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City Hall

Matthew Leslie

 

It’s an ugly day when a municipality sues its own residents in an effort to seize back digital files left unguarded on its own website.* By now readers should be aware that the City of Fullerton is suing the publishers of the Friends for Fullerton’s Future (FFFF) blog over the blog’s publication of numerous files obtained without authorization, but without evident illegal activity–despite claims by the city attorney–from a Dropbox folder (mis)managed by the city itself. A court has already refused the city’s request to have the servers and computers associated with the bloggers seized and examined, and the order the city did obtain at the same hearing enjoining FFFF from further publishing the materials in question has just today been stayed by an appeals court.

The Fullerton City Council is wasting its time and our money on a lawsuit that will almost certainly be decided against the city on free speech grounds. Courts have long held against lawsuits that constitute prior restraint when it comes to a free press, and there is no reason to think the city’s case will end any differently. Just yesterday The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief in support of FFFF. The RCFP characterizes the suit as “A brazen misuse of computer crime laws against journalists.” (Speaking of laws, if FFFF did break the law by accessing the files in question, why have they not been criminally charged for doing so?)

The decision to sue FFFF and its some of its named bloggers was made in closed session on September 17, but only reported this past Tuesday when the City Attorney during a meeting of the City Council finally acknowledged what should have been reported over a month and a half ago.  At the time the Fullerton City Council’s unanimous vote to initiate legal proceedings against FFFF for publishing stories referencing city employee personnel files might have seemed the responsible thing to do, on some level, in order to protect the privacy of the employees and diminish the chances of the city itself being sued by them for its own abysmal failure to secure such sensitive files in the first place. Either way, they ought have known that their chances of prevailing were slim, and ought to have had legal counsel tell them so.

Readers can decide for themselves whether or not they approve of FFFF’s tactics, but there is no denying that they have exposed some questionable practices by city management. Our government shouldn’t use litigation to shield itself from public scrutiny, especially when it is transparency itself that is in question. Suing to save face is an irresponsible use of public funds. A full hearing of the case is scheduled for November 21, but it’s hard to imagine that the case will ultimately stop publication of any files at this point. The city should cut its losses and drop the case now.

*(For coverage of the case see Spencer Custodio’s reporting in the Voice of OC)

Matthew Leslie

https://old.reddit.com/r/orangecounty/comments/cdsa1e/bouncer_beats_and_stomps_on_defenseless_patron_on/

Eleven hours ago someone on the site Reddit posted a disturbing video of what appears to be a Fullerton bar bouncer beating and stomping on someone in an area identified as somewhere outside of the Slidebar. The video title refers to the person being beaten as a defenseless bar patron. No other details are provided about the circumstances surrounding what appears to be a mini melee in the public parking lots bordering the pedestrian pathway between Commonwealth Ave. and E. Santa Fe Ave. Businesses directly north of this lot include Stubrik’s, The Slidebar, Hopskotch, and Bourbon Street. Commenters on a separate thread about the video wrote that the bouncers were from The Slidebar, but there is no conformation yet available of these assertions.

Several years ago the Fullerton City Council finally acknowledged that the bar scene downtown was out of control, and instituted a series of reforms that included requiring bars to provide security personnel, but the actions of this person, who certainly appears to be dressed as a security guard, are outrageous, and represent a danger to the people of Fullerton.

 

The car driven by Miss Williams. From the OC Register.

Matthew Leslie

On July 5, the eighth anniversary of Kelly Thomas being beaten braindead by officers of the Fullerton Police Department, another of the department’s officers shot a seventeen year old teenager to death on the 91 freeway in neighboring Anaheim. There are terrible similarities between the aftermaths of each killing, including frustration on the part of the deceased’s family and the public over a lack of basic information being released by law enforcement agencies involved.

The Anaheim Police Department, who is investigating the shooting, declined to identify the dead teen, citing her age, but the initial press release from APD referred to her as a “suspect,” despite not specifying anywhere what crime she was suspected of committing. (Fullerton Police are conducting an internal investigation. Bob Dunn, recently appointed Chief of the FPD, spent seventeen years with the Anaheim Police Department).

The teen has since been identified by her family as Hannah Williams. According to news accounts, her baffled family are demanding answers about her death, describing her as a happy young person who enrolled in online college classes and worked as a lifeguard at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Media reports from the OC Register and LA Times referred to eyewitnesses who gave conflicting accounts of the teenager either raising what appeared to be a gun while exiting her vehicle or holding a cell phone.  Four days after the shooting the OC District Attorney’s office released a statement focusing primarily on a replica gun reportedly found at the scene. The press release went so far as to show side by side an image of the realistic looking gun next to an image of a Baretta handgun to emphasize the similarity between the two, but declined to specify where exactly the replica gun was found.

CBS news reported that the “The gun was found in the vehicle next to Williams, according to the Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer,” a confusing statement given the reports of eyewitnesses. The decision to emphasize the assumed danger faced by the officer was grossly reminiscent of the Fullerton Police Department’s efforts to portray Kelly Thomas as a dangerous criminal by releasing an old mugshot of him shortly after his brutal beating.

One of the critical reforms adopted by the FPD following the killing of Kelly Thomas was the wearing of body cameras by officers. Dashboard cameras were already standard. Like the Kelly Thomas case, authorities are refusing to release any recordings of the “encounter,” as it has been described in press releases, or even to confirm whether or not any such recordings exist.

One marked difference between the two cases is the timing of statements by the involved officers. At least following the Kelly Thomas case, reports were written by officers shortly after the beating, albeit after the controversial practice of allowing the officers to view footage of it–a decision made by Dan Hughes, later appointed Chief of FPD. Shockingly, the unidentified FPD officer who shot Miss Williams has reportedly not yet given an official statement about it.

The family, who complain that news media are being given more information about their daughter’s killing than they are, and the general public shouldn’t be in the dark about basic facts of this tragic death. It is almost impossible to imagine that authorities would not have released body footage already if an officer had been shot by a “civilian.” And, if the officer did not have his/her body cam activated, or the dash cam was not operable or had been somehow damaged in what is reported to have been a collision between the vehicles, why is that information not available? How long are we expected to wait for these answers? There are good reasons for efforts to establish a Fullerton Police Commission.

Release the tape.

 

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