55 E. Genesee Street
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
November 16, 1999
Don Walsh, Esq.
Mental Hygiene Legal Service
John Hughes State Office Building
333 East Washington Street
5th Floor, Room 541
Syracuse, NY 13202
Dear Mr. Walsh,
Thanks for talking to me on the phone this morning about what happened. What follows is a pretty complete narrative of the events for your review. You can also check the web site, http://www.kids-right.org/ or speak to the attorney who was assigned counsel during some of the family court proceedings, Mr. Jim Stern (475-4010).
You have my permission to get all of my records from St. Josephs and I would like to pursue whatever form of complaint/legal action is possible against the police officers that caused this. I will be continuing my protest actions this Wednesday (Nov 17th), but you should be able to leave me a message at my office -- or talk to the office staff. I do stay in contact with them almost daily.
During this entire narrative I never raised my voice. I never threatened anyone else or myself with harm. I made a special point of telling all the police officers this was a non violent protest. I explained my goal was to use this protest in an attempt to call attention to what had happened to my son Domenic. All legal remedies had been exhausted, including grievances for official misconduct, with no effect. By voluntarily sacrificing my freedom and staying in jail I hoped to eventually spark news interest and an offical investigation into what happened. I had done a similar protest in February of 1999, spending 3 weeks in jail, that got both extensive newspaper and TV coverage in the local area.
On Thursday, November 11th, I walked into the Public Safety Building (PSB) at about 11 AM, and started talking to Sergeant Knittle (spelling?). I explained to him I was peacefully protesting a custody decision and was trespassing at the building to be arrested. He questioned me about my motivation and we spoke for about 15-20 minutes. Eventually, I followed him back to his desk (which was in a restricted area). He was courteous to me at all times, but he told me he didnt agree with my approach. Eventually he realized I would not voluntarily leave and he gave me the option of leaving or being arrested. It was close to noon when I was arrested, he completed most the arrest report at his desk although another officer walked me over to Booking at the Justice Center.
I spent that night in custody. On Friday, November 12th, I was arraigned in City Court in front of Judge Merrill. I did not have an attorney. The Judge told me he did not approve of my methods and was going to release me immediately. I told him I would continue the protest and return to the PSB. He told me that if I did that he would hold me in Contempt of Court and I could be jailed for up to year. He issued an order of protection prohibiting me from protesting at the PSB. I left the Court planning to return to the PSB that day.
At approximately 4 PM on that same day (November 12th) -- I was released from the Justice Center and immediately walked over the the PSB. One of the other inmates who had been in custody with me was fascinated with my dedication and walked over with me. There had been a shift change at the PSB and Sergeant Knittle was not on duty (I had gone to his desk location).
Another Sergeant came out and I explained myself to him as before. I told him I was protesting by trespassing and that also a Judge had issued an order prohibiting me from returning to the building. He simply seemed upset by all this and told me to get out...I am not going to arrest you. I did not leave, in the next 30 minutes more police accumulated in the vicinity to see what was happening, several times I was told by the Sergeant and also a Lieutenant who was on duty that they did not agree with my methods. They repeated the following ...
"just leave, or we'll send you over to CPEP and that will insure you never get any custody of your child...well make sure the info gets to family court...we don't agree with how you are protesting, we are not going to arrest you ... so our advice is just get out of here or we'll take you over there..."
I told them I did not want to go to CPEP, but that I had to continue the protest. I refused to leave. The Lieutenant then took hold of me and said come with me. He walked me out into the hallway and gave me to a younger officer who put handcuffs on me and searched my clothing. Eventually this officer took me out to a waiting Patrol Car which had another officer at the wheel.
I was driven to St. Josephs, the police did not talk to me enroute. When we had parked at St. Josephs the officer driving the car got out and came to my side to open the door, he said, Okay, give me an explanation for what you are doing in my car... I told him that I was protesting a custody decision by trespassing at the PSB and I made it clear I did not want to go to CPEP.
That appeared to make him pause -- he walked away from the door (leaving me in the car), and walked around to the other side of the car. By this time it was dark, but I thought he was using his personal radio to talk to someone and check what was happening. A few minutes later he came back and said, come with me. I was brought into the building and admitted.
During the admission process I refused to give them any personal information (other than my name) and I repeatedly told them I did not want to be there. I was polite and spent a fair amount of time making small talk with a couple of the Security Guards (Steve and Art). Eventually I talked to a Doctor -- he told me, the police told us you are upset over a custody matter, protesting, and you wanted to come over here....
I told the Doctor that was not true and that I did not want to come there. To emphasize my lack of cooperation I would not answer any of his analysis questions, although I was happy to interact with the staff about anything else. I was held there Friday night and Saturday morning was again approached by other Doctors who had gone through my personal items and found an address list, it contained friends and family, along with legislative leaders and lawyers. It also had the name of a person who had been convicted for murder. They told me they had found this list and that it appeared I was planning a violent act. Again, I refused to cooperate the rest of that day -- I left a message with your legal office and registered the fact I was being held against my will.
On Sunday morning, Nov 14th, I told the staff I would be happy to talk to them. That I was sure they understood I did not want to be there, but was now ready to explain and answer any questions. That morning, about 8 AM, I told them about the protest detail and my history. I also told them about the web site. In addition I told them about how on an earlier protest I had come to spend about 3 weeks in the cell next to the accused murderer -- and while not agreeing with what he did, felt compassion for his family and kids and all the pain they must be going through. I explained that I had written both him and his family after my release. I also told them I could give them the phone numbers of my family members if they needed to confirm anything I had told them.
I found myself still held there Sunday afternoon. Around 1 PM I again talked to a Doctor and asked to be released -- the doctor told me they had concerns because I had been friendly toward a convicted murderer. I was a bit taken aback by that! I told the Doc I was a Christian and while I certainly did not agree with what the man did -- I felt sorry for the consequences both on him and especially his parents and children (and obviously for his victim). [Don, I am trying to not have to use his name/details here]. I told the Doctor I really wanted to leave -- I was told well see. I ended up spending another night. On Monday morning I was again interviewed by a couple of doctors and they released me.
While my greatest concern is the police conduct. I am bothered by the amount of extra time they held me -- for what appears to be not giving a politically correct answer. I hope your review of the actual medial records will give you some insite into this and if they overstepped their authority. Thanks for your help on this.