Friday, June 13, 2014
The Persecution of a Nazareth Rose
Maybe she's a little lonely. Maybe she's just very friendly. But whatever the reason, she does like to stop in at a lot of the local businesses. If they tell her they're busy, she leaves. She's never been a problem.
But one local business owner, who resented her occasional visits, chose to talk to the police instead of her. He even obtained a "No Trespassing Order", which was served on her by Police Chief Thomas Trachta, a New York City transplant with a thick accent. Never mind that there's no provision in the Crimes Code or anywhere else that authorizes police to take this extrajudicial step.
Rosie stayed away from this business, and was even careful to walk on the other side of the street to avoid any scrutiny. But that was not enough.
In April, Rose was charged with harassment. According to the business owner, he saw her and a young lady walking their dogs, near the now vacant Nazareth National Bank at Main and Mauch Chunk. Rosie supposedly pointed at him from across the street and said, "If I had a gun, I'd shoot you in the ass."
At this time, Rosie was accompanied by a minor who denies anything of the sort happened. Rosie denies saying a word to this gentleman. There were no other witnesses. People were in the ice cream shop across the street, but no effort was made to contact any of them. They made no reports.
Though Nazareth police saw nothing, Officer Miroslav Djindjiev charged her with harassment. The officer told her he was protecting a business owner
She must be a second class citizen.
For someone like Rosie, these charges were devastating. She was a wreck. Though I saw nothing, I offered to testify as a reputation witness. I know many of the locals and many of the businesses, and they all have a high opinion of Rosie.
She later told me that her sister hired a good lawyer to represent her.
When I walked into court yesterday, both Officer Djindjiev and Chief Trachta were there, rarin' to go, with their guns and bullet proof vests strapped on. You never know what a lady in her 50s might do. The business owner and his wife, were there, though they weren't packin'. I also saw a former business owner and wondered whether she was there to testify against Rosie, too.
I then saw Rosie's lawyer. Though she's a real looker, I would soon learn that she has no business being in a courtroom.
Rosie's sister, when she saw me, was visibly angry. Not only did she refuse to tell me who she was, but she also told me not to quote her. Then she went up and whispered to Rosie's lawyer, apparently about me.
When District Judge Capobianco came into the courtroom, the first thing this lawyer did was attempt to have me ejected from the courtroom because my mere presence was making the Defendant "very uncomfortable."
I get that a lot.
If Rosie is a second class citizen, I must be third class.
The Judge asked Rosie whether she had asked me to come. She answered Yes.
The Judge then asked whether my presence made her uncomfortable. She answered No.
So I was allowed to stay, but was never called as a witness. Nor was the other business owner, whom I later learned was actually there, like me, to speak on behalf of Rosie.
This lawyer, if I can call her that, failed to call either one of us, even though reputation testimony, by itself, is enough to raise a reasonable doubt. She failed to object to clear hearsay testimony and never bothered to interrogate the motives of the Officer. Worst of all, she made no legal argument. Rosie was charged under a provision of the Crimes Code which requires repeated acts or a course of conduct, not just one isolated incident. Rosie, who was distraught, was unable to do little more than deny that she had yelled at this gentleman. So it's no surprise that the Rose of Nazareth was convicted. But Judge Capobianco, who was total class in this matter, was aware that something was off about this prosecution. He reduced the fine to $100.
The attorney traipsed off for a manicure. She did not represent Rosie, but her sister.
I confronted Chief Trachta after the hearing for wasting the Commonwealth's resources in what really is a "he said, she said" harassment. He told me police officers file harassment charges all the time based solely on the bare allegations made by the victim, with no corroborating evidence. That is nonsense, and is in fact contrary to police policy. But Trachta, I soon learned, isn't interested in listening to anyone but himself.
He also discounted what the former business owner had to say as well, though she did not get to say much. It's hard to talk with Trachta constantly interrupting. I eventually walked out, but not until I told him that his department did a real disservice to the community. I also told the chief that I doubt Rosie will appeal, but will encourage her to do so, and if she does, will find her a real lawyer.
On Wednesday night, Lower Nazareth officials voted 3-2 against replacing a professional and accredited police department with a mess like Nazareth. Hopefully, they will think long and hard before making that mistake.