Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The People of California versus James A. Bretney

Could you go to jail for making a joke?  Comedian James Bretney is about to find out.  On Monday, Sepetmeber 18, 2011 Bretney opened a letter from City Attorney Terry White alleging that Bretney invaded the privacy of the Santa Monica Police Department.

According to the complaint filed by City Attorney Terry White, Bretney violated "Section 632 of the California Penal Code by intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, by means of a recording device."

City of Santa Monica Attorney Terry White alleged that Bretney recorded a conversation with Santa Monica Police Officer Eddie Soto.  In that recording, Detective Soto responded to an accusation suspecting Bretney of plotting to shoot up a school he previously attended.  

"How does a police officer claim a privacy right when everything he does in the performance of his duty is public record?,"  said Bretney. 

Mr. White refused to comment on this story.

Bretney criticized the Santa Monica police department 48 times in the ten minute Youtube video.

On September 18, 2011, Mr. Bretney met with the secretary of the Mayor of Santa Monica, Sonia Ramos to discuss the case.  "This is a SLAPP.  This is a strategic lawsuit against public participation.   It is state sponsored attempt to stifle freedom of speech.  I want to know if Mayor Richard Bloom and the City of Santa Monica support that."  

The incident stems from a libelous accusation made by a reality TV actor Andrew McLaren.  McLaren  alleged Bretney was a domestic terrorist plotting to shoot up the Art Institute of California - a school where Bretney was a former student.  Detective Eddie Soto filed an incident report 11-80366 and concluded "There is no crime." 

Bretney also met with Detective Soto's supervisor but was unable to reach a resolution.  The recording shows Detective Soto to be more of on a fishing expedition than weighing both sides of the story.  

Section 632 of the California Penal Code codifies the The California Invasion of Privacy Act (1967) and Electronic Surveillance in California (1969) laws meant to protect the privacy of individuals rather than a defense against public accountability.  No current case law supports Terry White's interpretation of current privacy laws.

"I am a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record.  I previously served in the military in Iraq in combat."   Bretney said, "I was in shock of the allegation.  Tape recordings and documentation defend citizens against police entrapment."

A previous victim of police brutality and false imprisonment, Bretney continues, "The word of a police officer always rates higher than a law abiding citizen in a court of law despite police promises that they are here to protect and serve us."
If Terry White were to prevail in court, the city of Santa Monica would possess the the infamy of prosecuting a comedian for satirizing a police officer in defiance of the First Amendment.  

"It's an Al Capone approach to justice, they couldn't get me on the domestic terrorism wrap so they trump up a charge of invading a cop's privacy," said Bretney.  "It's pretty clear whose side the cops are on."

Bretney fears the chilling effect in government accountability and transparency.  "Citizens have a right to taping, recording or otherwise documenting the actions of public officials in the execution of their duty.  This approach to government accountability is antithetical with the highest notions we hold about democracy.  Is Santa Monica retaliating against me because of my criticism of the city and their police force?  It appears so."

Bretney's arraignment is slated for 8:30 AM, October 11th in Superior Court.

Update June 4, 2013: James A. Bretney prevailed in court in early December 2013 when the City of Santa Monica dropped all charges against Bretney.  "This is a victory for free speech only blackened by its belated arrival."  City Attorney Terry White, the same prosecutor who failed to get a conviction against Rodney King's cops in 1991, was not available for comment.  Although it has been said that the taxpayers of Santa Monica have paid City Attorney Terry White as much as $ 400,000 per year in compensation, his employment is not certain.

1 comment:

James A. Bretney said...

By the way, the state of California dropped the criminal case against me and the court dismissed the accusation.