I just went through a rather intense 24-hour period that began Wednesday night when I got home to find emails advising me a warrant had been issued for my arrest. Apparently the news had been posted on a Hawaiian sovereignty Yahoo forum, along with the names of three other persons who also were being charged with trespassing related to an Aug. 7 Naue burial site protest, which I’d covered for Honolulu Weekly and this blog.
After freaking out for a few minutes, I remembered I had the cell phone number of attorney Dan Hempey, Kauai’s resident civil rights maven, so I called and told him what was up. He then called the cellblock and confirmed that I had, indeed, been charged with criminal trespass in the second degree, a petty (literally) misdemeanor. He suggested we take care of it right away so I wouldn’t have to worry about the cops showing up at my door, and offered to accompany me to the cop shop so I could turn myself in.
I got $100 bail money out of the ATM, then we headed for Lihue and arrived at the impenetrable Babylon, where you must call and then wait for a police officer to come out and escort you into the fortress. We waited, then a woman came out and said it was going to be awhile, so make ourselves comfortable.
We waited some more, than the very polite Officer Nitta came out to tell us that they weren’t ready to accept us. It seems that Capt. Ale Quibilan (who I previously misidentified as a lieutenant named Ollie – sorry about that, Captain) had contacted Chief Darryl Perry, who said he wanted to review the warrant before I was arrested.
Now that was interesting, Dan said, and after receiving assurances that they wouldn’t serve me that night, or without calling him first, we left.
Dan, in his usual irrepressible style, jumped right into the case, researching the law, developing a strategy and most important, contacting Chief Perry the next day to discuss the First Amendment and the rights of journalists to cover the news. The Chief said to give him an hour to research the matter, then he sent out an email to key police officers and the prosecutor’s office that made it clear he “got” the bigger issue at stake. In asking them to rescind my arrest warrant he wrote:
Based on her credentials as a media representative; her complicity in the alleged trespassing charge is in doubt as she is covered by both State of Hawaii, and U.S. Constitutional Bill of Rights under the First Amendment with respect to Freedom of the Press to report relevant public issues.
Absent exigent circumstances, in this instant matter the applicability of Criminal Trespass in the 2nd degree, HRS, Section 708-814 did not raise to the level that out weighed her Rights to be present at or on the Brescia property located at 7342 Alealea Road, Haena.
Way to go Chief! Mahalo nui loa! Needless to say, both Dan and I were extremely happy. But would the prosecutor’s office go along with dropping the charges? If they didn’t, Dan said, we’d be looking at a trial where the Chief of Police would be the first witness for the defense.
At about 7:30 last night, almost 24 hours exactly from the time I first contacted him, Dan called to say the prosecutor’s office was dropping the charges.
Whew!!! It was all a bit nerve-wracking, but at least I got an answer to a question I posed last Saturday: “Is it trespassing for a reporter to go where something is happening in order to see what’s going on and question those involved?”
It seems that in this case, and this place, the answer is no. Still, I’m not sure it would have turned out like this if Dan hadn’t been representing me.
Now just one other question niggles at me: Who was pushing for that arrest warrant in the first place?