A DISTURBING ARRESTA COUNTY OFFICIAL COMPLAINED, THE POLICE OVERREACTED, THE STADIUM FOE WENT TO JAIL
Ferd Haverly, the sole legal casualty of the downtown baseball stadium debate, is insisting on his day in court.
Last Monday, Haverly appeared before a city judge and requested a court date to defend himself against a disorderly conduct charge stemming from his curious arrest during the meeting two weeks ago at which Maricopa County supervisors approved a quarter-cent sales tax to build a major league stadium.
Haverly, 46, editor of a liberal monthly newspaper and a populist crusader, went to both cover the meeting and voice his opposition to the stadium tax. His paper, The Current, had published several articles assailing the stadium deal.
Shortly after the meeting got under way, however, Haverly found himself in a scuffle with Phoenix police who pinned his arms behind his back and hauled him out of the auditorium lobby at Phoenix Preparatory Academy.
Ultimately, Haverly was handcuffed and taken by paddy wagon to the South Central Precinct house, where he was cited for disorderly conduct and released.
From police reports and observations of witnesses, it is difficult to discern why Haverly alone--of the hundreds who showed up to support or oppose the tax--ended up in police custody.
The next morning's Arizona Republic reported that Haverly had been arrested for "repeatedly interrupting the meeting with loud remarks," a depiction that Haverly, witnesses and even police reports about the incident concur was wholly inaccurate.
All parties agree that Haverly was standing at the back of the auditorium, handing out copies of his newspaper to interested takers. His actions were unremarkable given the bustle of media activity at the rear of the packed hall. Television reporters were doing live reports and interviews, and members of the public streamed in and out.
Peter Fears, head of Valley Interfaith, who was there to support the tax levy, says he and Haverly were leaning against the rear wall of the auditorium. Other than passing out his newspapers, Fears says, Haverly did nothing to warrant any special notice.
In a letter to the editor which the Republic has not yet printed, Fears says Haverly "never interrupted the meeting, was never loud and was never disruptive."
But by passing out his newspaper, Haverly did draw the attention of Phoenix police assigned to the hearing.
The police had been told by assistant county manager Jack Shomenta and school officials before the meeting that no one should be allowed to pass out literature in the auditorium, says Phoenix Police Department spokesman Kevin Robinson.
Shomenta did not return phone calls seeking comment, but Maricopa County spokesperson Linda Turley says it was school officials who laid down the rule. "We were following their desires," Turley says.
At regular county Board of Supervisors meetings, Turley says, there is no prohibition against handing out literature in the meeting room.
After handing out newspapers for about five minutes, Haverly says he was approached by a plainclothes Phoenix officer who asked him to step outside.
The auditorium entrance consists of two sets of double doors, with a small alcove in between. Police reports and witness accounts agree that Haverly peacefully left the auditorium with two policemen and entered the alcove.
Haverly says the officers--citing a school policy--told him he could not pass out his paper in the auditorium. Haverly says he readily agreed to stop. He then tried to return to the meeting, Haverly says, because he wanted to cover it for his paper, had signed up to testify and had several thousand dollars' worth of video equipment set up to tape the proceedings.
"I told them I'd stop, that I wouldn't hand [the paper] out anymore," he says. "But they said that's not enough, that I had to leave with them."
The police were insisting that he leave the meeting altogether, Haverly says, and he saw no reason that he was being banished from a public meeting in a public building.
Up to that point, Haverly and witnesses agree, there still had been no yelling or disruption.
Local attorney Thomas Haney--who passed through the alcove at that moment--says there was no ruckus going on.
"I walked into the anteroom and everything was all quiet," Haney says.
After entering the auditorium, Haney says, he and others nearby heard a loud bang against the door. "I poked my nose out, and here are these people standing out there, and this voice says, 'All right, you're under arrest for disturbing the peace.'"
Police reports on the incident are silent on whether Haverly agreed to stop handing out his publication, but they corroborate Haverly's version of what happened next.
As police grabbed him and tried to remove him from the building, Haverly says, he did begin screaming and yelling--protesting what he saw as a violation of his right to attend a public meeting.
"I started getting loud because I didn't want to be taken into custody," Haverly says. "They surrounded me and twisted my arms behind my back, and I got louder."
As he was hauled into the lobby, police reports say, Haverly "continued to scream at us and stated he would not leave the campus and was merely exercising his First Amendment rights. [He] once again tried to enter the auditorium and had to be physically removed from the lobby area."
In effect, Haverly says, police created the situation that compelled him to get loud, and then arrested him for it.
"Which came first?" he asks. "It was clear that I was being detained for handing out papers. I was being held for that. Then I got loud."
His ejection aside, Haverly says he has yet to even be shown any school or county policy that would have prohibited him from passing out literature at the meeting.
Administrators from Phoenix Preparatory Academy and the Phoenix Elementary School District--which the county says have a policy against such handouts on campus--did not return phone calls seeking information on the school's policy.
Police reports list assistant county manager Shomenta as the person who reported Haverly's activities to police. Shomenta also did not return phone calls.
It was a county meeting, Robinson says, and city police were following the county's instructions when they approached Haverly initially.
"Others who were handing out fliers were given the same opportunity as Mr. Haverly, and they went off the property and handed out their fliers," Robinson says.
After his arrest, Haverly was taken to the school principal's office and handcuffed. Later, he was carted away.
Police reports do not reflect any effort by officers to question witnesses in the auditorium about Haverly's behavior. But almost three hours after the incident, a Phoenix officer did interview a county employee who was in the lobby when Haverly was hauled away.
Her statement to police that Haverly was yelling as he was led away was apparently used to buttress the disorderly conduct citation Haverly received before he was released.
"He was not arrested for handing out material," Robinson says. "He was arrested for yelling and screaming."
After waiting for his wife to pick him up at the police station, Haverly went straight back to the marathon baseball hearing and stood outside the school, passing out his newspaper.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.