We were inspired by the local South Lake Tahoe Mountain News guest editorial written by Ted Long. Original story is found here – http://www.mountainnews.net/201301/#/24
Ted Long, former Lake Tahoe city council member and foreperson of the El Dorado County Grand Jury – Says “Rights for one equals rights for all”
When you ask most people, “what is the Cost of freedom?” They will answer war, defending our country and our way of life.
While this is certainly true, it must be remembered that even a dictator will go to war to defend his power. Others mention taxes as the cost of freedom. While this argument may be defended. it is more accurate to say taxes finance the benefits and opportunity ties of freedom, and again, even repressive societies have taxes. If we examine history and the nature of freedom, it becomes apparent that freedom is really the ability of each of us to a life without fear from the very people we appoint or elect to protect us — the firewall between the citizens and the army for example, with the elected president the commander-in-chief of the military.
In a very real way, our police, our district attorneys ,our judges and those others sworn to enforce the laws – are a closer threat to our freedom.
Take the police. for example. If they could be used to arrest. and detain innocent people just because the official does not like them and is threatened by them or sees some opportunity for power. then the individual is really at their mercy.
The Eastern world today is going to the streets, risking death for these very rights. No, I contend that the real cost of freedom is the enforcement of our basic Bill of Rights, in particular the Fifth Amendment that gives each of us the right to a speedy trial, the right to an attorney, the right to bail and the right against self-incrimination. Without these rights. there is no freedom . The power goes to the force with the guns, those that control the process. Hitler, for example, saw this clearly in his takeover of Germany in 1936. He knew that if he did not get control of the police and the courts. he would have no chance. Remember Germany at the time was the home of some of the brightest, smartest people on the planet. They gave us rockets, Einstein and the atomic bomb.
The problem in our country is not a Hitler, it is that we have had these rights for a long time and we take them for granted. Most people will not admit it, but they do believe that if a person is arrested, they must be guilty, when in fact our basic rights say, “innocent until proven guilty.” A jury does not say ” innocent,” they say ” not guilty” in acquitting someone. In other words. the burden is not the crime alleged, but the ability to prove it, lawfully.
Occasionally we arc upset by the video of a Rodney King police beating or the conviction of a police officer for forcing sex on a female during II traffic stop in the back of his squad car. but for the most part we fail to notice when our chosen officials abuse their power.
One of the most well-known cases, Arizona vs. Miranda, clearly let a probably guilty man free, because the authorities abused his rights and the court made it clear that the process docs matter, and that the freedom of one man is the cost of freedom for all of us. They recognized that it’s easy to force a confession or to detain someone until they confess. Think about it, when a person disappears into the system, do you really know what’s true?
Literally hundreds of inmates are currently being released because of the new science of DNA that shows their innocence. What if one was you?
Gino DeMatteo is a current example. The district attorney, Vern Pierson, ignored pleas from his attorney to sit down and talk, he ignored offers of cooperation and instead spent tens of thousands of taxpayer money in a failed attempt to destroy Mr. DeMatteo.
He sent over 20 heavily armed officers to his place of business to make an arrest for a non violent crime, when Gino’s attorney offered to cooperate and would have surrendered him at no cost, he sent the SWAT team to search an empty house.
He already had the owners in jail. He threw a bomb into the house without regard to the presence of innocent people. He imprisoned him in Placerville, 50 miles away. when there is a jail blocks away in South Lake Tahoe only to raise the cost and difficulty of his defense. He made bail as difficult as possible and to top it of, arrested his wife and held her for
three days over a holiday weekend, releasing her with no charges only because she refused to speak badly about her husband.
And, as predicted, all charges were dismissed, but only after the reputations of two citizens were destroyed and the taxpayers spend thousands of dollars on Mr. Pierson’s vendetta. Even worse, in my opinion, is the reaction of so many citizens, that Gino must be guilty, so let’s not question the authorities. Questioning, that is the responsibility, the source of freedom.
The district attorney has refused to comment, to explain, to offer any proof of his charges. At best he says. “the investigation is on going.” I don’t believe him. There is no investigation.
There was no case to start with, I know the feds are now involved, but their charges have nothing to do with the district attorneys. Their case is totally independent and based on different facts.
No, the fact is the district attorney dismissed because he had no case and his only reaction was to accuse me of some political agenda, which I don’t have but even if I did, so what?
He can not abuse his office this way. The people of Egypt are in the streets, risking their lives for these basic rights. We are asleep, under the blanket, “That it will not a happen to me” theory. Don’t be to sure, and there is the money lost when the government is broke.
Ted Long is a former Lake Tahoe city council member and was foreperson of the El Dorado County Grand Jury. He served as chairman of LAFO and is a past president of the League of California Cities Sacramento division