Trial for the Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Concludes Monday, October 27th at Austin Municipal Court
Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27th, at the Austin Municipal Courthouse, what has been perhaps the most exciting and tense Class C Misdemeanor trial in recent Austin history will finally come to a close.
On Friday, in a surprise move that would extend the trial into a third day, Austin City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe recalled Officer Robert Snider and called APD Academy Instructor Raul Carrillo to testify. Calling Snider back to the stand was a curious move, considering that Snider did not endear himself to the jury for the way he described his decision to pull Norma Pizana out of the passenger seat of a car for texting on her phone, and for his admission that he threatened to arrest a pedestrian bystander who observed the arrests of Buehler, Pizana and Hill. Snider ended up leaving the witness stand without answering a single question.
Officer Carrillo, the prosecution’s last minute star witness was perhaps an even bigger mistake. Without being qualified as an expert, Carrillo could not testify to the specifics of Buehler’s New Year’s Day arrest, so instead he was forced to answer hypothetical scenarios. McCabe tried to lead Carrillo down a path that would suggest that the actions of Officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider were justified. Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson, meanwhile, walked Carrillo down a hypothetical path that mirrored the New Year’s Day arrest, leading Carrillo to acknowledge that Oborski should not have approached Buehler, should have probably backed up when he realized he was too close to Buehler, and that Oborski’s actions were tantamount to assault.
Earlier in the day the, Austin Police Officer Jermaine Hopkins crossed the “thin blue line” to testify on behalf of the defense. When asked why he chose to step forward, Hopkins said that he couldn’t in good conscience allow the Austin Police Department to trample upon Mr. Buehler’s civil rights. Hopkins helped correct what the Defense believed were misstatements by the Prosecutor, Oborski, and Snider about the law regarding probable cause and reasonable suspicion. Thompson later filed a motion with the judge to properly instruct the jury on the law before deliberations.
Additionally, Antonio Buehler had his opportunity to testify before the Defense rested their case. Buehler got choked up early on, describing how Pizana’s cried, “Help me please!” as Oborski and Snider ratcheted her arms up behind her back, but he recovered quickly to describe in detail everything that followed. Buehler continually referenced the videos as he explained how Oborski approached him and begin to shove and push him without cause, well before there was any claim of Oborski being spit on. Buehler also admitted to ignoring Oborski’s instructions to put his hands behind his back, as he deemed such instructions to be unlawful given what he believed were previous illegal acts by both Oborski and Snider. While Buehler’s testimony was expected to take 2-3 hours, McCabe apparently did not seem eager to question Buehler and quickly passed the witness.
“I was really disappointed that McCabe didn’t ask me more questions,” Buehler said. “He continued, “Every time McCabe asked me a question, we were able to highlight how malicious and dishonest their case is, which explains why he was so eager to get me off the stand. I hope the jury saw what was evident to everyone else in the courtroom—that unlike the prosecution, we didn’t have to try to keep our lies straight—all we had to do was speak the truth. I hope that the people of Austin are the next ones to recognize the incredibly disturbing lengths that the Austin Police Department and the City Prosecutors have taken to try to cover up the crimes of two corrupt cops.”
Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson said, “The police arrested an innocent man. By doing so, they guaranteed a long and expensive court battle. We had a three day trial. Three police officers testified for the State. Six witnesses testified for the defense. Six Austinite jurors. The lost man-hours and State’s resources that went into prosecuting this frivolous Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum $500 fine are extraordinary – all to protect APD’s unconstitutional conduct. Do Austin tax payers want their money spent this way? ”
Antonio Buehler is an entrepreneur in the education space, a West Point, Stanford and Harvard graduate, and the founder of the police accountability activist group, the Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler currently has a pending Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin as well as several Austin Police officers, including Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider.
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.
BREAKING: Surveillance Video from Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Released for Public Viewing
For the first time, the public is able to view the 7-Eleven surveillance video that captured the controversial arrest of Antonio Buehler on January 1, 2012.
Buehler made headlines after he photographed and called out two Austin police officers for assaulting an innocent woman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2012. After threatening Buehler with the words, “Worry about yourself!” Officer Patrick Oborski assaulted Buehler, and filed a Felony 3 – Harassment of a Public Servant charge against him for allegedly spitting in the officer’s face – a charge that carries a two to ten year prison sentence.
Facing felony charges, Buehler went to the public to ask for witnesses to step forward, and multiple witnesses did. A local entrepreneur and a local academician who were both in the 7-Eleven parking lot shared their stories with the local media, and a gentleman across the street took cell phone video of the incident. With witnesses and the video, coupled with Buehler’s background which included degrees from West Point and Stanford, prior service as an Airborne Ranger qualified Army officer, extensive volunteering and education work with children, his role as a designated driver that night, and no previous run-ins with law enforcement, the incident garnered significant media attention and forced the Austin Police Department to resort to a slander campaign against Buehler and the woman who were assaulted. Additionally, despite countless requests from concerned citizens and the media, APD refused to release any audio or video from the incident.
Buehler leveraged his diverse following of supporters to launch the Peaceful Streets Project to encourage people to know their rights, stand up for the rights of one another and to hold police accountable for their actions. The Peaceful Streets Project handed out 100 free video cameras to residents of Austin to document police action, they organized hundreds of cop watch events, they hosted over a dozen Know Your Rights training sessions, and they organized two police accountability summits.
With the rise of the success of the Peaceful Streets Project, the Austin Police Department increased their harassment of Buehler and his supporters. APD arrested several Peaceful Streets Project volunteers for filming, including Buehler who they arrested three more times.
Buehler’s charges remained outstanding for 15 months before a Grand Jury finally no-billed Buehler. However, in a stark departure from traditional Grand Jury practices, they indicted him on four Class C Misdemeanors that he was never charged with. With Class C Misdemeanor indictments, Buehler was handicapped in his ability to file a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin and the police officers who illegally arrested him. He ultimately retained Daphne Silverman and filed suit against APD officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, Adam Johnson, Justin Berry, Chief of Police Art Acevedo and the City of Austin just before the two year anniversary of his controversial arrest.
Nearly three years after his arrest, this Thursday, October 23rd, Buehler is finally going to get his day in court. At the Austin Municipal Court courtroom #2A, at 8:30 a.m., Buehler will defend himself against a charge of Disregarding the Order of a Police Officer for not putting his arms behind his back after Oborski illegally and without probable cause assaulted Buehler for exercising his First Amendment rights. The outcome of this case will help determine whether or not the City of Austin moves forward with the other three Class C Misdemeanor charges against Buehler, and it will influence the direction of Buehler’s civil suit against the police officers and the City of Austin.
Buehler said he is looking forward to Thursday. “For nearly three years, the Austin Police Department has been slandering me, harassing me, and targeting me for illegal arrests. Since day one, I wanted to share my story and all available evidence with the public to prove my innocence and to put a spotlight on the conduct of Patrick Oborski and the other officers within the Austin Police Department. Meanwhile, the Austin Police Department has suppressed all evidence related to my arrests while intentionally feeding lies about me and their other victims to the media. I’m glad the 7-Eleven surveillance video that shows that Oborski was the aggressor and that he lied about me spitting in his face is finally being released. Further, through the trial on the 23rd, Austin will finally be able to hear from witnesses who were at the scene, see the dash cams, and listen to the audio that further exposes the lies of Patrick Oborski and the subsequent cover up by the Austin Police Department.”
7-Eleven surveillance video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3kvi0Oyo0U
From Eric Garner to Michael Brown, it has become more and more apparent to more and more Americans that the police state in this country is out of control. Despite endless attempts by police, their cop apologist friends and families, politicians, corrupted media and overt racists, thoughtful people cannot explain away a seemingly endless array of “isolated incidents” in which cops murder unarmed people.
The events in Ferguson, MO are forcing a national debate on the appropriate role of police and their use of force. We believe that conversation must happen if we are going to move toward a more peaceful society. And yes, we believe that there are many factors at play beyond criminal cops. We believe that racism, poverty, corporate interests and public union interests, and a society that is conditioned to blindly respect authority are all factors that have helped increase the aggression and criminality of so many cops. In fact, we believe that the problem is systematic; many well-meaning cops end up becoming the criminals they thought they would be fighting.
While the murder of unarmed people should be unacceptable in an advanced civilization, there are tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of crimes committed by police against the public each year. These crimes run the gamut from bad to horrible. These crimes include false arrests, assault, rape and framing people for crimes they didn’t commit, among others. With tens to hundreds of thousands of victims of police abuse each year, one might expect there to be tens of thousands of police officers sitting in prison; however, cops are able to brazenly commit crimes in front of witnesses and video cameras and get away with those crimes almost every single time. Sadly, innocent people don’t have such good luck. It is estimated that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent, meaning there may be 100,000 innocent people in prison in America. Layer on top of that all of the people who are in prison for non-violent, victimless crimes (such as drug use) and it becomes apparent that justice is a joke.
While we encourage people to get mad over the senseless killings of unarmed people such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown, we also want people to get mad over the constant harassment, victimization and imprisonment of people who manage to escape a police encounter with their life still intact. These victims are everywhere to be seen, however they are often hiding their struggles because they live in a society where victims of police abuse are blamed for their misfortune.
We also encourage people to step forward and fight back whenever they can. It is a shame that more people don’t sue police and their municipalities when they are victimized. We understand, though. Filing civil suits is hard work and there are far too few civil lawyers willing to take cases against the police; particularly if there isn’t serious bodily injury. Further, if a victim doesn’t win their criminal case, most lawyers won’t even consider a civil suit.
John Pharr of Austin, TX is a recent victim of police abuse who has had the resources and courage to fight back. On August 14, 2012, APD officer Christopher Willie pulled over John Pharr under suspicion of driving while intoxicated. When Pharr didn’t obey Willie’s arbitrary orders quickly enough, Willie ordered Pharr out of the vehicle. Willie then threw Pharr on the ground, and landed a few punches on Pharr.
Fortunately, Pharr survived his encounter with this violent cop, and now has filed a civil suit against the cop and the city of Austin. In pursuing the civil suit, Pharr and his lawyer realized that not only did the cops commit multiple felony crimes by assaulting him, but they also perjured themselves in their affidavit. And while the cops will never be charged with their felony crimes, this civil suit might raise awareness with a few more people.
While we recognize that not everyone can file suit against the cops who abuse them, we hope more and more will take the path that Pharr has taken. Winning the fight against violent, criminal cops will not be easy, and there is no silver bullet. Voting won’t solve the problem, nor will filming police. Civil suits, won’t either. However, by using every peaceful means available to us, we can help drive the national debate further, put a human face on the issue of police abuse, and begin to make more and more people aware of the out of control police who have destroyed the lives of millions of Americans.