It’s Raining Felonies

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

I was asked to write this article by the folks at the Public i to add support to
this issue highlighting misuses of the enforcement and justice system in
Champaign County. I want to point out that my story pales in comparison
to the trespasses that the police and justice system commit everyday against
more targeted social and racial groups in C-U. I don’t want my story to
come off as whiny. I understand that I got off comparatively easily for the
supposed crime that I committed, but I still do not understand why this situation
has to happen to anyone. My story should be used to stimulate thoughts of the more
ridiculous incidents happening to people even more targeted by the police and justice system.
As you read this, I urge you to think about whether or not this is how you want your tax dollars
spent on fighting crime. Do you want our police force’s, judge’s and lawyers’ energy
spent this way, or do you want them taking care of real crimes? Who is profiting from incidents
like this filtering through the justice system? Please consider the larger implications of
what my relatively inconsequential story means as you read.
My story begins the evening of May 24, 2005. I was attending some parties in my
neighborhood in celebration of the latest round of U of I graduations. First, I attended a
cocktail party at Green and Orchard (in the same block as my house) and then went on
with two friends to a party at Iowa and Orchard. I was handed a beer as I was leaving the
second party. I cracked it open and continued on home to High and Orchard, as it was
late. I realize that this is a ticketable offense in C-U, but at 3 AM my thoughts are not
about running into police in the sleepy streets of Urbana. My thoughts are of retiring to
my bed.
As my friends and I turned onto Orchard St., we ran into a parked cop car with Officer
Christopher Darr standing nearby. Officer Darr claims in his report that he was drawn
to the corner by a group of people talking loudly and “wandering all over the roadway.”
He was “concerned for [our] safety.” Never mind that the intersection of Orchard and
Iowa at 3 a.m. is not necessarily the busiest intersection in town. Not a single car passed
the spot we occupied while this all went down. My guess is that the police were probably
called to monitor the party and just happened to spot us coming around the corner.
Officer Darr asked me to hand over my freshly opened beer and I did so without incident.
He then went through the usual routine of asking for my information because he was
going to give me a drinking ticket. I didn’t have any ID on me because I was partying in my
neighborhood and did not have any pockets in my evening gown to carry anything. For
some stupid reason I chose to give the officer a false name, an outcome of a bit too much to
drink and “quick” thinking. Honestly, if the police don’t make you nervous then you must
have super-human strength. Why is that? Why are we so scared of those chosen to “protect
and serve” us? Is it because the police can play by their own rules? Read on, read on.
After I realized what I had done, I felt had to keep up the charade, which I did for a
second. Officer Darr realized I was lying after checking me out in every computer system
his squad car was wired to, oh, and finally he asked my friends what my name was. The
ol’ divide and conquer technique. I had already confessed my real information to the
other officer that had arrived on the scene (Officer Jackson) while Officer Darr was talking
to my friend, because I realized how stupid this situation was turning out. I was then
handcuffed, charged with a felony(!), and taken to jail because I had committed an
“obstruction of justice”.
I was asked, while in cuffs, by Officer Jackson, why I had lied to them. I responded
that I did not trust the police because they are “shady” and that I was drunk and tired. I
told him there was only one officer in town that I trusted, Sergeant Anthony Cobb,
because I felt that he treated all people with respect and had always shown integrity in his
dealings with the public he protects and serves. I referenced the VEYA Citizen’s Watch
video, made by Martell Miller and Patrick Thompson, that I had seen the previous fall,
which spotlighted how white people and black people were given separate treatment by
the police in CU. The video also shows Sgt. Cobb being the only police officer without an
authoritarian “you will do as I say” attitude. (If you have not heard of this video, please
check out previous issues of the Public i. There is a massive saga going on in this town
concerning that video, and now Patrick Thompson, an innocent man, is being threatened
with jail time for a crime he did not commit, simply for making this video that shows the
police force’s true colors.)
I was never rude to the police. I never shouted at them. I never swore at them or
insulted them. I simply did not blindly comply with everything they asked me to do. I
merely referenced the VEYA video, and that was the end of my time as a free woman for
that night. It is my belief that because I spoke of this video I was taken to jail
When I called the police department before my court date to find out how much the
drinking ticket would cost, a woman in the legal department asked me why I was going
to court when I could have just paid and been done with it. I explained that the police
officer had checked the option that I must appear in court on my ticket. Her immediate
response was, “What did you do to make the police officer mad?” It saddens me that an
outside party, who knew nothing of the details of my case, was able to see that I had
angered the police officer. The worst part is not necessarily that she could tell that he had
acted out of emotion and not integrity. The worst part is that we continue to let this happen
to us while shrugging “that’s just the way it is.” I now have a criminal record, because of a
simple drunken mistake and an officer who
used his emotions instead of professional
integrity. I have a misdemeanor on my record
(my Class 4 felony was plead down) and can
never leave the “Have you ever been convicted
of a crime?” box blank on a job application.
I spent around $1500 for court costs,
the ticket, a drug evaluation (even though
drugs had nothing to do with my case), and a
condescending lawyer that constantly insulted
my lack of knowledge of the justice system.
I am headed off to veterinary school in
South Africa, and believe me, that money
would have served me much better there
paying for school costs. And believe me, my
time spent going to court, drug/alcohol evaluations,
and in jail could have been spent
much better doing just about anything else.
I ask again, is this how you want your
tax dollars spent in Champaign county?
Keeping “bad” people like me locked up
and caught up in the justice system? I think
we all have better things to do.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.