We have had a most remarkable several months to end 2015 and are thrilled to go into 2016 with tremendous momentum. This will be our best year ever – guaranteed.
To recap, we ratcheted up our cop watch actions in late summer. As we continued to legally cop watch to bear witness to police activity, deter police from abusing people, and to empower others to stand up for their community members, we found certain members of the Austin Police Department were eager to threaten us (e.g., SGT Randy Dear, SGT Adam Johnson, Ofc Dawn Leonard) or assault us (e.g., CPL Quint Sebek, Ofc Zachary Baldridge).
On August 2nd SGT Randy Dear, CPL Quint Sebek, and Ofc Aljoe Garibay assaulted and illegally arrested Antonio Buehler and Mike Bluehair (from Film The Police Portland) on Sixth Street in Austin. The arrest affidavits that were filed were filled with lies and were easily refuted by the numerous videos that the members of the Peaceful Streets Project took. Unsurprisingly, prosecutors dropped the charges against Buehler and Bluehair. The police have arrested Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project nearly a dozen times, but they have failed to secure a single conviction against us. Sadly, we will continue to get arrested because the police are never held accountable for their crimes. But this is a long fight, and we will eventually win. Until then, we will continue to shame these cops in the most public ways possible. We wrote up a detailed blog post detailing how the arrest affidavits were filled with lies, coupled with videos of the incident.
In November Playboy Magazine featured a story on copwatching, and Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project opened and closed the story. The author Frank Owen beautifully laid out some of the various approaches to cop watch and gave context to the August 2nd arrest that local media is apparently afraid to touch upon. This, coupled with endless puff pieces for the Austin Police by local media, made us realize that there is potentially much more value to working with national media or outlets with broad reach outside of Austin than working with local stations who seem to take their marching orders from APD. Since then, we have worked with two documentary series that will feature Peaceful Streets Project in upcoming episodes, and we are working with a documentary crew that will be following us for at least the next year. Stay tuned for updates!
With our increased actions we have also received support from donors to upgrade our cop watch capabilities. Thanks to generous donations we have been able to purchase 8 camcorders, 3 actions cameras, a livestream camera, a professional still camera, and a quadcopter, along with various other technologies that assist us in our work. The quality of our cop watch videos has really shot up, and we have already been able to provide high quality raw video to several victims of Austin Police so they can use it in their criminal defense and potentially in any future civil suits against the City of Austin and the criminal cops. We could certainly use more donations as we have some exciting plans for 2016, so please consider donating if you have the capacity and interest in doing so. We have a rally campaign set up, and you can find additional ways to donate on our webpage. Additionally, you can always purchase us something off of our Amazon.com wish list.
In December, six members of the Peaceful Streets Project had the great privilege of going to St. Louis to train with WeCopwatch. WeCopwatch had been cop watching for years before PSP formed, and in the past year and a half they have helped set up cop watch organizations in several cities. Of note, they helped set up the Canfield Watchmen in Ferguson after the Michael Brown killing, and WeCopwatch Baltimore after the Freddie Gray killing. While in St. Louis we were able to engage in joint training and cop watch with WeCopwatch as their first official Cop Watch College class. We also had the opportunity to go into Ferguson to rebuild a memorial in the spot where Michael Brown was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson. Although the memorial was taken down the next day, the experience was sobering, humbling, and inspiring. The Canfield Watchmen kicked the police out of the Canfield Green Apartments, showing us it can be done, and now WeCopwatch is building a central training space down the road for cop watchers nationwide.
In the coming year we are elevating our direct actions to the next level. The frequency of our cop watching has already risen, and we will continue to put more cameras on the street on a weekly basis. We will be hosting several Know Your Rights trainings, and we are looking for more opportunities to do so. We will also be collecting and analyzing data to identify improved ways of exposing police crime. We will also continue to file police abuse complaints and file civil rights suits, although we recognize that the system is a woefully inept way of trying to achieve justice – we will do it for documentation and discovery purposes. Also, we plan to host WeCopwatch in Austin in return for their hosting us in St. Louis.
You can get involved with the Peaceful Streets Project! We are holding public monthly meetings at Bennu Cofffehouse in E. Austin at 8p on the first Wednesday of each month. Our first monthly meeting for 2016 was held this Wednesday. We are holding public cop watches on the fourth Saturday of each month, as well. Our public cop watch events will initially meet at Bennu Coffehouse, as well, but at 9p. We also have ample volunteer opportunities outside of cop watch for those who don’t want to risk getting arrested. Come to a meeting to discuss! And once again, you can always donate to help us empower our volunteers to drive change in the streets.
On September 21, 2012, the Peaceful Streets Project came across a DWI stop on West 6th Street in Austin, TX, during a standard roving cop watch patrol. As you can see in both video that are embedded, the Peaceful Streets Project cop watchers (Antonio Buehler and Sarah Dickerson) quietly approach to film the interaction between the police officer and the suspect, while the police officer is still in the vehicle. That police officer is Patrick Oborski, the cop whose illegal arrest of Antonio Buehler on New Year’s Day 2012 helped spur the formation of the Peaceful Streets ProjectBy every measure of the law, none of the Peaceful Streets Project cop watchers were interfering with the stop. They were far enough from the stop that they were not impeding the investigation. Oborski calls out Antonio Buehler by name, and tells him to back up several times, to which Buehler responds by asking “how far” he has to move back. Oborski then said, “back up until I tell you to stop, back up.” Buehler backs up, then asks Oborski once again how far he needs to move back, but Oborski doesn’t respond.
SGT Adam Johnson then come on the scene. Johnson is Oborski’s supervisor who helped cover up the crimes of Oborski (and Officer Robert Snider) on January 1, 2012.
Johnson then begins to order Buehler and Dickerson to go in the opposite direction that Oborski ordered Buehler to go. Johnson told Buehler and Dickerson to go to the other end the block, on the other side of Oborski, which would have required them to approach Oborski, walk within feet of him in order to pass him and the suspect, and then continue on to the end of the block.
Buehler, recognizing the danger in walking toward the police officer who had previously illegally arrested him, and feeling that it was a trap, repeatedly asked Johnson why he was giving him such an absurd order, how far he needed to move back to not be “interfering,” and reminded Johnson how he could not be interfering at such a distance.
Despite constantly moving back while asking how much further he would have to move back, Buehler was ultimately illegally arrested by Johnson after Buehler asked Johnson why he was being a “bully.”
Johnson then arrested Dickerson who was further away from the stop than Buehler the entire time.
Despite having criminal charges hanging over their heads, the Austin Police Department and city attorneys prevented Buehler, Dickerson, or their lawyers from reviewing the video or retrieving the cameras the police confiscated from them for two years. The Austin Police Department and the city apparently didn’t want the world to see how their cops clearly targeted cop watchers and violated their civil rights by illegally arresting them for filming the police. It wasn’t until a judge ordered the City of Austin to turn over the cameras that Buehler and his legal team were able to see these video.
Johnson was never disciplined or charged for his violation of Buehler and Dickerson’s civil rights, or his crimes on January 1, 2012. Johnson was, however, celebrated for irresponsibly shooting and killing a mentally ill man with his service pistol on Thanksgiving of 2014, while holding horse reins in one hand, toward a major interstate from a distance of about 300′.
Oborski, likewise, was never disciplined or charged for his violation of Buehler and a San Antonio woman’s civil rights on January 1, 2012. Oborski was, however, awarded the department’s first ever Jaime Padron Hero Award after every cop in Austin found out that Oborski was caught on tape abusing a woman, assaulting Buehler, and then trying to frame him with a felony crime that he did not commit.
Austin Police Department won’t discipline, fire, or arrest cops who are caught on camera committing crimes, but they’ll celebrate cops when they irresponsibly kill people.
Caroline Callaway sued Austin & Travis County for assaulting her during a DWI blood draw. Friday evening the jury found her NOT GUILTY of DWI.
Caroline Callaway’s father sat in the hallway of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center all last week as his daughter stood trial for the offense of DWI. As Caroline’s father sat in the hallway, unable to watch, a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving watched the entire proceeding, front-row-center. Below, you’ll find a summary of the facts of the case, interesting aspects of the trial, and how Antonio Buehler was denied the opportunity to testify as to Patrick Oborski’s reputation for dishonesty.
Caroline was pulled over for running a red light, then arrested for DWI.
In the early morning hours of post-Superbowl Sunday – Monday, 2013, Callaway was pulled over by Austin Police Department Officer Patrick Oborski for allegedly running two red lights. The dash cam video of the stop and arrest do not clearly show that traffic violation. During the stop, Caroline is pleasant and cooperative and agrees to perform the field sobriety tests. During those tests, Caroline is balanced, follows directions, and is almost perfect on the one legged stand. Oborski’s interpretation of her performance, however, did not match what the video showed, and he decided Caroline had demonstrated enough clues in the field sobriety tests (“FST’s”) that he had probable cause to arrest her for DWI.
Oborski is a seasoned DWI squad officer, who has made thousands of DWI arrests in Austin, Texas. He also makes a fine living off the over-time pay associated with all the court hours he must log on those DWI’s.
As Caroline learns she’s to be arrested, a media reporter with a camera showed up on the scene. Caroline, believing she was on the TV show COPS, began to be verbally defiant, as she was upset at being arrested, having done well on the FST’s (contrary to Oborski’s conclusion).
Caroline refused a breath test, and because it was a No Refusal Weekend, Oborski sought a warrant to forcibly draw Caroline’s blood as evidence against her. At the jail, Caroline was yanked around by her handcuffs, causing bruising and other injuries. She was then strapped down to a restraint chair. Peace officers then hooded her with a bag to prevent her from spitting or biting. One of the officers put his dirty boot on her arm to keep her still. Caroline’s version of this process differed greatly at trial compared to the officers’.
Caroline explained to the jury that she was having an anxiety attack, and she was shaking all over. Because of the anxiety attack, she could not get a full breath of air. Some unidentified officer – who Caroline could not see because she was black-bagged – grabbed her by the throat and cut off her air. She could not breath.
Strapped to the chair, unable to see, and deprived of air, she thought she was going to die.
Officers, however, claimed that they would only ever use pressure points at the jaw/mandible to force compliance with a blood draw. Oborski admitted that this was the most violent blood draw he had seen.
Caroline’s pictures after her arrest show bruising on her throat & neck – not her mandible.
Officer Oborski testified that Caroline was not the “sweet young lady you see before you.” He also testified that “we’re a free society where videotaping happens everywhere.” He, therefore, didn’t have a problem with the media filming Caroline’s arrest. Those of you who kept up with the Antonio Buehler case know that Oborski was the one who arrested Antonio for challenging Oborski’s authority to assault a young woman passenger to a DWI stop, as Buehler exercised his First Amendment rights and took pictures of the assault. You can read more about that story here.
Antonio Buehler stood ready to testify that Oborski has a reputation in Austin for being dishonest. Buehler, after his wrongful arrest at the hands of Oborski, had been approached by hundreds of people, including those charged by Oborski, and many attorneys. All of these people had tales to tell about how dishonest Oborski is. Buehler, however, was not permitted to testify. In fact, many of the defense’s theories and proposed testimony never made it in front of the jury.
The jury was threatened with being investigated for jury misconduct if they did not follow the instructions in the jury charge. Had they believed that Caroline Callaway drove while intoxicated (and the blood result was over 0.13), they would have found her guilty of that offense. They acquitted her.
The jury rendered its verdict of acquittal the night before Clarence Darrow’s birthday.
Clarence Darrow epitomizes what many criminal defense lawyers aspire to be in their practice. Caroline’s lawyers Daphne Silverman and Norm Silverman would have made Darrow proud in their defense of Callaway. Callaway’s lawyer Daphne Silverman was forced to file the civil rights action in federal court before trying this misdemeanor. You can read about that civil suit here. Despite having most of the Travis County Attorney’s Office in the courtroom, supporting the State’s prosecutors, and despite being forced to move to recuse the judge mid-trial (arguing that the judge seemed affected by an extra-judicial bias against Caroline for exercising her civil right to sue the police), Silverman & Silverman persuaded the jury that Caroline was not intoxicated that night.
If you’re shopping for a defense attorney, the first question you must ask (and get a straight answer to) is how many times that lawyer has been to trial in the last year. If you have a case you want to fight, you’d be better off with trial by combat than a lawyer who pretends to be a trial lawyer but never tries a case.
It takes a big pair to move to recuse the judge mid-trial. It likewise takes quite a pair to see a high blood test result and say “No! My client wasn’t intoxicated.” Their strong advocacy meant the difference between a second conviction for DWI and an acquittal.
Caroline’s bravery is remarkable.
Most defendants just want to get the case over with. Prosecutors know this, and exploit it during the plea bargaining process. It took quite a pair of big brass ones for Caroline to in effect say, No! The world will not be this way within her reach. No other people should be strapped down, black-bagged, and choked in the name of crime prevention.
MADD: What are you doing?
Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave Oborski an award the same year he illegally arrested Antonio Buehler. A representative from MADD watched the entire Callaway trial. At what point, MADD, does your moral authority cease protecting the public and start hurting us? My daddy’s rule when I was a teen and in college was that if I got arrested, he wouldn’t post bail – I’d have to sit in jail. But, I think that if I was choked by people tasked with protecting and serving the community, Daddy would be sitting in that hallway, praying for justice, as he watched the men who hurt his daughter strut by and complain to each other about “those fucking defense attorneys.” (Yes, that’s an exact quote). And, that’s just what Caroline’s father did. Her father sat in the hallway, having seen his daughter’s bruises, and seen her suffer through PTSD, and he prayed for justice. MADD – you need to realize that Fathers have had Enough of Damned Unconscionable Police Practices – they’re FED UPP. MADD, if Caroline had died in the process, would you still feel your moral outrage at her alleged DWI? Because that jury must have heard her father’s prayers, and they said by their verdict, NOT GUILTY.
Reposted with permission from the MILLIE L. THOMPSON, ATTORNEY blog.
Those who showed up for the Class C Misdemeanor trial against Antonio Buehler on Monday were expecting to hear closing arguments and receive a jury verdict before lunch, but they were surprised to find that the case would not end by lunch. A juror walked in about an hour before the trial was expected to resume and asked the Judge to be excused from duty. The Defense and the Prosecution were both willing to allow the juror to leave for personal reasons; however, the subsequent move for a mistrial by City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe left many scratching their heads as to why the City of Austin was so eager to prevent a jury from making a decision in what has now become a four-day trial (over a seven day period).
Buehler’s defense lawyer Millie Thompson responded by moving to allow five jurors to deliberate in order to prevent forcing multiple witnesses from out of town to attend another trial, and to save the taxpayers the expense of another three- to four-day trial over a Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
Spectators who have been watching the jury trial keep questioning the motives and tactics of McCabe and the City Prosecutor’s Office. While Buehler has Thompson to defend him, the City has had six to eight members of the Prosecutor’s Office assisting McCabe throughout the trial. In addition to being filled with City prosecutors, the courtroom has also been filled with Austin Police Department officers. Throughout the trial, there have been at least six police officers in uniform and in plain clothes passing time in the gallery. One of the spectators has been Assistant Police Chief Jason Dusterhoft. In his previous role as the Commander of Highway Enforcement, Dusterhoft oversaw both Officer Patrick Oborski, who Buehler alleges illegally assaulted and illegally arrested him on New Year’s Day, 2012, and Sergeant Adam Johnson, who Buehler alleges illegally arrested him on September 21, 2012. Both Oborski and Johnson are being sued by Buehler.
McCabe’s antics during the trial have been as unnerving for some as has the show of force by the Austin Police Department. In addition to trying to shame Norma Pizana, the woman who was initially assaulted by Officers Robert Snider and Patrick Oborski, he often distracted witnesses and jurors with countless huffs, puffs and sarcastic laughs. At one point, while Buehler was explaining how the action that Snider and Oborski took against Pizana was a recognized torture move, McCabe began to laugh, and was rebuked by Buehler for making light of torture. McCabe has also consistently misstated the law regarding reasonable suspicion, probable cause and Terry stops, and he has allowed his witnesses to do the same. Despite frequent objections by Thompson, McCabe has continued to push forward in the apparent hopes of convincing the jury that the officers were acting under circumstances that they had never before alleged or testified to.
Additionally, spectators and legal observers were dumbfounded when they heard that prosecutors had withheld discovery from the defendant. The defense did not receive the dash cam videos until 2 years and nine months after the initial arrest! Additionally, the prosecution never acknowledged that they had the 7-Eleven surveillance video until they realized the defense had acquired it through other channels.
Buehler said he was concerned about his right to a fair trial. “We came into this trial hoping that the truth would win out. Unfortunately, it seems that the Prosecution’s bully tactics and misconduct have gone far beyond just misleading the jury about the events of New Year’s 2012, it has now encroached upon prosecutorial misconduct as they are deliberately misleading the jury on what the law states.”
Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson had more to say. “The City’s conduct regarding Antonio Buehler is almost like a law school exam: ‘How many Constitutional Law violations can you spot?’
“First, his First Amendment rights were violated by APD when they attacked him for asking questions and taking pictures. Then, APD officers illegally detained and assaulted him in retaliation for that First Amendment protected speech. Third, they let felony harassment of a public servant charges stay pending for more than a year when – we now know – the officer didn’t think there was any intentional conduct. By leaving the charges pending without informing his chain of command that he didn’t believe the alleged spit was intentional, he violated Mr. Buehler’s rights to Due Process. Fourth, the City put this Class C ticket on the back-burner for 2 years and 10.5 months before taking it trial – a violation of the Speedy Trial Clause.
“And, now, the piece de resistance: The City wants to violate the Double Jeopardy Clause by asking for a mistrial so they can have a do-over.
“I was born in Austin and went to Reagan High School. My parents were born here; my grandparents were born here. My great grandfather Kenneth Threadgill, who founded Threadgills, was born here. Austinites expect more from their local government than what they’ve seen in this case.”
Day four of the Buehler trial begins at 8:30 a.m., on Wednesday, October 28th at Courtroom #2A of the Austin Municipal Courthouse.
DEFENDANT’S MEMORANDUM OF LAW OPPOSING THE STATE’S MOTION FOR MISTRIAL: Opposition to Mistrial
In response to the Austin Police Department’s (APD) continued attempts to prosecute Antonio Buehler, the Peaceful Streets Project will be launching a series of actions from October 21st to the 24th. They are attempting to convict him on several charges, to include a charge of failing to obey a “lawful order” associated with his controversial New Year’s Day, 2012 arrest. In a recent release from Antonio Buehler, he explained the initial arrest:
“On January 1, 2012, I saw two Austin cops assaulting a woman who had not committed a crime. When I tried to take pictures and question the cops, I was assaulted and charged with a felony crime of spitting in a cop’s face (2-10 year prison sentence).
Fortunately, numerous witnesses came forward, including one who took video of the incident. Every witness said the cop lied and the video proves it. However, the APD pushed forward with their charges against me.”
In March of 2013, APD failed to get a grand jury indictment against Antonio Buehler for any of the charges that he had been arrested on. However, they were curiously able to have him indicted on four Class C Misdemeanors for alleged crimes he was never arrested on, an unheard of action taken against a victim of police abuse by a grand jury. Antonio pushed forward with a civil suit in the wake of the grand jury ruling. In an attempt to undermine the validity of the civil suit, APD and the City Attorney are pushing forward on the Class C Misdemeanor charges even though Buehler was clearly exercising his First Amendment right according to SCOTUS. Through this action, the APD violated the 1st Amendment in practice, while hypocritically claiming to adhere to the law. The first court date is set for October 23rd at 8:30 a.m. at Municipal Courthouse courtroom #2A.
On Tuesday, October 21st, the Peaceful Streets Project will host a meeting to address the court case and to organize the direct actions we will be launching in response. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, October 21st, in the indoor back room of Spider House Cafe, 2908 Fruth St. The actions will begin with a ceremonial copwatch on the west end of North Lamar in the area of the initial incident on New Year’s Day, 2012. Then at night, after the first day in court we will launch continued copwatch in the west end district as well as copwatch actions throughout the 6th street area. It is believed that the officer in charge of the task force that initially arrested Antonio Buehler, Adam Johnson, has been reassigned to horse patrol on 6th street. These actions are prepared to continue nightly until a dismissal or non-guilty verdict is reached.
The court system belongs to the same corrupt system as the police department. Historically it heavily, if not infinitely, favors the police no matter how wicked their deed. But the streets themselves belong to the community of the people they assault, oppress and exploit. Here in these streets the Austin Police Department will answer for their deeds through the use of non-violent actions utilizing our First Amendment rights.