Esquivel vs. New York City's brand of justice
January 08, 2005
Jenny Esquivel, a Springfield resident who is a grass roots organizer and an education coordinator with Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri, is still caught up in the American legal system. She was arrested last August in New York City with her friend Jeff Miller, both 24, during protests which took place outside of the Republican National Convention. While Miller was offered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) which means that his initial charges were dropped pending the results of his behavior during a time period set by the court, Esquivel was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor which at the time required the setting of bail and an appearance before a judge for sentencing.

"We were both holding hands at the time," Esquivel said. "We were on our way back to the Dobbs Ferry church that had opened its doors to us. I think the police were pulling charges out of a hat. We weren't able to communicate with them." She described the scene as "chaotic" with "waves of police with different orders" making arrests. "We just wanted to get out of their way," she said.

The couple were whisked off to Pier 57, the now notorious intermediate holding pen that had been used as a storage and repair facility for Metropolitan Transit Authority buses prior to the convention. Esquivel described the conditions there as grim.

She said they were put in a huge holding pen created by chain link fencing topped with razor wire. The floor was covered with a black oily substance. Everyone was kept there for a prolonged length of time before their arraignment, she said. Some slept on the floor using sandwiches for pillows, others just got their clothing black.

While people were incarcerated, they exchanged stories regarding their arrests. Several people had been randomly arrested sitting on the steps of the 42nd St. Library, their bags searched, Esquivel said, questioning the legality of the search. "They let them go, all but one," she added. "Others were literally leaving from work, some with hot food, when they were swept up in the melee."

This Tuesday, Jan. 11, will be the third appearance Esquivel has had to make before the judge of a Manhattan Boro City Court. The first time the prosecuting attorney allegedly was not ready. The second time, after she had switched her defense lawyer from a court appointed one, who seemed to not be working on her case, to one referred to her by a local Springfield attorney, the court consented to allowing more time for her new attorney to prepare. A motion to allow legal representation without Esquivel's appearance was denied by the female judge hearing her case.

After court orders were issued by the Hon. Emily Jane Goodman and Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo remanding the City for excessively detaining the arrested individuals, many of those incarcerated were immediately released.

"That's how in the wrong the police actions were," Esquivel said. Unfortunately for her, the court orders came after she already had been released on bail. Had she specifically waited for the services of a National Lawyers Guild attorney instead of agreeing to be represented by a public defender, her case might have had a different outcome. "I was told that asking for a NLG lawyer might prolong my jail time 24 hours," she said, "but that was just not true." "I respect what the NLG did. It just didn't work out for me."

The NLG since has filed a 69-page complaint on behalf of 25 plaintiffs, including two minors, and all others as a civil rights action for false arrest, the use of excessive force, and excessive and unreasonably prolonged punitive detention in confinement...shocking to the conscience and inflected upon them because of their exercise of First Amendment protected speech activity.

Esquivel agrees with the NLG claim that the defendants instituted policies to punish peaceful demonstrators and to get them off of the streets during the height of the Convention. She said that she was in the City to protest the whole gamut of President Bush's policies with foreign policy topping the list. According to the NLG claim, the vast majority of those who engaged in demonstrations did so within the law in a manner that followed instructions and directions of the NYPD officers. Esquivel, a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Southwest Missouri State University with a 4.0 GPA major in political science, believes that she was one of them.

An urgent appeal is being made by the leaders of the Peace Network of the Ozarks for donations to help defray some of Esquivel's legal and travel expenses. If you wish to help assist this girl who has your civil rights in mind, make your check out to the PNO, labeled for the Esquivel Fund, and mailed to Peace Network of The Ozarks - 500 W Walnut Lawn # 40, Springfield, MO 65807.

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Case postponed againmariwinn242302005-01-14 13:56:31