By New Times Staff
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By New Times Staff
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By Chris Parker
Ever notice how little it takes to get arrested in Maricopa County, especially when the Sheriff's Office is involved? Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona ACLU, got some personal instruction in this reality on November 3 when he stopped off at M.D. Pruitt's Home Furnishings at 34th Street and Thomas Road and got popped, ostensibly for parking in the wrong place.
Of course, the fact that Pochoda's been an unflagging critic of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, most recently in the saga of TB patient Robert Daniels, probably helped Pochoda score an arrest for the misdemeanor "trespassing" charge. Daniels is the Russian-American who suffered from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and ended up doing nearly a year in Joe's gulag, surviving conditions universally condemned by the medical and legal community. This despite the niggling fact that Daniels was never charged with a crime.
The ACLU and Pochoda advocated for Daniels, suing the county, and forcing officials to transfer Daniels to a Denver facility, where he received compassionate care as a patient, not a criminal. Obliged to return to Phoenix by an agreement he'd signed with health officials, Daniels finally fled for the relative freedom of the former Soviet Union. See, for some asinine reason, mean ol' Joe was eager to charge Daniels with something — anything ("Do Svidanya, Joe," October 18, 2007).
This ain't the only litigation the ACLU and Pochoda have been involved in versus the MCSO. Pochoda and the ACLU are no doubt on the MCSO's enemies list. So when Pochoda showed sheriff's deputies his ACLU card in the Pruitt's parking lot, he might as well have been waving a bottle of Ketel One in front of Lindsay Lohan.
Pochoda stopped by Pruitt's that Saturday to observe the ongoing pro-day-laborer demos organized by immigrant rights activist Salvador Reza. The protesters are pissed at Pruitt's owner Roger Sensing, and the local small business coalition he's a member of, for calling in sheriff's deputies to patrol the area and arrest suspected illegal aliens. Every Saturday for weeks now, Pruitt's has become the site of a Mexican standoff, with Reza's sign-wavers and mariachis on the sidewalk in front of Pruitt's, and Sensing's crew of nativists and MCSO deputies in the parking lot.
This Jumpin' Jack Sparrow's visited Pruitt's, noting that there were also plenty of on-duty Phoenix PD officers on the sidewalk with the protesters to help keep the peace. Sheesh, when's the last time one law enforcement agency was needed to protect civilians from another band of local gendarmes?
And get this, furniture-peddler Sensing made his business look like Fort Apache by parking Pruitt's trucks along his side of the sidewalk — and spreading manure up and down the parking lot's border — to keep the protesters out. Why would you want to shop for a couch at a place that smells like cow caca and is filled with sheriff's deputies roving the parking lot, lookin' to make a collar?
"There were no unlawful activities at all on my part," Pochoda told this pelican immediately after his time in the slammer. "There was no reason for charges and no reason for an arrest. No reason to be kept in jail for 10 hours. Past the point where a friend put up the bail [at 4:30 p.m.], which was all of 150 bucks. No reason to impound my car, and on and on."
Indeed, according to Pochoda's MCSO arrest report, the ACLU attorney was parked in the Pruitt's lot for just 18 minutes before he was pinched. MCSO Sergeant Glen Powe observed Pochoda arrive at 12:40 p.m., park his car, and walk over to the sidewalk, where Powe lost sight of the lawyer as he mingled with the protesters and (according to Pochoda) introduced himself to Salvador Reza, who sort of resembles a Hispanic Wilford Brimley.
"After several minutes, the subject reappeared and was once again on the property," wrote Powe, who saw Pochoda "walking in the parking lot" toward his '99 BMW.
That is to say, Pochoda was returning to his vehicle to vamoose, when sheriff's deputies intercepted him and told him he was trespassing and had to leave. Duh, if they'd waited two more minutes, Pochoda would've been outta there!
But in typical pig-headed MCSO fashion, Powe and two other deputies got into an argument with Pochoda over whether he was trespassing. Pochoda asserted he wasn't, told them he was on-site as a lawyer with the ACLU, and handed them his card. Shortly thereafter, they let him model a pair of stainless steel bracelets.
Despite the fact that they could have cited the 65-year-old and let him go his way, they impounded his vehicle and hauled him to the Fourth Avenue Jail, using the excuse that Pochoda had some prescription pain medication on him. Though a friend of Pochoda's paid the $150 bail about 4:30 in the afternoon, the attorney was kept in custody 'til shortly after midnight.
County cops blatantly abusing their authority, arresting their enemies at the drop of a chapeau on misdemeanors that rarely draw jail time? Now where has this heron heard that one before (see Michael Lacey this week)?
As mentioned, this open-borders avian wind-surfed down to Pruitt's on a recent Saturday. And though The Bird missed Salvador Reza releasing some doves in a symbolic gesture of freedom and racial harmony, he did get to caw at Nickel Bag Joe, who was mixing it up with the mostly Spanish-speaking media.
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