On Monday November 30, 2009 four members of the October 22nd Coalition and Petaluma CopWatch went to the Juvenile Detention Facility where minor, Raymond Burt’s hearing was taking place. He was charged with gang activity and armed robbery several months ago. Cops had raided his house and planted a gun. The gun charge was later dropped. The court also dropped the armed robbery portion of his hearing, but he still had to face theft and admit to being a part of a gang even though he had no gang relation.
Several months ago, Raymond was approached by another minor who was selling marijuana. Raymond refused, but the kid still pursued him in the hopes that he would change his mind. He then pulled out a fragment of marijuana in which Raymond observed and adamantly refused. The dealer then went to the police, accused Raymond of robbing him $20 dollars at gunpoint. Authorities then arrested Raymond and took him into custody for 5 hours without notifying his parents or reading him his rights. They asked him if he had any ties to gangs, he said no. Authorities then said that if he admitted to having gang ties he can be released, he still refused. Santa Rosa Police then raided his home at gun point. Authorities confiscated his computer, cell phone, and blue jersey (Raymond played on the football team), which is the center piece of his evidence of gang activity. Because he had the word “Crips” written on his jersey they associated Raymond to the LA gang, The Crips, who have no ties with the Santa Rosa or Northern California area. Police planted a gun in his house which police maintained as the weapon used during the armed robbery. Charles remains under house arrest unable to go to school, or wear any “gang colors”(red or blue) which would violate his parole and put him in the Juvenile Detention Center then further jail time as an adult. His next court date is December 14.
Although the judge in this case had previously told Raymond’s mother, Tracy, that friends and family were allowed in the court room, all four of us who came to support were promptly denied access to the hearing. The bailiff said “our shirts probably had something to do with it” (two of us were wearing shirts that said “Stop Police Abuse” on them). After a couple hours of waiting, and negotiating between the public defender and Raymond’s family, Raymond signed a statement admitting to being affiliated with a gang (which he is not), in order to get a lighter sentence (most likely probation). The public defender was certain that the police had enough “evidence” (i.e. had planted enough evidence) to convict him in a trial, which would result in his incarceration. After much pressure from the public defender, Raymond signed the statement.
Last Monday, we learned first hand just how little justice is obtained through this system. A young man is pressured into lying about a crime in order to avoid more severe punishment, and yet if he had lied about not committing a crime, he would be put in jail? How can that be? What kind of justice system threatens and coerces people into admitting to crimes they never committed? And what kind of system allows dirty cops to enter peoples’ homes, plant evidence, detain minors and intimidate them when there’s no parents or lawyers around, and then get away with it because our public defender’s know that they will never be able to mount a case against them?
We will continue to work with the Burt family to expose this case and the crooked cops that framed an innocent young man, so that, as Raymond’s mother Tracy put it, “not one more family has to go through what I went through.”