LOS ANGELES, May 31, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Last week, Long Beach Judge Laura Laesecke ordered Michael Tart, a Long Beach resident with no criminal record, into custody setting bail at $300,000 for his alleged violation of a municipal ordinance of working at a collective, that is similar to a city law requiring a permit to display a sign. Judge Laesecke set Tart's bail more than ten times higher than is normally set for similar cases. Tart remains in jail and has been transferred to a maximum security prison.
The excessive punishment and jailing of Tart and his disproportionate bail may be related to a claim he filed against Long Beach and the LBPD after video cameras captured an unmarked van pulling up to a sidewalk at the NatureCann Collective on July 3, 2012 with officers grabbing Tart and forcing him into the back of the van (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSkZu9nKUaA). Not knowing what had happened to him for several days, Tart's family members learned the van was actually operated by Long Beach Police who used it to arrest him for a minor violation. A separate video released within that same month shows the same police department enforcing the Long Beach city ordinance on medical marijuana. This video shows a LBPD officer during a raid upon a collective applying the full weight of his body while stepping on a patient volunteer's neck. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WGfqN3pDRM). That same video showed other LBPD officers smashing video surveillance cameras that captured the attack on the patient volunteer, who has since filed an excessive force lawsuit against the city. In a string of cases dating back to 2004, Long Beach taxpayers have paid millions of dollars in damages in cases brought against the city.
Lee Durst, Tart's attorney, asked Judge Laesecke to consider that the alleged charges are based on a municipal ordinance that is being challenged in multiple lawsuits. "Even if he was convicted, the fine would be between 250 and 1,000 dollars at the very highest. Bail of 300,000 dollars is simply punitive," Durst said. Matthew Pappas, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in lawsuits pending against the city, noted that approximately 43,000 signatures had been gathered by a local group for a medical marijuana ballot initiative but that the city is refusing to recognize the initiative. "It is a big problem when a city puts people in jail to thwart claims of misconduct and police violence. It is even worse when enough signatures have been gathered for an election to repeal the invalid law it is jailing people for allegedly violating," he said. A federal judge has ordered Long Beach to explain on June 10 why it is conducting warrantless raids and using submachine guns when raiding medical cannabis collectives.
As an unopposed candidate, Laesecke was re-elected to the limited jurisdiction court in 2012 without having her name appear on the ballot. She is paid a base salary of $178,789.00 annually. Investigation into whether she has ties to Long Beach city officials is ongoing. When asked in March why certain individuals had been targeted by Long Beach, Laesecke refused to comment.
Links to referenced videos and reports:
Marijuana Measure Backers Suing Long Beach, May 20, 2013:
Cops Caught Destroying Video Cameras, Excessive Force, July, 2012:
For more information, contact Advocates for the Disabled and Seriously Ill at
(949) 630-6964 or (562) 533-1628.
SOURCE Advocates for the Disabled and Seriously Ill