Citizen journalist A.F. James ‘Jimi’ Mac Arthur, entered the courthouse this morning clad in a bright yellow jumpsuit with big, bold black lettering dawning his back that read, DPDS – an acronym for the Department of Pretrial Detention and Services; as he awaited a habeas corpus hearing to offer testimony that his ‘No Bail’ status should in fact be reduced.
The 47-year old indy journalist, whose online news site – the Baltimore Spectator – was a go-to informational venue for local activists looking to hold the Baltimore City Police Department, and the criminal justice system as a whole, accountable and responsive to the needs of the average city resident; was before Judge Lynn K. Stewart in a case that drew national headlines earlier this month.
On Saturday, December 1st, the local reporter took to social media and broadcast LIVE during a 5-hour stand-off with police, who initially converged on his East Baltimore home for an outstanding warrant for an apparent violation of probation. The first of its kind, the on-air negotiations that went viral were met with stiff resistance from the police department who called in the tactical unit known as SWAT – based on what they believed was a clear threat offered up by Mac Arthur on his Twitter page.
Eventually turning himself over to the police peacefully before the 11 o’clock hour, Mac Arthur was taken into custody and charged with a separate case of possessing an authorized weapon (sawed-off shotgun) that officers say they found in his residence after his surrender.
He eventually was released on his own recognizance for the VOP warrant by District Court Judge Marcus Shaw the following Monday, who took into account that the summons issued to Mac Arthur’s old address may not have reached him and deemed him no threat to society and “visible enough that the courts shouldn’t have a problem locating him”. However, the possession of an illegal firearm still loomed, and on Wednesday, December 5th, Circuit Court Judge Joan B. Gordon denied Mac Arthur bail in the pending case, citing Mac Arthur’s prior criminal history and his “apparent violent nature”.
And while his attorney on record, Delegate Jill P. Carter – who initially vehemently denied being his attorney to this Examiner – tried to make the case today before Judge Stewart that Mac Arthur was a pillar in his community and no flight risk; the former assistant state prosecutor didn’t seem to be in a very festive mood – denying Mac Arthur’s bail once again.
“This case involved an apparent barricade situation that led to a stand-off with police, who he [Mac Arthur] made threats against on social media, even brandishing a handgun in one photo,” said Judge Stewart, who swiftly denied Mac Arthur’s bail without so much as blinking an eye. Carter, who has defended Mac Arthur in past, made a plea for compassion in the case, in which she offered the judge a glimpse into the non-violent past of Mac Arthur.
“To say he is a threat to public safety is a fallacy based on his history, as he has never been such,” said Carter, who pointed to his ties to the community including owning a home in the city and presenting about a dozen or so supporters in the court room – including Mac Arthur’s sister, who is an officer of the court.
Jean C. Arthur, who is also an attorney, was present and willing to take responsibility for her brother upon release, in ensuring his appearance at future court dates; however despite a room full of friends and family, and a passionate plea from his attorney, Judge Stewart wasn’t at all moved. “She made up her mind before we ever offered up his case,” says Ms. Arthur, who currently works as a legislative analyst for the Montgomery County Council.
“I know the system, and while it’s supposed to be fair and impartial, it’s run by humans who are fallible; many of whom associate with one another, so it’s easy for an officer to suggest to a judge or prosecutor to deny a defendant bail – and it’s done without so much as a second thought. The common man essentially has no chance against a system designed to oppress certain people.”
Which was the exact sentiment of many of the activists there this morning to support Mac Arthur, including Jimi himself, as he blurted out words of resentment towards the judge after her verdict. “And you call yourself a justice system,” questioned the very outspoken journalist as officers led him out of the courtroom. “I hope you have a Happy New Year your honor – I know I won’t!”
Mac Arthur is set to appear back in court next Friday for a preliminary hearing on the new gun charge, and while his defense can certainly ask for a bail reduction at such time – as well as trying to get the case thrown out all together – supporters appear resigned that the “oppressive system will not allow that to happen”.
“It’s a Jim Crow system designed to keep the blackman down, thus they had to put a black female face on the bench to offer the appearance that race played no part in his continued incarceration,” says local activist Duane ‘Shorty’ Davis, who pointed to murderers and rapists getting bails for more heinous crimes than what Mac Arthur was charged with. “It shows they are intimidated by this brother, and aren’t willing to let loose the very person that will hold them accountable.”
In fact, some local observers pointed to a recent case in which a 22-year old Baltimore woman was charged with the murder of her boyfriend, along with two acquaintances who were charged in helping cover-up the murder; and all three were given bails ranging from $750k to $150k.
“They were charged in the death of another human being, a young man who could have been a doctor, scientist, an attorney or even a judge himself; yet, they give those reportedly responsible for taking another human life a bail, but deny the bail of someone only doing what others are afraid to do – call it like it is and report on the news that goes unnoticed by the mainstream media,” questioned independent media journalist and political analyst Shaun Louis. “If that doesn’t speak to the injustice and hypocrisy of our ‘criminal justice system’, I don’t know what does?”
**In related, but somewhat unrelated news, while seeking the name of the Judge in this case – whose name plate was not visible in the courthouse – sheriff deputies inside the courtroom refused to give journalists and activists the name of the presiding Judge, stating that ‘it’s against policy for them to reveal the name of the Judge’. However, after going to the administrative offices in the circuit courthouse, the clerks informed this Examiner that no such policy exists – and then gave me the name of the Judge in the case without hesitancy.
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