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Possible Jail soon - Working for a meeting with Senator Clinton

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From: John Murtari (
Date: Wed Aug 07 2002 - 13:26:03 EDT

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Good People & People of Faith,

I had plans on sending a message this week summarizing activity at the
Syracuse Federal Building and "our" efforts to engage a Member of
Congress (Senator Hillary R. Clinton) in a serious dialog about Family
Law Reform.  http://www.AKidsRight.Org/actionc_syr

But recent events have changed some of those plans.  Yesterday
I was told by a City Court Judge that I would be immediately
jailed for "contempt" if he saw me in another arraignment (see
details in the letter below).  This could mean up to a six month
jail sentence -- no fun at all there! It made me think of a recent
message I received from a good friend of mine, Jerry:

"I read all your stuff... and I sympathize with the goal.  Just can't
help but think there must be a better way to accomplish the end w/o
beating your head on the wall.  Ultimately you'll have to amass raw
numbers to make the political process work - that hasn't happened so
far.  What event is going to change that?"

I think we are very close to that "event."  One person is just a
"crank", but two or three are a "movement."  If these actions will get
those two or three people involved, then they will have served their
purpose well -- but unfortunately, you have to follow through and that
could mean jail.  We have had a little news coverage, but obviously
more people would help.

Let me tell you, I swallowed hard when the Judge threatened me with
Jail (even though I knew I would be going back on Thursday, 8 Aug).
The sentence could be a week, 30 days, or 6 months -- and like you,
I've got a lot of places I would rather be.

What motivates me at this point.  I can tell you it sure isn't a
desire to get even, or anger at the system, or the judges and the
lawyers...  When you are mad at someone, it doesn't seem right that
you should be the one to go to jail!  I think it affirms the power of
NonViolent Action, someone acting from anger wouldn't go back.

I'm motivated by a tremendous love for my "Sun."  Domenic (my 9 year
old son) and I had a tremendous time together this summer -- but all
too short.  While I am not angry at the people involved, the "system"
treated us with indignity and not even the slightest respect for our
basic Civil rights (many of you know that treatment).

That a member of the US Congress would simply refuse to respond to us
on the issue is just not acceptable.  But I also know that before we
can expect Members of Congress to take a risk on a sensitive political
topic, we as parents have to "step up" and show our willingness to
sacrifice for our kids.  If I'm not willing to take personal risk for
my son Domenic, who else would?

Please, if you can, check the link below and give a call to some of
the contacts for Senator Clinton and even the Judge's office.  Your
help would be greatly appreciated! Let them all know how much we
love our children and that change is VERY important.

http://www.AKidsRight.Org/actionc_syr for copy and complete contact
August 6, 2002
Judge Kevin Young
RE: People v. Murtari
Syracuse City Court
511 S. State Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

Dear Judge Young and the District Attorney's Office:

I was arraigned by you on Tuesday, August 6th, as a consequence of my
actions in the Syracuse Federal Building the day before. There seemed
to be a lot of confusion about what was going on and the history of my
actions. I was especially concerned when told by you to stay away from
the building and that I could expect a jail sentence for contempt if I
am arraigned in front of you again on similar charges.

Judge Young, I certainly do not want that to happen. I have an 86 year
old mother and I am her only child. While I understand and accept that
my conduct has "risk," I would like to avoid a harsh judgment based on
incomplete information. I have great respect for the Court and am not
trying to prove that Judge's orders can be disregarded. I wish to take
a brief moment to make you aware of what is going on and why.

I am at the building in what I can attempt to describe as an exercise
in free speech and also to petition my government representative,
Senator Hillary R. Clinton, for action on Family Law reform. Without
going into details, the attached letter shows one of numerous attempts
by members of our Group (AKidsRight.Org) to simply engage our elected
representative in a dialog regarding the need for reform -- so far she
has refused to make any type of meaningful reply. This is unfortunate
and is the immediate reason for me "walking" outside her office in a
public area. We are trying to encourage other parents to do the same,
but it is a difficult sacrifice to make.

At the beginning of 2000 I had over a dozen charges pending for this
conduct at both the State and Federal Level. All the State charges
were dismissed by Judge Higgins, all the Federal Tickets were
dismissed by a US Magistrate. City Judge Merrill had found that such
conduct was protected in the County Courthouse. Orders to "stay away"
from the Federal building were found invalid. I spoke personally with
the assistant US Attorney in charge of the case, Mr. Michael Olmstead,
and he also appreciated the unique nature of my actions and told me I
had a right to petition my government. Since then, on many occasions I
have been allowed to proceed with no arrest. Earlier this year some
similar arrests occurred and were dismissed by Judge Rosenthal in City
Court and others at the Federal level.

It seems clear from the decisions that a charge of "trespass" in a
public building is not supported, but I myself find some frustration
at being constantly arrested and charged again with trespass for
identical conduct. It also seems such a waste of resources when
everyone seems to know the charges will be dismissed based on past
decisions. I am a member of a small group of parents and we certainly
cannot afford a Civil Right's lawyer to argue our case, but I hope the
Syracuse Police can be told that in this specific case, trespass is
not supported. In the last two arrests Federal Officials have not
written any "tickets" at all, just relying on the Syracuse Police to
remove me from the building.

We are a group of Mothers and Fathers who believe positive change can
happen without the need for anger or name calling. That significant
social change can be made by people willing to use NonViolent Action,
as most recently demonstrated by King and Gandhi. To show by the power
of their actions and their willingness to accept personal sacrifice --
that they deeply believe in both a loving God and the "rightness" of
their goals.

When I am in the Federal Building I do not disturb any type of
building operation or access. I do not chant or even make gestures. I
do not speak unless spoken to. I just walk quietly in the hall outside
Senator Clinton's offices carrying some picture of parents and
children unjustly separated. Sometimes people will approach me and ask
me what is going on - then I will stop and explain. Our hope is that
our actions, along with public attention and publicity will eventually
show the Senator that we are sincere and that this is a very serious
public issue. We know the Senator is a good person and concerned about
family issues.

Please understand that no one more than I would like to stop these
attempts to get a dialog started with Senator Clinton. I would like to
wait until the 29th and the preliminary hearing to get a ruling from
you on this matter, but so many clear decisions have already been made
and a parent being unjustly separated from their child is such an
important issue of Civil Rights.

Respectfully yours,

John Murtari

Attach: Letter to Senator Clinton

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