Bellefonte, PA

June 22, 1998

by Julian Heicklen


Smart on Crime & Centre County Libertarian Party

We now are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to your own body. It is immoral to arrest anyone for owning a vegetable. We have the God-given right to keep and bear vegetables (Genesis: Ch. 1, verse 29).

Mushrooms grow in Pennsylvania. Some of these are so toxic that they can be lethal. There is no law forbidding the possession or use of these mushrooms, or even of selling them to minors. Sniffing paint can be unhealthy. There is no law against owning or using paint or selling it to minors. Paint is sold at stores all over America to adults and minors.

However there are laws forbidding the possession and use of the much less harmful marijuana herb. Do you know why? Because marijuana provides pleasure to some people. In this country it is a crime to have pleasure. It is such a crime that very ill people are forced to endure suffering and severe and prolonged pain, rather than to be allowed to relieve their suffering and pain with marijuana.

I say: No more!! Anti-marijuana laws must be abolished. We will smoke marijuana here in front of the Centre County Courthouse every Monday at noon until they are abolished. The issue is not smoking marijuana. The issue is whether we will live in freedom or under tyranny. The lighted marijuana weed is the torch of freedom.

I ask that no-one under 18 years old smoke marijuana. We appreciate your support, but if minors smoke, it will hurt our cause. If arrested, give only your name and address. Go limp and make the officers carry you away from the demonstration. Plead not guilty and ask for a speedy, jury trial.

If you are attacked by either police or bystanders, go into the fetal position, and use your hands to protect your head. Under no circumstances, even if provoked, use violence. Thank you for your cooperation.

About one dozen people attended the rally, which started at noon in front of the county courthouse. Only Heicklen smoked marijuana. At 12:30 PM, Heicklen was approached by police officers McGarvey and Igoe of the Bellefonte police. They asked Heicklen to talk with them. Heicklen did not respond. Then they took Heicklen's marijuana cigarette and field tested it in his presence. When the result was positive, they placed Heicklen under arrest. Heicklen went limp and was dragged to a patrol car. After Heicklen was dragged from the demonstration, the demonstrators moved the demonstration to the office of Magistrate Dan Hoffman.

Heicklen was taken to the Bellefonte police station, where he was carried into the station and placed in a holding cell until 2:00 PM. During all of this time, Heicklen was lying on the floor, limp and uncommunicative. At about 2:00 PM, Heicklen was carried from the cell to a patrol car and brought to the office of District Magistrate Dan Hoffman, where he was carried into the courtroom at 2:10 PM.

Present in the courtroom were Magistrate Hoffman, the two police officers that carried Heicklen into the courtroom, Carla Moquin, Consulting Director of Smart on Crime, and Alec Morgan, Correspondent for DRCNet. Magistrate Hoffman arraigned Heicklen and said that he would release Heicklen on his own recognizance subject to his agreeing to not violate any laws. Heicklen responded that the condition was unconstitutional, because the sole purpose of bail was to insure court appearances and not to enforce the law. Heicklen stated that he would not agree to the bail conditions. Hoffman then informed Heicklen that the offense with which he was charged carried a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and set bail at $10,000. (The maximum sentence actually is 30 days in prison and a $500 fine. The usual bail for this offense is $500.) Heicklen said that he would refuse to post bail. Then Hoffman said that Heicklen will be held in the Centre County Prison, but would be bail eligible under intensive supervision. As Hoffman rose to leave, Heicklen asked him if he had any sense of decency. Heicklen asked Hoffman if he knew right from wrong. Hoffman said yes. Heicklen than asked Hoffman if he had no sense of shame. Hoffman left the courtroom. Heicklen was carried from the courtroom to the patrol car, brought to the prison, where he was carried into the prison and booked at 2:55 PM. Heicklen refused to answer all booking questions, except for the few that were necessary for his well-being. He declined to answer medical questions except to medical personal, none of which were present.

The following day, Heicklen was seen by a nurse and doctor for a medical interview and examination. Also he was seen by Beth Rudloff from the supervised bail office. Heicklen was presented with a list of conditions for supervised bail. Heicklen crossed out the two provisions that said that he would not break the law or use illicit drugs. He also signed a second form with the two revisions in place, but wrote that he was signing under duress and objected to the two provisions. After the interview, Ms. Rudloff presented each of the forms to Magistrate Hoffman for approval. He rejected both of them. Heicklen remained in prison.

On Thursday, June 25, Joe Devecka, Heicklen's attorney, asked Magistrate Hoffman for a bail reduction from $10,000 to $500 without restrictions regarding the law or drugs. Magistrate Hoffman rejected the request. An appeal was made to President Judge Charles C. Brown, Jr., who set a hearing for 8:45 AM on Friday, June 26. At this hearing, Judge Brown reduced the bail to $1000 unsecured bond (no money had to posted). The stipulations to follow the law and not use illicit drugs were included with the exception that Heicklen could smoke marijuana as a form of political protest in public demonstrations without being in violation of bail conditions. Heicklen accepted this agreement and was released from prison.

During Heicklen's arrest the Bellefonte police officers acted in a very professional manner. They took considerable care to see that Heicklen was not injured while he was being dragged or carried. Under the circumstances, they handled Heicklen as gently as could be expected. The Bellefonte police are commended for a proper and professional execution of their duties.

The Centre County Prison is a model of how a county prison should be run. Both the staff and inmates treat each other with civility and respect. The food is decent. The medical attention is prompt and professional. Regulations are followed, and the prison has many programs for the inmates. Heicklen has interviewed over 3 dozen inmates over a two-year period, and never heard a substantive complaint. The Centre County Prison is the jewel of the criminal justice system in Centre County. For 1997, Warden Gerald Wilson was honored by Smart on Crime for outstanding contributions to criminal justice.

Unfortunately, the judicial system is another matter. It functions on the principle that trials should be delayed as long as possible–6 months if the defendant is incarcerated or 1 year if the defendant is not incarcerated. It is 4-1/2 months since Heicklen's first arrest, and no trial date has been set. The defendants are to be harassed as much as possible prior to trial, often by incarceration. In this way, many (probably most) defendants are harassed into accepting plea bargains to discontinue the harassment. This saves the judges time and the county money.

Heicklen has faced all 5 of the district magistrates in court. Both Dan Hoffman and Ronald Horner have lied to him from the bench with the intent of intimidating him. Alan Sinclair falsely arrested him for failure to appear at a hearing, when Heicklen had appeared. It was Magistrate Sinclair that had failed to appear. Magistrate Bradley Lunsford sentenced Heicklen to 2 days in prison for contempt of court when Heicklen asked for indictment by grand jury.

Two of the 3 judges (Charles Brown, Jr. and David Grine) are former district attorneys, and they rule as if they still are. The third judge (Tom Kistler), elected last November, was rated unsatisfactory (D rating) as a lawyer by a professional group of his peers. He has been sued for malpractice for failing to file necessary papers. He violated the State College sign ordinance when campaigning last year for judge.

The jury pools are rigged. The adult population of Centre County is about 25% in the ages of 18-21 according to the 1990 census. Less than 2% of the jury pools is in this age range. About 50% of the adult population is in the age range of 18-35 years, but only about 20% of the jury pools is in this age range. The vast majority of the inmates in the Centre County Prison are under 35 years old. Have they been tried by juries of their peers?

The courthouse is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is no handicapped parking provided. The restrooms do not have visual fire alarms for the protection of the deaf. Counters in the Office of Probation and Parole (and probably other offices) are too high to use for a person in a wheelchair.