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Please keep Diane White in your thoughts

I have had trouble keeping up with the case of my friend and green colleague Diane White from Harrisburg. (I think that part of the goal of the current criminal justice system is to drag everything out so long, no one can possibly stay on alert that long.)  Diane White was assaulted by police while leading a block party (ironically, with the group ACORN, which is why I keep being nudged to remember to write this post.) Below is the latest update I could find at Diane White’s blog. If anyone is interested in finding out more or getting in touch with Diane, please contact me and I will try to make the connection. Diane is worthy of support. -Kimberly

Excerpt from Diane White’s blog:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Update on the persecution of Community Activist Diane White, Innocent Until Proven Guilty is a Joke in Harrisburg

The fix is on with Diane White, the woman who was beaten by a Harrisburg Police Officer at a “Back to School Block Party” last September. White has been informed by her attorney that the assistant DA handling her case has given her an ultimatum, either she accepts ARD or they will drop the resisting arrest charge and take her before a judge without a jury trial and give her jail time even though there is no evidence or witnesses to convict her. She has been assigned to a judge who has a 20 year history in Dauphin and York County of working for the DAs office and ignoring the rules of evidence when it comes to the police. Unlike the infamous McCormick Island incident, this case will fly under the radar of the public.

In the meantime, the police officer who beat Ms White is on military leave, the court reporter who recorded the transcript from the pre-preliminary hearing held at District Justice Postelle’s office at the Dauphin County Prison, is claiming that the transcript was destroyed in the basement of an office that got flooded in December 2007 and there are no copies available. Yet the attorney who represented Ms. White at the preliminary hearing received a message from the court reporter in January 2008 telling her to send $200 for a copy of the transcript. During his testimony at the preliminary hearing the police officer admitted that Ms White did not spit on him as initially reported in the Harrisburg Patriot News, that in fact it was he who used profane and abusive language in front of the children and those attending the block party when addressing Ms White contradicting the initial report. Finally and most importantly, the police officer casually stated that he had been a police officer in Harrisburg for four years and at no time in those four years did he ever encounter a person who was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore he just assumed Ms White was a drunk, when in fact Ms White had not been drinking at all. He further testified at the preliminary hearing that when he got downtown he realized that he was wrong. According to Ms White she sat in the police station for over 45 minutes in pain, cuffed, shackled and blinded, while the police officers went through the books trying to figure out what to charge her with. She was not allowed to contact a lawyer until they could figure out what to charge her with and even then all they gave her where the numbers to the statutes. Ms White stated that she was not aware of her charges until she got in front of the DJ who bond her over to a preliminary hearing without so much as a police report or any statements from the police officer. In fact according to Ms White, the police officer did not say anything whatsoever when she was brought before the night court judge, it was District Justice Robert Jennings who did all of the talking, making comments about Ms White of a personal and derogatory nature.

Although the Harrisburg police and the DA have absolutely no evidence to support their actions, White is being to forced into a situation where she either accepts the ARD leaving her no chance for a civil suit against the police department and the City for an unlawful arrest and the opportunity to recover damages for her medical bills, the loss of income and her security clearance as a result of the incident. “This is the game that is played all too often in our community, resulting in the incarceration of hundreds of innocent people. With the threat of a police record and jail time being dangled over their head, many people have succumbed to compromising their constitutional rights”, said White. The War on Drugs is an “ace in the hole” for police brutality and unlawful arrests in poor, black and Latino communities. Exercising ones 4th amendment right by speaking out against an injustice in many cases causes one to find oneself being pepper sprayed, beaten and subjected to illegal searches and/or thrown in jail, while the police have a “pow wow” in the booking station to figure out what charges to bring against the individual. The police pass the baton to the DA who makes sure the case ends up in the hands of a certain judge to ensure that the trumped up charges stick. The Drug War gives law enforcement the easy out, and a “hold” card, which can be used without discretion against any dissenter. No matter what, with or without justification, police officers can always use the drug laws to justify their illegal actions.

“I sat in the court room time and time again watching folks walk away with ARD for embezzling money, DUIs and molesting children. I watched as some folks with drug violations joked with the judge about whether or not their favorite football team is going to have a good year or not walk away with $50 fines and a year’s probation”, said White. It’s already been over a year, since the block party and I have not even gone to trial. Now I am being told in no uncertain terms to take a year of ARD or go to jail. Let’s not even talk about the costs associated with ARD. “I’m supposed to get whipped by the police, illegally searched and detained, shackled and thrown in jail and pay the system for their hospitality, go figure,” said White.

Take it or leave it, Harrisburg, PA is another one of those places in America where there are two sets of laws, one for the common good “all” and one for, “just us”.

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