Monday, May 09, 2005

Is Legal Abuse of Citizens a Sign of Modern Times?

Jenna Schroeder will be sentenced for trespassing on school property May 16. (File photo)
Posted by Hello

Snow fort builders facing prison timeBy Norman Miller / Daily News StaffWednesday, May 4, 2005
FRAMINGHAM -- Two Framingham High seniors arrested in January after they were ordered off high school property because they were building a snow fort were found guilty yesterday of trespassing.

Jenna Schroeder and Jason Osorio, both 18, now face a maximum of 30 days in jail after the two-day trial in Framingham District Court. The jury of three men and three women deliberated for about three hours before they reached a verdict.

Judge Douglas Stoddart will sentence the pair May 16. Although punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, according to Massachusetts General Law, an offender can also face a fine less than $100 and probation.

Neither Schroeder nor Osorio commented after the trial. Schroeder's attorney, Michael J. Heineman, also declined to comment. Osorio's lawyer, Melvin Norris, was not present during the verdict due to a hearing in federal court in Boston.

The pair were arrested Jan. 25 when police ordered them to leave the high school grounds while they were building a fort in a large pile of snow. The school was closed for the day due to the weather.

The teens claimed they were about to leave when they were arrested. Police said the pair were uncooperative and refused to leave after repeated requests.

During closing statements, both defense attorneys tried to convince the jury the arrests stemmed from the arresting officer, James Smith, getting angry at the "smart ass" teens.

Prosecutor Deb Bercovitch argued it was a clear-cut case -- two people told to leave the property who did not, so they were arrested.

Heineman questioned Smith's truthfulness in his closing statement.

"His credibility is something I'm going to ask you to look closely at," said Heineman. "Officer Smith tells a story that doesn't add up -- that doesn't make sense."

Heineman said Smith originally put a third teen, Edwin Snead, in his cruiser, but never arrested him. The lawyer said Smith grew angry at Schroeder when she asked first why Snead was put in the cruiser, and then asked for his name and badge number.

"Officer Smith never gave a reason -- why didn't he give a reason?" said Heineman. "Because being a smart ass is not a good answer. The evidence shows that Officer Smith was trying to bully and scare these kids."

He said Schroeder, Osorio and Snead were just having a fun day, building a snow fort in the large pile of snow. He said Schroeder's questioning of Smith led to the arrest.

"I would suggest the only crime Jenna broke that day, if it's a crime, is she stood up and asked a police officer his name and badge number," said Heineman. "She didn't cower. She didn't flee. She stood up for a friend. I would suggest the world needs more people like Jenna."

Norris, representing Osorio, said Smith had no right to arrest his client.

"Jason is a student at Framingham High School. Jason was at the Framingham High School. Jason had every right to be at the Framingham High School," Norris said. "The teenagers in this case are telling the truth about the facts of the case.

"Why would an officer exaggerate what happened," Norris continued. "Like all of us, he has a job. Everyone wants to be promoted, wants to get ahead."

Bercovitch told the jury the students had ignored an earlier order from Assistant Superintendent Ed Torti to leave the school grounds, and they did not, which required the police to be called.

"Officer Smith was there on behalf of the town of Framingham and the ground department of the public schools," said Bercovitch. "He (Smith) told you he begged and pleaded for them to leave for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, he was fed up. There's no argument, he was fed up, but is it reasonable to believe that it was just in the last minute he asked them to leave. I would suggest it was not."

Not only was Smith frustrated, Bercovitch said, but so were the defendants, who would not leave.

"That's all this case is about," she said. "Officer Smith has the authority to ask them to leave, he asked them to leave, they didn't leave, and he arrested them."

Also yesterday, both Schroeder and Osorio testified, while Smith was called as a rebuttal witness twice. Smith, Officer Benedetto Ottaviani, Torti and Snead were among those who testified Monday.

Schroeder testified that she was heading to her car when Smith arrested her. She said she even had her keys out ready to drive off.

"Officer Smith said, 'That's it,' and he threw me against the car," said Schroeder. "He yelled at me and said grow up."

Bercovitch asked Schroeder if she was mad when everything was happening, but she said she was more shocked and scared than angry. Bercovitch asked Schroeder why she did not call for help.

"You were scared? You didn't leave, did you? Did you call Edwin's mother? Did you call your mother? Did you call Jason's mother?" asked Bercovitch. "You were scared, but you went up to Officer Smith and questioned him?"

Schroeder said she was worried for Snead, who was later released from the cruiser and left before the arrests, and upset that Smith would not answer her questions.

At one point, Bercovitch looked at Schroeder's key chain and pointed out one that said "Property of Princess."

"Do you consider yourself a princess? Were you upset how he was treating you?" Bercovitch asked. The judge did not allow an answer to either question.

Later in the trial, Osorio said he was never told by anyone he should leave the snow fort before Smith came. He said he had heard someone had stopped and spoke to Snead, but he was not involved in the conversation.

Later, Osorio said he heard Smith berating Snead.

"I heard Officer Smith ask Edwin his name and where he lived," said Osorio. "I heard him ask if he (Snead) was a wise ass or trying to be smart by what he was doing at the snow mound."

( Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or at )

The above was found (here) on the web

Blogger's Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials, Notice

The courts and police should have civilian oversight. If cases being pursued are not in the public’s best interest the case shouldn’t be pursued. Too many people are being ruined over ‘personal issues’ with police and court officials, and for daring to question abusive practices of authorities.

Police and Judicial misconduct more times than not goes uninvestigated and unpunished.

-Steven G. Erickson aka Vikingas


Blogger Mel said...

Oh my god what is the world coming to? I as a high school student do not wish for this to happen anywhere else but alas it does and no one has a backbone to stop and the few who do are not heard.

Power to the teens that are up for sentencing and I hope that they get a fair deal and the police officers conduct is questioned

Monday, May 09, 2005 8:27:00 PM  

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