When Nazareth Police Chief Thomas Trachta arrested Trevor Gehret and two others on Friday over Stickergate, he detained them until both papers arrived. Then he paraded them outside, up from the police station to District Judge John Capobianco's courtroom. They were shackled and handcuffed, so the dailies could snap pictures of these desperadoes doing what is called the perp walk. The Morning Call video shows Jeremy Peters getting at least one shove by a cop who wants him to move faster.
It was actually more of a parade, along the entire length of the bank building. It was done to publicly humiliate this trio and impress a powerful image of guilt in the mind of the public. People charged with littering were treated as though they had just attempted to assassinate the President.
It was also totally unnecessary. Trachta could have easily escorted them up the stairway from the police station into the courtroom.
Trachta must have thought this would help his poor image. His plan backfired. Online comments in both newspapers have expressed outrage at this abuse of police power. The Chief has been called a megalomaniac, egotistical maniac, Nazi, moron, transplanted clown, Barney Fife and out-of-control.
I love it when jerks prove me right by their own actions.
I met Gehret on Friday, after his arrest and near immediate release by District Judge John Capobianco. He filled me in on his ordeal.
|Police ignore signs on utility poles, but prosecute 2" x 2"stickers|
Trachta apparently wanted to charge me, too, with harassment. He called me a "public nuisance" who dared report how much he paid for his home ($370,000) and where he lives (Bushkill Tp). This is public information. If I were like Trachta, I would have published his street address and phone number, too. An Assistant DA on the other end of the line had to explain that there's this goofy thing called the First Amendment. It applies even in Nazareth. It protects me. It protects Gehret, too, as the Chief will soon discover.
Trachta then tried to turn Gehret into a snitch. If Gehret would meet with me and find out where I am getting my information, he'd consider letting him off. He even wanted Gehret to dime other Nazareth police officers, though Gehret had no discussions with any of them about this matter.
Showing his vindictive side, Trachta told Gehret he's a "retard." Very professional. He threatened to perp walk Gehret
He still refused.
On Friday, Trachta pulled the trigger. Once again, he summoned Gehret, along with Jeremy Peters and Daniel Logothetis. They refused to provide confessions, instead asking for a lawyer. For exercising their constitutional rights, they were cuffed and tossed into a cell.
Gehret got to sit in the statement room again, while Trachta called the DA's Office and the press, inviting them to come for the show. Then they all waited for the newspapers. Once he knew they were all there, Trachta went outside and had an extensive discussion with them. Then, instead of taking the three defendants up the stairwell, Trachta conducted his perp parade along the bank building, creating a traffic hazard for the drive thru crowd.
All he needed was a marching band.
And a kazoo.
Let's keep in mind the charges here. They are all summary offenses, except for criminal mischief. That's a third degree misdemeanor, and that's a stretch. These defendants presented no flight risk. There really was no basis for an arrest. But they're townies, second class citizens. They get treated like garbage.
As the trio made its way up the hill, I couldn't help but be reminded of another trio forced to do a perp walk over 2,000 years ago. The original perp walk. Jesus Christ and the two thieves were marched along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. Even Imperial Rome had the good sense to wait until there was a trial and conviction before this public humiliation.
Past American humiliations have included the stockade, dunking stool and the scarlet ‘A’ for adulterers. But those also followed a trial and conviction.
Fourteen years ago, the Second Circuit ruled that staged perp walks like the one Trachta conducted, violate a person's rights under the Fourth Amendment. They also shatter the presumption of innocence and constitute a form of punishment before there's even a finding of guilt.
Of course that was Trachta's intention.
I suspect that Gehret will soon be able to buy lots of stickers.
In the meantime, there was no police coverage at all in Nazareth on Saturday night.
Let the civil rights lawsuits begin. I want to tell you why Chief Trachta really has a hot nut for Gehret. It's more than the stickers. Gehret knows a dirty little secret. He even went to Borough Council with it. Trachta wants to silence him. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.