Evil in a small place–harassment and selective prosecution by New Castle County

Evil in a small place–harassment and selective prosecution by New Castle County
What does this say about Chris Coon’s fitness to be a Senator?

This is about evil.  It could be a lot worse.  It is not about people being dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night and tortured.  It’s not about being locked up in a Delaware prison and murdered through denial of medical care.  One can live with it and I’ve been doing so since about 2001.

But it’s evil enough in it’s own little way and the person currently causing our problems, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, wants to be a United States Senator and apparently has the support of many people who don’t know what he really is.

A key point I want to make is that Coons, a rich boy with a law degree and a Master’s in Ethics from Yale Divinity School, is actually a much nastier, more manipulative, more dangerous, more special-interest-serving person than his thuggish predecessor Tom Gordon.  Coons was elected County Executive in 2004, in a campaign that signalled total subservience to development interests.  Coons served the developers so well that the Republican’s didn’t even put up a candidate against him in 2008.  He has the amiability of a professional pol and access to lots of money.  Now he wants to be a Senator–running against Mike Castle.

Courts are supposed to provide relief, or at least the opportunity of relief, from the actions of misbehaving officials.

Few things are more destructive to the integrity of a place than using the courts to harass activists and poor people.  Than criminalizing freedom of speech.  Governor Markell, as I see it, knowingly endorsed these activities when he renominated Alan Davis as Chief Magistrate of Delaware’s Justice of the Peace Courts.

This is not to exempt the County Council–one of whom is a Presbyterian minister–from responsibility.  Nor is it to blame ordinary county employees, most of whom are honorable and helpful.

“Land use,” mostly a county function, is a key environmental issue, so what Delaware’s counties do matters a lot.

Green Delaware has often criticized New Castle County and things around it.  This is easy to do.  New Castle County has a long history of corruption and scumbaggery.  We have often–but not any more!–testified at County Council meetings and suchlike. Here are a few examples:

Alert 385: Public interest scarce on Chris Coons’ “Transition Team.”

Alert 558: Strange doings in the Civic League for Castle County

Alert 611: The unending disgrace that is Coons’ County ….

New Castle County Council fires Auditor Robert Hicks for doing his job

Gordon , Freebery indicted by United States Attorney for Delaware

GreenDel Alert # 156: Gordon Administration (New Castle County, Delaware) seeks to gut county Ethics Commission

GreenDel Urgent Action Alert #81 Giant sprawl development to be voted on December 19th

GreenDel Alert #71–Oppose ordinance/Tom Gordon accepts incinerator money

But we also did something stupid in the circumstances:  Bought a historic house threatened with demolition.  This opened us up to unending harassment.  The harassment would not be such a problem, of course, if Delaware had courts of justice.  But Delaware doesn’t, at least where New Castle County is concerned.  Thus, about 35 criminal charges have been brought against us over the years.  Numerous warrants have apparently been issued for my arrest–it is hard to know the details because the JP courts will not provide copies.  Conviction is automatic according to what the County wants.  A real defense is not allowed.  Unlike traffic and other minor cases, they can’t be transferred to a higher court.  Appeal is impractical.  So there is no real judicial check on county abuses.

At first, under previous, indicted officials Tom Gordon and Sherry Freebery, the pattern was that we would be charged with parking on grass, having loose caulk in windowpanes, etc.  Now, they charge us ten or twelve times for the same “offence,” and we are convicted for each “offense.”  See, for example, this one:

We never know when more charges will arrive in the mail.  We never know when warrants will be issued for my arrest.  I have a criminal “rap sheet” pages and pages long.  This is the reward for being an activist in Delaware in these times.  This is the reward for restoring an historic property in New Castle County.  Need I say that New Castle County, which says it supports historic preservation, has never done anything helpful?  Here are some samples of our relationship to New Castle County:

Justice in Delaware:  fined $3,751 for “property maintenance code violations” ( See the document here.)

Alert 463: A Christmas present from New Castle County: On trial again

Alan Muller, Executive Director of Green Delaware

Fwd: CHRIS COONS AT IT AGAIN….AFTER ALAN MULLER

Alert 624: Harassment by County slows Green Delaware’s work

“This is a horrible injustice”

April 9, 2004.  Harassment of activists and independent voices is common enough in Delaware, where mainstream environmental and civic organizations have close ties to the chemical and other industries. 

Last year, in the House, Rep. Robert Valihura aggressively promoted bills intended to make it easier for New Castle County and the City of Wilmington
to harass activists and poor people by abusing their code enforcement authority.

GreenDel Alert #168 Tom Gordon and the politics of intimidation …

House Bill 481 would help New Castle County Government harass residents

“Let’s make sure that Green Delaware’s good work continues in Delaware.”

“The courts, or at least the Justice of the Peace Courts, seem willing to be used as tools for politically motivated, malicious prosecutions.”

Alert 378: Green Delaware On trial again….November 23, 2004

One might think that at $3751 fine would be enough even for Coons.  After all, we aren’t challenging the County any more.  But no, they are after us again.  This time, Coon’s people accuse us of not having a proper permit for repairing our roof.  So, they bring at least TEN separate charges for the same alleged offense.  They allege one per month for at least ten months.  (It’s hard to tell as the documents are so confusing and innacurate.)  Read the charges here.

The county ordinance apparently allows bringing a separate charge every day.  So the county could charge a person 365 times for having a cracked windowpane and then deliver these charges all at once, without prior notice, and demand a fine for each “violation.”  A minimum fine of $100 is prescribed for each “violation” and ”
the court shall not suspend the sentence of any person …” Welcome to Delaware!

Abuse of code enforcement power has often been used to harass people.  Since, obviously, every property has some technical code violation, anyone could be harassed.  While the evil of Coons in abusing these laws is obvious, it is also obvious that the Delaware General Assembly has itself done a great evil by passing such laws for the County, and by failing to maintain the integrity of Delaware’s courts.

There is a legal term for misusing laws in this way:

SELECTIVE PROSECUTION

 

To establish a claim of selective prosecution, establish at least prima facie:

(1) that while others similarly situated have not generally been proceeded against because of conduct of the type forming the basis of the charge against him, he has been singled out for prosecution, and

(2) that the government’s discriminatory selection of him has been invidious or in bad faith, i.e., based upon impermissible considerations as race, religion, or the desire to prevent the exercise of his constitutional rights.’

See: United States v. Sammons, 918 F.2d 592, 600 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting United States v. Hazel, 696 F.2d 473, 474 (6th Cir. 1983)) (emphasis in Hazel); see also United States v. Anderson, 923 F.2d 450, 453 (6th Cir. 1991); United States v. Bustamante, 805 F.2d 201, 202 (6th Cir. 1986); accord Wayte v. United States, 470 U.S. 598, 608-09 and n. 10 (1985).

Green Delaware doesn’t have legal resources.  Anyone want to help?

Trial is set for March 23, 2010 at 1:00 in JP Court 15.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *