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Letter to WIP

Constitutional law looks fine on paper…

I was attacked by two members of a biker gang outside the Olympia Police headquarters this past December. It wasn’t a particularly severe incident and thinking it was over, I returned to my home. Where I was attacked by two more members of the same gang. I returned to the Olympia police to report the incident at which point I was arrested. After the second beating, my first two assailants called 911 to claim I had assaulted them.

I proceeded to spend fifteen days in jail without access to an attorney for almost the entirety of that time. My first court appointed attorney was replaced without ever contacting me and my replacement was brand new and hadn’t even moved to town yet. Initially he indicated that I had a good case, however that didn’t last long. And in addition to spending Christmas and New Years in a room without a clock where they never turned the lights off and I wasn’t allowed outside of, while I was incarcerated my landlady illegally evicted me so when I was released, it was to a life on the streets.

Meanwhile, my attorney has been assigned 150 cases, well above the maximum recommendation for public defenders of 33 cases a month. He uses this violation of his rules of professional conduct to explain why he is unable to dedicate the time to prepare my defense. And while initially he informed me I had a good case, this quickly devolved to it being their word against mine and because my accusers are female, my case does not look good. This is without investigating any of my statements regarding the situation, considering my recommendations for possible directions for my defense or even informing me that a plea deal had been offered.

After he had filed two continuances citing failure to make progress and still not making progress, I pushed for a change of counsel. The judge initially said no but after taking up the matter with the Olympia Public Defense Coordinator and the state bar (who is declining to investigate the matter), it looks like I may finally get a new attorney.

While I have a Constitutional right to counsel and fair trial, the rules look good on paper but are a far cry from reality in this country. And we all know this. The rules, quite simply, work differently for the poor than they do the rich. But for it to require so much effort for there to be even a glimmer of justice in this matter is an outrage.

Much of this has to do with our legal system, however the police are supposed to be the front line of protecting the populace and enforcing our laws and in this matter they have failed miserably.

To hear my attorney explain it, we have done away with any presumption of innocence in this country. And for the police in this matter, this has been carried to willful ignorance. Despite the fact that I had substantial physical injuries at the time of my arrest and had just called 911 to report being the victim of an assault, because my accusers are female this was ignored. I filed a formal complaint in writing with one of my arresting officers who took photos of my injuries but despite following up repeatedly, no investigation has been made into my complaint and the photos have not been made available for my defense. And not only did they not investigate my complaint but they never investigated the claims against me except to interview my two accusers.

But the attack against me took place outside of the police headquarters, right in front of a battery of surveillance cameras. My attorney requested the footage from the prosecutor who said she didn’t have it and he ended up issuing a subpoena to the police to turn it over. The police reviewed the footage, said there was nothing on it and then destroyed it, citing protocol.

So not only is there no evidence against me in this matter beyond the claims of my assailants but to the extent the Olympia police have investigated this matter, they have concluded that it simply did not happen. And yet, there is no effort to either acknowledge the mistake or simply let the matter go. For them, the wheels of “justice” have begun and there is no point reviewing the matter.

And over and over, that has been my response from the criminal justice system and those tasked with overseeing it—not our problem, if it’s actually an issue someone else will catch it.

So while we live in a country where police shootings and school shootings are hardly news, I think it’s worth stepping back and asking—how did we get here? The sad reality is that we live in a world where the rules simply are not followed. People are happy to jump behind them to defend themselves but the real protection comes from money and power. If you do not have those advantages, justice is simply not for you.

Gabriel Withington

 

 

 

 

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