FIJA ARRAIGNMENT OF JULY 20, 2010

    On July 20, 2010, I appeared at Room 520, U. S. District Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007, as instructed on the notices from the Central Violations Bureau.  A few others were also awaiting arraignments.  I was either the 3rd or 4th person to have his summons papers copied by the clerks.  Others continued to appear continually throughout the morning.  In spite of the fact that I was an early arrival, I was the last person called for a meeting with the federal attorney.  I was called at at 12:00 noon, the last person to be called.  I was taken to a small room to meet with Homeland Security Officer Barnes, the arresting officer, and Santosh Aravind, an Assistant U. S. Attorney for mediation.  

    I was not interested in mediation, so we entered the courtroom about 5 minutes later.  Another arraignment was being finished.  At 12:30 another arraignment was started and adjourned.  Mine was the last case left.  Mr. Aravind asked for a recess until 2:00 pm, because he did not have the paperwork.  Why a U. S. attorney appears at an arraignment without the proper paperwork is not clear to me.  Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox granted the recess until 2:00 pm, and we went to lunch.

        I returned at 2:00 pm, as did Officer Barnes with Assistant U. S. Attorney Rebecca Mermelstein.  The court reporter appeared at 2:20 pm.  Another man, presumably the bailiff was sitting behind a computer in front of the judge’s bench.  Judge Fox appeared at 2:30 pm.  Everyone was instructed to rise, but I intentionally did not do so.

    The judge took another case.  During this case, a court official gave me a financial form requesting my assets and income.  I refused to enter any information at all, including even my name.  I do have a Fifth Amendment right not to provide information that might be used against me.  The case being arraigned was quite interesting.  A woman plead guilty to purchasing 100 pounds of heroin from undercover police who were entrapping her to commit a crime.  The judge informed her that she could go to prison for up to 40 years and be fined up to $2 million.

    Then started the inquisition.  The judge asked the woman many questions without informing her of her right to remain silent.  Was she aware of what she was doing?  Was she mentally competent?  Had she been previously convicted of drug use?  What illicit drugs has she used?  How long since she has used any?  When was the last use?  Does she understand what is going on?  etc, etc.  

    One of the questions was particularly interesting. Did she know that she was doing wrong?  He did not ask her if she knew that she was breaking the law?  Thus he inflicted moral, rather than legal, guilt.  The woman mechanically answered as expected to all the questions.  Her lawyer, who was sitting next to her approved of all of her answers.  

    Why did she, or her lawyer, permit her to plead guilty and give the desired response to these questions?  It did not appear likely that a plea bargain had been struck, since the prosecution had first hand information from the police, and the defendant appeared to have no defense.  The prosecuting attorney admitted that she had extensive irrefutable evidence.  Perhaps the defendant was going to be a prosecution witness against her accomplices for a reduced sentence.

    Several things about this arraignment are bothersome:
 How reliable would her testimony be against others, if she was promised a reduced sentence to give evidence?
This woman had done nothing that should be legally wrong.  She purchased 100 pounds of poppy seed abstract.  Why do we put people in prison for buying flowers?
The real crime of entrapment was committed by the police.  It is they who should be the defendants.  They were selling the heroin.
Why is a U. S judge acting as an inquisitor?  Are we no longer pretending that our courts are courts of law, and that they are acting openly as courts of inquisition?

    At 3:00 pm, this arraignment was terminated, and another case was taken.  At 3:10 pm, my case was called.  Judge Fox denied my two motions to dismiss the case because the regulations were unconstitutional, and to order the government to return my confiscated property.  I pleaded not guilty, and asked for a jury trial and a habeas corpus hearing.  I learned that Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman issued my arrest warrant, that Magistrate Judge Frank Maas officiated at my hearing of June 14, and that Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman would be the presiding judge at my trial.  The hearing ended at 3:20 pm.

    After the hearing, I went to the Criminal Court of Manhattan where I recovered the $210.00 the court owed me for three years.  Also I received a copy of the psychiatric exam of June 4, 2010.  However it would not give me a voucher to reclaim my confiscated property, which included my car keys, cell phone, pants, sweater, cap, and sneakers, among other items.  It took from 3:55 pm until 4:33 pm to accomplish this.