From the Files of Tar Baby -  

 Jim Crow Ain't New

        "Probable Cause" Excluded as a Factor in the Arrest, Prosecution, and  Jailing of Black

by Kwasi Seitu

      Recently I was once again made subject to false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and judicial abuse in DC. I was subjected to, witnessed, and recorded the oppression inflicted primarily on how black people in DC by the police, the U.S. Attorneys Office, and numerous judges of DC's courts. Although it is often claimed that "Jim Crow" is dead, the fact is that it never died, never even came close to being killed.

      The enslavement of black people in America has constantly been developed from one form to another, maintained systemically. Blacks were emancipated from chattel-slavery to colonial-slavery. The creation of "Jim Crow," or laws to impose racial segregation to ensure white control over blacks was nothing more than the evolution of enslavement and is maintained as unofficial policy in every aspect of government today.

Historically, it has always been policing and the judiciary that have played major roles in perpetuating and maintaining racial oppression, and no where is this more the case than in Washington, D.C., the capital of the white-settler state. Although blacks comprise just over half of the city's total population, they make up at least 98% of all persons arrested, prosecuted, and jailed in the city. And to a great extent this is accomplished through the routine violation of their rights under the "color of law" by police, prosecutors, and judges.    

In every criminal case brought before every court in this country the judges of the court are required to perform certain due procedural functions, these are called "ministerial" duties and are not left to the discretion of a judge to perform, they are mandatory. One such function in all criminal and civil matters is to make a formal determination as to whether there is a cause of action, a reason to invoke the power of the court, or the "jurisdiction" of the court. If a police charges a person with assault, yet his report does not describe an assault, then the judge must dismiss for lack of "probable cause."

Many judges of the DC "Superior" court are not performing this duty and that it appears to be race and class based is more than a perception. It is a fact that 98% of the people prosecuted as criminals in DC "Superior" court are black. Historically, it was the judiciary that legalized slavery and then racial segregation, the courts themselves openly maintained policies and practices of racial segregation. However, during the civil rights era the courts escaped being the target of sit-ins and protests, there was very little talk about the need to "de-segragate" the judiciary and ending "Jim Crow" in the courts.

Even with numerous black judges in the courts of today, they still operate on policies and practices that treat blacks and other people of color as less than equal, especially in criminal prosecutions. Short-cuts are taken that should not be, due process is withheld, legal standards are disregarded, the law becomes secondary, and justice is simply unattainable. This is exactly what is going on in DC "Superior" court and this story is about my personal experience of confronting it, upon being confronted by it.

In the spring of 2009, I was seized  and jailed for waiting for a bus while black, or maybe shopping while black in the black community. The white officer who was seizing me is named Scott Pinto, part of a crew out 4D that calls itself the "Dirty Dozen." I was standing at a corner to catch a bus Pinto came up on me with a twisted smirk of familiarity, on his face and kept twitching his neck, he was sweating and appeared to me to be on drugs. 

Pinto had on a badge, but no name plate and refused to give his name, telling me that he was conducting an investigation. I asked him what he was investigating and whether it had anything to do with me, to which he would not respond. I then asked if I were under arrest, to which Pinto responded that I was not, but that I was being detained. Pinto kept one arm out to block my way and the other hand he kept on his gun.

What I did not realize at the time was that Pinto was part of a crew of dirty cops I had confronted a few months before when they kicked in the door of an elderly woman, they did not knock, they merely rushed the house and kicked in the door. I and other people who saw this went over and began inquiring what they were doing, the woman was over 80-years old and probably scared to death with all those white police officers running into her house with their guns drawn.

Our standing around watching and asking questions made the officers uncomfortable and they quickly began to exit the woman's house, but we could see that they were talking about us. About 20 officers then got into four cars and appeared to leave, the remaining officers began drifting back down toward the sidewalk, at which point I and the other people with me began walking back down the street. By time we had made it to the middle of the block, the officers who had left came speeding around the corner, they had gone up and come down behind us. They pulled the vehicles to a stop in front of us, jumping out and fanning out to confront us.

I was in the lead and apparently determined by the police to be the "leader," as the lead officer came directly at me saying "yal like to watch us, well we're going to spend some time with you." I asked the officer as he started cutting off my path if I were under arrest, to which he said "no," so I then calmly told him that he was in my way. The officer stepped back and off, while the other officers focused on the others guys that were with me, trying to provoke them into an incident. I loudly urged my guys not to get into an argument and as I tried to intervene, officer blocked my way. At that point I announced that I was going to get a pad and pen to start taking down some names and numbers. 

My briefcase was in a garage not 20-feet away and it took me all of about 10-seconds to retrieve my pad from it, but by time I returned all but four of the officers had gotten into their cars and sped away. The remaining four were walking to their car, trying to look as casual as possible, but clearly trying to get away. It was then that I realized that none of them had on badges or name plates, it was night and only they had flashlights. I then began trying to goad them into giving their names as a followed them down the street to their car, none would except one, Pinto. I said something that struck at his machismo and he wanted to show that he wasn't "afraid to give his name," so he blurted it out, but refused to give his first name or say any more.

When Pinto approached me at the bus stop a few months later, even though he had a badge on this time, he did not have on a name plate and refused to give his name. I did not recall his face because there were many officers out there that night, it was dark, and only the police had flashlights. So, now here he had me by myself and evidently expected that I would kow-tow, cowar, and generally fold before him. Instead, I remained calm, asked all of the right questions, and refused to permit him to search me, he did not even attempt to pat me down, he just held me there with his hand on his gun.

Eventually Pinto called for back up and on their arrival he then immediately cuffed me and began searching me and my bag. Pinto took the $173.00 that I had in my wallet, put me in his police car and on the way to the station told me that he was taking my money, that he was going to claim it as procedes of drug sells. He told me that he was going to charge me with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a felony, even though he did not get any marijuana off of me, he said that it did not matter because he was the police.

Apparently, once Pinto got to the station and told his superior what he had done the charge became simple possession and I was released with a citiation to appear in court a week later. Expecting that the matter would be "no papered" even though I did not have a copy of Pinto's report, I appeared in court to find that not only had  the U.S. Attorney had papered the charge, but that the magistrate did not then dismiss it. It was that time that I finally was able to get a copy of Pinto's report, which in no way incriminated me, but was really very incriminating of him.

Pinto started his report by attempting to imply that, because he allegedly saw me enter a store that an "anonymous source had informed him was didtributing drugs," that made me a suspect as well. However, Pinto stated in his report that the "anonymous source" gave him that information long before seeing me and that three-weeks prior, he had obtained and executed a warrant to search the business. Although Pinto did not then state the results of that search, the fact that the business was still open indicated that he found nothing. In fact, Pinto trashed the store and found nothing, then charged the owner and an employee with sells of drug paraphernalia - incense.

Pinto stated in his report that he allegedly saw me enter that business and then exit "looking about nervously from left to right," at which point he followed and confronted me a block away. Pinto then went to claim that on confronting me he saw the "corner of clear sandwich bag" sticking out of my pocket. I then supposedly jammed my hands into that same pocket when he approached me and the pocket then became a "buldge." Pinto then claimed that he could smell "fresh marijuana eminating from around" me, that I essentially acted like a guilty nigger saying "I ain't got shit on me."

Pinto then claimed that once I pullled my hand out of the pocket the "sandwich bag" popped back out with a "green leafy substance" in it. Pinto never reallly states on what basis he arrested, but then claims that I began essentially melting in the face of his awesome law enforcement powers telling him to "go after the store," but then making statements like "you searched me illegally," "I am going to get out of this one and sue you." I never said any of those things to him, he knew all of that already and was clearly hoping to raise systemic prejudice against "smart ass niggers."

The case was not only papered, but placed on  the court's trial calendar, and I was "ordered" to return. When I came back the second time it was before judge Jennifer Anderson, she really said nothing to me outside of an empty "good mroning," the next thing she was ordering me to come back once again. At that point I asked what was the purpose of having me to keep coming back to court and insisted that my court appointed pretender, a young knee-grow woman named Marletta King, to raise the lack of probable cause and the fact that the court should have made that determination from the very outset.

Reluctantly, Ms. King filed such a motion and when I came back, Anderson had me seized and jailed. Anderson initially claimed that she had signed a bench warrant that morning for failure to appear, I walked into the courtroom approximately 10-minutes after it opened to the public, which meant that she had to have signed the warrant before or as soon as the doors opened. However, even if I had been four or five hours late, that would not constitute a "failure to appear" on the day ordered. At best, Anderson could have questioned me as to why I was 10-minutes late for the opening of the courtroom doors and if I told her that I had to stop at the strip clud or something like that, then the most she could have charged me with was contempt of court.

However, once she had me in the lock-up, Anderson then sent a group of psychiatrist down to interview me to determine my "competency." Now, Anderson and I had never exchanged more than five words, two of them were that morning. I was fully and neatly dressed, no red rubber nose and painted face. I came in and sat quietly waiting, so where in the world was she coming from with the psychiatrists. Anderson was trying to fashion a cause, the seizing of me was to avoid having to address the motion that morning and the psychiatrist were to set up a diversionary issue. And I was not the only person that Anderson had arbitrarily seized that morning, there were at least three other people, all for allegedly "failing to appear" for not being in the courtroom the moment the doors opened, all of them black.

Quite naturally, the psychiatrist wrote that I was not cooperative and so Anderson then held me in jail over night until I would agree to submit to an "out patient" mental health evaluation, along with the standard sentence of summary probation - weekly urines and reporting to a court agent in person. I was being held all day in shackles and chains incold hard cells with no food or water. All day I witnessed hundreds of young black men and women being handled like slaves, shackled and chained, being led around by U.S. Marshalls, most on allegations of minor offenses, child support, or having a "dirty urine."  It was not until late evening that I was finally brought up to the courtroom, at which point I agreed, under the threat of being returned to the jail, to sign papers that would have me on what essentially would be summary probation, which I had no intention of complying with, I needed to get out to take certain action.

The very next day I wrote and sent a letter to chief Judge Lee Satterfield, complaining to him about the illegal actions of Anderson and the U.S. Attorney, and included a copy of Pinto's report. My case was then removed from Anderson, even though Satterfield never responded. I then did not go back to court awaiting action by Satterfield, months went by without me hearing anything from the court and then once again, I ran into a crew of croked cops from Pinto's district. They took me to jail, not even telling me why, but they apparently had charged me with disorderly conduct, which was no papered.

No warrant had been issued for my arrest, however, when judge Florence Pan learned that I was in the lock-up, she had me brought before her. Pan now had the cases that had been Anderson's. Pan ordered me held in the jail for two more days and then brought me back the same as Anderson, demanding that I comply with the summary probation that Anderson had. And as I had done with Anderson, I agreed, otherwise I would have been taken back over to the jail. And as I had done with Anderson, the very next day I took action, this time filing for the writ of mandamus to the DC Appeals court.

For those who may not know, mandamus (which means "we command" in Latin), is the name of one of a prerogative writs and is "issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly". Since the issue was about the failure to perform the probable cause determination, the issue in the writ contended a lack of jurisdiction, which automatically stays (or puts a hold) on any further proceedings in the lower court since it may not have authority to act.

Florence Pan decided that she would disregard this fact and proceeded to issue a warrant for my arrest if I did not appear at the return date she had ordered. I did go to court just to see if in fact Pan was going to respsect the process (and obey the law), she did not. I walked into the courtroom and confronted Pan about the illegality of her conduct, Pan tried to claim that the only thing the madamus stayed was her proceeding on the lack of probable cause, but that she could continue to proceed to order me to submit to a mental health evaluation.

I frustrated Pan because after the second appearance I refused to allow her to force counsel on me, I would thank the attorneys for coming and dismiss them right in front of her and on the record. I would then engage her and try to keep her on the issue of there being no finding of "probable cause," so demanded that she state the basis of her assertion of "jurisdiction." Pan would stumble and try to cut me off, always trying to appear polite and in control, but would always lose it when she could not rattle me with threats into silence and submission. Pan realized that I was making a detailed recorded record of the issue, that I was getting her to admit that she knew that she was acting without any legal right or authority.

 I then informed the Appeals court that Pan was acting in violation of its statutory supervisory authority, my petition was held there from late August to late December without anything more than the docketing process. The Appeals court did not then issue the mandatory stay and really did not have to, it could have disposed of the matter on its own. I was not complying with any order issued by Pan, not only because it lacked lawful authority, but if I had, then there might be an attempt to argue that I was waiving the fatal jurisdictional defect.However, because Pinto's report simply did not set forth the basis for any criminal prosecution against me, it really did not matter if I erroneously complied, there still was no legal or factual cause of action.

Pan had ordered that I return on December 21st, 2009, but on December 20th, Appeals court judge Annna Blackburn-Rigdby entered a summary order denying my petition for mandamus, which I would not become aware of until after Christmas. Rigsby stated some garble about the matter being "moot," which was to say that either it was debatable that judges of the "Superior" court had to perform probable cause determinations before proceeding, or that it was not a right they had to respect. Which is in stark conflict with not only the mandate of the U.S. "Supreme" court/judges that all courts must perform the determination, but it also flew in the face of the rules of the "Superior" specifically setting forth how and when it "shall" be performed.

Pan then had me picked up in February and placed in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for a 45-day mental observation. The psychiatrist there almost immediately realized that I had no business being placed there and they essentially left me alone, they could not discharge me, but informed Pan that I had no business in their institution. At the end of the 45-days, Pan had me brought to the court and hoped that I was prepared to talk about entering a guilty plea, but instead I talked about the lack of jurisdiction and the utter criminality of her actions. The whole time I was calm and for the most part respectful, but I was not going to allow her to dance around, so she charged me with being in contempt. 

I was then taken to the jail and every day for week I was dragged to the courthouse, kept in cuffs and chains all day, made to sit in those cold steel cells with no food or water, before she would have me brought before her, alaway to see if we could "work out something," meaning my agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for some promise of immediate release. I would always get right back on the legal issues and demand that she show a case, show where the was ever a determination that there was a case. And with that, Pan and the U.S. Attorney decided to charge me also with two counts of failure to appear.

The alleged failure to appear would have been based not only on proceedings that had no basis in law and fact, but were also based on my freely exercising my right to have sought and relied on appellate review. The two charges, along with two counts of contempt, were intended to intimidate me, they hoped that they could use them as chips that would encourage me to bagain, but I told them that I do not bargain with devils and fools. So, Pan was forced to either finally drop the pretense or proceed with a trial on the pretense, so they pretended that they were going to proceed to trial.

Barely 20-minutes after they claimed that they were ready to trie the matter, the U.S. Attorney dropped the possession charge, but they now needed some justification for having harassed and jailed me as they did, so I was then summarily tried and convicted by Russell Canan of failing to appear. It did not matter to him that there was never any lawful proceeding for which I had to appear, his job was to give the appearance that there was a cause for all that criminal mischief by Pan, Anderson, and Anna Blackburn-Rigsby. 

On the face of Pinto’s own report, his actions violated the Fourth amendment prohibition against unwarranted police stops, searches, and seizures. Even if Pinto had in fact discovered anything incriminating, it would have been admissible in a court of law and certainly could not serve as the basis for a charge. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 19 (1968). Even where Pinto claimed to have obtained a search warrant for the business based soley on a little birdie telling him something, reveals a serious lawlessness within the court. No warrant should have been issued to Pinto based on what he stated. And then, the business owner and his employee were made to come back and forth to court a number of times before the charges of selling drug paraphernalia - the incense, was dropped.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Attorneys Office papered the charge, which by law and fact it could not do without knowing that it was engaging in the intiation of a criminal proceeding that by law would be unsuccessful and without basis in fact, that would amount to nothing more a willing intent to harass, intimidate, and hopefully cause a wrongful imprisoment. However, malicious prosecution is routine practice for the U.S. Attorneys Office in DC, it comes as routine to them as breathing. And because the judges of the "Superior" court are either corrupt, grossly incompetent, or usually both, the U.S. Attorney gets away with this practice.

Anna  Blackburn-Rigsby falls into the category of either being thoroughly corrupt or grossly incompetent, for there is ample evidence in her conduct in this matter that she is both.There is no dispute that the U.S. “Supreme” court ruled in the case of Gerstein v. Pugh, 95 S.Ct. 854 (1975) that courts are required by the Fourth amendment to make probable cause determinations in all criminal cases, the purpose of which is to ensure that there is not any unwarranted restraints placed on a persons liberty.

It also irrefutable that Rule 5 (c) of the Rules of the D.C. Superior Court requires and specifically instructs on the performance of the probable cause determination. Rigsby and the other judges of the Appeals court have given the judges of the "Superior" court a wink and a nod that they can disregard the rules of court, the rulings of the U.S. "Supreme" court, and the Constitution itself if it serves the purpose of locking up a black person and serve as a constant reminder that they remain nothing more than slaves in George Washington's Darkie Colony.

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