Cop lies under oath, though says she arrested me for legal activities, and claims she thought our camera might have been a gun. Seriously. A gun!
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was that he called us ‘assholes.’”
-Arresting officer Donna Donovan
“Is that illegal?”
-My lawyer, Paul Fallon
So this case just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. I’d say I’d be surprised if the case wasn’t dismissed after the prosecution finishes presenting its “evidence,” but seeing as this nonsense has gotten this far, I’ve learned to expect the worst. We’ll move for a dismissal after the prosecution’s done, and if the judge’s paying even a little bit of attention she should throw this case into the trash. But she’s inexplicably let it get this far, so why stop the fun now?
Before opening statements began, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Swanson requested a meeting with Fallon in the judge’s chambers. I don’t know what he thought should happen, but he complained that I’d written about the previous day’s jury selection. Perhaps he wanted me flogged. In that post, I’d facetiously addressed the members of the jury, and it was his contention that that was tantamount to communication. The judge told him to STFU, but instructed the jury not to read The BEAST again.
“Every part of every day — when you wake up in the morning, there are rules that you follow…there are lines you don’t cross,” Swanson told the jury. “The evidence is going to clearly show that Mr. Murphy crossed those lines.” The ADA conflates etiquette and family obligations with the law. That’s his whole case. I’m a jerk. I don’t follow the rules of polite society. It’s his only hope that the jurors are puritanical fools, who’ll lock me up, for being a round peg in this square North American wilderness. As Fallon put it to me, I’m guilty of talking in church. Although the jury should take note that the National Organization for Marriage is a 501 (c)(4) political group. And on July 24, 2011, they organized a statewide “rally,” as it’s labeled on the Buffalo City permit, to pressure lawmakers to hate gays as much as they do. So it wasn’t church, per se, but it’s the same basic fairy tales justifying oppression.
Swanson went on in this vein, with no surprises save for one: the lawyer who they found to lie about my activities that day, one Roland “Rolly” Cercone, is going to testify that he saw me not merely brandishing the dildophone, which I readily admit to using for an approximately 30 second interview, but that I was sucking on it, holding it at my groin, and using it to fake-fuck people. Yup. I don’t even. It was mighty difficult not to yell, “Bullshit!” But I stayed incredulously quiet. I deserve a fucking award.
Incredible, I thought. No wait, I mean uncredible. Swanson told the jury that “Rolly’s” going to testify to seeing me do these things in Niagara Square. This is the large, circular median across the street from Buffalo’s City Hall. So according to Swanson, Rolly was on the steps of City Hall with the other NOM-tards — 100 feet away from me. And according to the later testimony of two cops, they were about 10 feet away from me in Niagara Square, and they say they didn’t see the dildo at all.
This inconsistency is troubling for a few reasons. For one, it clearly shows Rolly is a lying piece of shit. For two, if these cops are lying about what I did that day, and they are, why not go all in? I just don’t get it. Nor do I get why the original police report says that I had a dildo. Of course, they changed the charges against me between July and October, adding fresh lies, so I guess that’s just not part of the script anymore. Weird. In fact, observing and dissecting their myriad untruths is a bizarre experience. So far, they’ve gone with a tactic of incorporating out of context facts into their testimonies, so it seems somewhat convincing coming out of their mouths. Like some small child, hand caught in the cookie jar, who claims his hand is in the cookie jar to protect the cookies from thieves. For instance, I did call Donna Donovan an asshole — after she’d arrested me, called me a homosexual with a persecution complex, and her cop buddy intimated that he was going to smash my head against a brick wall. But more on that later.
Then it was Fallon’s turn — to ostensibly embarrass me by telling the jury that I’m a spaz, a weirdo, a round peg in a square world. But his point was solid: being strange is not a crime. If it were, I’d have been locked up long ago. He shows the jury the video of Donovan knocking the camera down from Bunting’s face. My other lawyer, who appeared out of nowhere like some righteous superhero, and whom I don’t really know, says the video is gold. “Mr. Murphy has vehemently defended his innocence,” said Fallon, “But he doesn’t have to prove that. He doesn’t have to prove anything.” The burden of proof is on the prosecution. And they have fuck all.
The first witness the prosecution calls to the stand is arresting officer Donna Donovan. She swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help her God. Hand on the bible, like that means something. I find it insulting that people are allowed to affirm their supposed honesty by swearing on a thing that doesn’t exist. Hey, but that’s me. Hopefully, my request to be sworn in over a can of spaghetti will be allowed. “May his noodly appendage touch you.”
Anyway, it’s Donovan’s assertion that I was one of an unknown number of counter-protesters who’d been standing on the steps of City Hall among the NOM-tards. I was not. And if the judge allows the slew of Facebook photos and televised news accounts into evidence, this should be easily disproved. But getting things submitted into evidence is a slightly tricky matter, which is left to the whims of the judge. A lawyer needs to create a “foundation” for why evidence is relevant. In this instance, it seems clearly relevant, but, again, who goddamn knows what the judge will rule. It’s arbitrary.
She tells Swanson that I was “inciting people.” Whatever that means. I’m a big mean ol’ meanie – is the gist.
Donovan claims I was “essentially giving the [NOM-tards] a hard time,” so I was removed from the steps of City Hall and walked across the street to Niagara Square. This “hard time” includes me reportedly knocking a bible out of someone’s hand. Who? It’s a mystery. How many counter-protesters were there? No idea. She basically has no memory of what happened that day — except for everything I was purportedly doing. She said she saw this bible incident happen, but was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. It could have been an accident, she says. Between July and October, she decided it was not an accident, and the revamped charges reflect that decision. “He said [counter-protesting] wasn’t against the law,” she said, rolling her eyes, disdainful of our Constitutional right to free speech. “He could voice his opinion.” Yada yada. So, for some reason, she lied about what I did and where I was — yet paints a picture of a guy doing nothing illegal. I just don’t get it. Even if the jury believes her every word, and looking at their faces I would say they definitely did not, I’m just a guy who was engaged in free speech. No matter how much you roll your eyes, it ain’t illegal, lady. And if’n you don’t like this country, you can get out!
Fallon had a moment of pure brilliance. To show the jury that the July charges and the October charges are inconsistent, contradictory, and that Donovan can’t keep her lies straight, he pulled what you would call a “fast one.” Slowly walking toward the witness stand, he handed her a sheet of paper. “I’ll ask you to look at what’s been marked as Defendant’s Exhibit D.” She reviews the document and indicates that she’s familiar with it – the list of false charges against me. “What day did you prepare that document?” he asks.
“The day of [the arrest],” she says.
“Look again,” Fallon says, casually, pivoting away from her, removing his glasses. It was smooth as shit. The Defendant’s Exhibit D is dated October.
She looks at Swanson with panic.
“Don’t look at him!” Fallon scoffs. “He can’t help you!”
“Objection!” cries Swanson. The lawyers have a sidebar. The issue is whether or not we can use the initial charges to demonstrate how foul this whole thing smells. By way of Donovan, who shoots me a shit-eating grin, I learn that we can’t – for now. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to me. But what do I know? I’m just a free speech maniac who couldn’t stop my “mouth running.” Seriously, this is their case. I am guilty of talking loudly– and that’s if you believe everything they say.
Cross examination goes on for hours, as Fallon grills all the inconsistencies out of Donovan. It’s truly fun watching her squirm. Even with the volume off, she’s obviously lying. It’s all over her pig face. And I don’t mean her cop face. She looks remarkably like a pig. Unless every juror is Rain Man, they no doubt picked up on her tells. Fallon starts in with the camera, and Donovan turns the ridiculousness up to eleven.
Sidebar, dear readers: I have a small bladder. This has always been the case. I wet the bed until I was 8. My mom, bless her heart, thought it would be a good idea to buy me electric sheets. They didn’t shock me or anything, but as soon as the smallest amount of liquid touched the metallic fabric, an apocalyptic alarm would sound. “BEEEEP! BEEEEP! BEEEEP!” It woke up my entire family. My sister would stroll in, sleep in her eyes, just to mock me. I guess the idea was to condition me with pure shame. And it worked. But to this day, I can’t hear a truck backing up without feeling the simultaneous urge to both urinate and hold it in. It’s very uncomfortable. “You better be going somewhere with this, Mr. Murphy,” you’re probably thinking. I’m not, really, but frequent urination has always been an issue with me. It’s part of the reason I hated school so much. It’s fundamentally degrading to need permission to empty one’s bladder. And so it is in court. I’m a grown-ass-man! If I have to piss, I should be able to stand up and walk to the bathroom. But you can’t do that. You have to wait until the judge needs a leak. So for most of this trial, I’ve been, and will be, uncomfortable. And kind of resentful. Boo-hoo, right? Poor Murphy needs a piss. Look, I know this whole experience has been unpleasant, but I also know how relatively lucky I am. First of all, I’m white. In the American “justice” system, this is always a plus. Secondly, BEAST publisher Paul Fallon is my lawyer for free. Of course, this means he needs to sacrifice other paying legal work, so I’ll be taking a pay cut during this whole thing (which hardly seems possible). Ahem…
Fallon’s invested in the outcome of the case. He’s not just some jaded public defender who no longer gives a shit. Thirdly, I now have a second lawyer for free, as I mentioned. He’s called Daire Irwin. Cool name, huh? He probably won’t be thrilled that I chose to out him in this piss-related side-rant, but he’s a righteous dude, and he has more trial experience than Fallon, so that’s good for me. Anyway, the point here is that I pee a lot. And I’m lucky. Now back to “Law and Order: Special Dildo Unit.”
So, yeah, just when I thought Donovan couldn’t be more full of shit, she proved me spectacularly wrong. Despite the video evidence, she says that she never once touched our camera. “Let me refresh your memory,” Fallon says, booting up his laptop. (Incidentally, we had to bring in our own flat screen because the ancient TV in the courtroom is only set up to play VHS.) He plays the video of her slapping the camera down from Bunting’s face. She insists she didn’t do exactly what the jury just witnessed. I’m no body language expert, but several of the jurors wore an expression that screamed, “Bitch?!”
Her next hilarious yarn is that I wasn’t holding the video camera when she arrested me. It’s interesting to think about our memories. They’re so easily warped by this or that – especially over time. While some of the things Donovan says are barefaced lies, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, too. It’s possible that she really thinks some things happened the way she says they did because she’s convinced herself of it after the fact. Our brains suck like that some times. But this is another evident lie. As she was putting the cuffs around my right wrist that fateful day, my first thought was that they’re going to erase the video camera. And sure enough they did. They’d be incredible fools not to. So as she was cuffing me and guiding my right arm behind my back, I was holding out the camera with my left, and frantically beckoning, “Josh! Josh!” Typically, the lumbering lad was slow to respond while Donovan was trying her hardest to bring my left arm behind my back. When it became apparent that I’m something like a hundred times stronger than her, she started slapping my hand, trying to knock the camera to the ground. Frankly, I don’t understand why they didn’t throw “resisting arresting” into the bullshit mix. Because I did resist. A little. I didn’t want the evidence destroyed. Bunting eventually grabbed the camera, and I was led on my little perp-walk. Now remember, while we were able to recover most of the erased video, the cops took extra care to permanently delete the first half of the last clip we shot that day – that is, the bit where Donovan arrested me for filming her. So the video we have starts, I think, right after I handed the camera off to Josh. You can hear the sound of cuffs, and then Lieutenant Lark approaches Josh. She says she’s not going to confiscate the camera, but she does want to hold it. Donovan says it’s my property. I say it belongs to Josh (technically, it’s the BEAST’s camera). She then hands it off to Donovan, another cop, or takes it herself to the squad car. The last bit of film shows the side of a cop car. Donovan claims that the “property” in question, because the camera is pointing at the ground this whole time, was a black duffel bag. I wouldn’t call my camera bag a “duffel bag,” but let’s not pick nits. And the reason Donovan gives for ultimately confiscating the camera (and never mind that if they were discussing my “duffel bag,” and said they weren’t going to confiscate it, why did they confiscate it?) was that she wanted to make sure my stuff was safe. Aw, how pretend nice of her. She fake cares, dammit!
Now we get into the hilarious meat of the camera stuff. Donovan claims that she repeatedly told us to stop filming her. “Is that illegal?” asks Fallon.
“No,” she says. “But I don’t want anything pointed at me. That’s just the way it is.” I was too stunned to get verbatim quotes here, but then she says that we were in her personal space, and she was worried that the camera might be a gun. A GUN! “You don’t know how people hide things,” she says, somehow not laughing.
“So you thought the camera might be a gun?” Fallon chuckles. “And you said, ‘I don’t want my picture taken?’” She didn’t have an answer.
Cross examination continues, and her damning testimony is that I was being loud. “What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak?” asks Fallon. “Why did you arrest him?”
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was that he called us ‘assholes.’”
“Is that illegal?”
“No.” She says that she didn’t mind either. She has “thick skin.” But the other people present shouldn’t have to put up with my “nonsense.” Way to protect people from my fictitious swearing. That’s your tax dollars at work, New York. The politeness police. It was worth arresting me, she says, because the NOM-tards were praying at the time — Our Father, to be exact. And she went to Catholic school, so she knows what prayer is, and anytime someone prays it magically turns the vicinity into a “religious service.” Again, it was a political event, and the permit reads “rally,” but you really can’t argue with someone who attended a Catholic high school. They just know these kinds of things — like how to get cum stains off of plaid skirts.
Anyway, we eventually let her get off the stand, but Fallon requested the right to recall her at a later date. That’s cool, says Judge Eagan. Donovan rolls her eyes like a spoiled teenager whose life is SO UNFAIR! It probably is tiring lying for hours on end, so I can sympathize.
Next on the stand was Baldy Cop. That’s what my notes read. His real name is Paul Sobkowiak. He’s not as much of a relentless prick as Donovan. He was visibly uncomfortable telling his little white lies. They really weren’t that bad, truly, but he was biting his lower lip, and generally looking guilty.
Sidebar, dear readers! Uthman and I (you remember Uthman, right? The BEAST’s former editor who retired to pursue a career in rock-n-roll) went out to the Old Pink on Allen Street this weekend. It’s Buffalo’s classic dive bar. They don’t get any better/worse. Anywho, a homeless guy I’ve known for years hit us up for cash while we were outside smoking. Wilbert is his name. We met about a decade ago when he was panhandling not a hundred feet from the Old Stink (some call it that because – especially in the daytime – it smells like puke), and I proposed a hobo challenge: we would both climb a nearby tree, and if he got higher than I did, I would give him everything I had on me. He’s a spry older guy, for a crackhead. He got pretty damn high — on the tree, that is. When it was my turn, I grabbed a branch about halfway up the trunk, tried pulling myself up, and it broke off and smashed my nose. By the time I hit the ground, my face swollen and covered in blood. Being a man of my word, I gave Wilbert my last $23. The crack feast was on. And ever since, we’ve had a friendly rapport. Of all the sometimes pushy hobos on Allen, he’s routinely the most pleasant. So we’re standing there, Wilbert’s regaling Uthman with the story of how we met, and a Buffalo police SUV stops. “Get off of Allen!” the cop tells Wilbert.
“He’s OK,” I reply.
“But he’s got some bad habits,” says the cop.
“Who doesn’t?” I reply. It’s not good enough. The poor untouchable is simply not allowed to consort with an upstanding citizen like myself. He moves along. I rant at length about the kind of fascist personality that’s attracted to police work.
“There are some good ones,” some hipster kid offers. And, without knowing really anything about him, I’m willing to say that Sobkowiak is one of the good guys. Relatively, anyway. He also kind of looks like a guy who might burn his wife with a coat hanger for fun, but I try not to judge people on their appearances. There’s the cop code, too. You just cannot snitch on your fellow officers. It’s honorable, in a fucked sort of way. It’s also just practical. You snitch, and you’re an instant pariah. Sobkowiak had this hound dog look on his face, visible contrition. He knew he was doing wrong, but what choice does he have? Anyway, sorry about this rant, but the point here is that I have a really small bladder – wait. And now back to Matlock: The case of the egregious bullshit!
Sobkowiak’s white lies: he was not on the Niagara Square side of the street when the arrest was made, and that I called him a “bigot.” I did not. And he was, as we can prove with photos and video – if the judge thinks that they’re relevant. Aside from that, he wasn’t so bad. He said he didn’t witness me doing anything illegal, and that he never saw the dildo-phone. When court recessed on Thursday, Fallon had just started his cross examination. Court resumes on Tuesday, and I don’t think he’ll interrogate him for very long.
This case is going much slower than I’d anticipated. And this article was much longer than it should have been. Sorry about that. Tuesday should be a blast, though. I hope we get into “Rolly’s” testimony. It might be “Rollie,” but it doesn’t matter. He’s a talking shit-bag. Whatever. The prosecution also plans on calling one Reverend William Gillison from Mount Olive Baptist Church. He’s the one who secured the NOM-tard permit for their political “rally.” He’s also the guy who led the crowd in a chant of “Let the people vote!” That’s NOM-tard language. I have no idea what he’s going to say, but he’s a professional liar, so I guess he’ll come up with something.
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