive step you could take is writing to Willy and giving him your full name so that he knows to put you on his visitor's list. Willy gets along with just about everyone, so don't be shy! I am sure he would love to see you, whoever you are, just for the chance at being reassured in person that people here in New Orleans know and care about his situation.


That concludes this very long e-mail. Thanks for your time, and perhaps your money. Willy may be a stranger to most of us, but he is the first of the arrestees to get actual prison time. I hope he is the last. I hope the whole rotten prison cracks open like an egg, RIGHT NOW, and that all the unjustly imprisoned human beings inside can return to their families and loved ones. Willy doesn't deserve to be in there.

4 comments:

Small Affair said...

Wow. Thanks for writing this. I am temporarily outside of NOLA, and I will certainly write to Willy. I know too many people who have suffered in OPP.

I was at the Eris parade, but I left right before the violence erupted because my dog (R.I.P. Lupe) got spooked and she had never been afraid of Eris or any other parade. It's frustrating because I have seen the citizen videos and spoken to people who witnessed NOPD's deplorable behavior, and these cops committed a horrible injustice.

I am even more disturbed to learn that this injustice has carried over into the courtroom. It sends the message that "rogue" police officers are untouchable (I am still idealistic enough to have hoped the investigation or at least the paraders' trials would have exposed the unnecessary and inappropriate use of force by these officers AND the innocence of those arrested).

I am grateful to Damien for providing so much clear information as to how anyone can reach out to Willy.

Aside from writing to Willy and donating money (which I will try to obtain) what steps can be taken to stand up for our rights to parade, have art shows, sell handmade costumes, etc etc?

Unfortunately, I have neither very much money nor a law degree.

I'm outraged by this news about Willy's trial, and I personally have been guilty of sitting here crying about what happened to the Eris paraders but not doing anything.

I would like to know when the trials for the remaining arrestees will be. How does one obtain this information? I don't really know them personally but I feel like I do.

~Tara Jill

sophmom said...

Wow. Thanks, LD. That's crazy. I tweeted it and will put a little money in his commissary account, write him and encourage others to help any way I can. I'm bowled over.

sophmom said...

...AND I almost forgot the thing I came here to say:

We must stop calling the For Profit or Corporate Press mainstream, because they not. The very fact that their primary agenda is to make money prejudices and influences them. I believe that just as we've stood together for the last six years insisting that what happened in New Orleans be called The Flood or the Federal Flood instead of a Natural Disaster, we must now stand together and refuse to call the For Profit Press, mainstream.

JMHO.

P.S. My word verification is cozymon. I love it when they make up words I like.

Torbjon Jensen said...

Pittman hosed me over as well... I find the description of her to be very accurate, horrifying, and, sadly, triggering less than pleasant flashbacks. I did nothing, there was no evidence to support any claim of any kind, so "the system" with Pittman in the highest seat, opted to hold and torture me for fifteen months until, near death from malnutrition, beatings, and poor living conditions, upon the advice of my lawyer, I plead guilty to a crime I didn't commit just to end what I have come to call "the great fiasco". I was sentenced to two years. "Fortunately", I was granted credit for time served and "only" had to spend Another six months being tortured. Thank you Robin Pittman (et al) for granting me this truly enlightening and educational experience.