What is the difference between a Steven Soderbergh who creates art including violent imagery and men locked away for an entire string of actual murders?
I’ve been reading about Brandon Duncan’s and Aaron Harvey’s lawsuit against the fascist policing of San Diego and the fascist police RUDY CASTRO and SCOTT HENDERSON: I’m having trouble figuring it out. Soderbergh has sometimes lived in San Diego. He’s definitely created depictions of violence there. Duncan and Harvey have lived most of their lives in San Diego. Duncan has certainly created depictions of violence there. Soderbergh, however, is not suing San Diego and the very, very clever cops Castro & Henderson for violations of federally guaranteed civil rights.
While Duncan, AKA (when performing rap) Tiny Doo and Harvey don’t mention Soderbergh in the complaint filed with the federal district court for the Southern District of California*1, it’s hard to escape the obvious conclusion. Brandon Duncan grew up in a gang-plagued area of San Diego with Aaron Harvey and other friends. Unlike many people with more money and more privilege, Duncan stayed in the same area as an adult. Neither Duncan nor Harvey were gang members in any sense, but they did know some some members of the Lincoln Park Blood gang (“LPK”). These men were people who grew up near Duncan and Harvey, and apparently they remained on friendly enough terms that cell-phone photos were taken of some of these LPK members and Duncan, Harvey or both in the same frame.
What did the photos show? They weren’t mowing down targets at a gun range. They weren’t smuggling drugs across the border. They weren’t, y’know, committing some horrible crime like waterboarding someone or something. Instead, they were merely chillaxing, or other such moderate behaviors as I am told one’s homies, on occasion, will tend to do with one.
But this did not fool the police.
The very, very clever detectives Rudy Castro and Scott Henderson were investigating nine murders carried out between May 2013 and February 2014. The very, very clever Castro and the very, very clever Henderson had reason to believe the murders were carried out by members of the LPK. But of course, the gang members knew many people, and many people knew the gang members. What, precisely, might cause the very, very clever Castro and the very, very clever Henderson to believe that Duncan and Harvey were guilty of knowing relevant details of LPK’s crimes and intentions before the murders and taking actions that furthered them or, perhaps, of knowing relevant LPK details and of directly benefiting from the murders while failing to take action that separated themselves from the criminals or ended their ability to benefit from LPK’s crimes?*2
Duncan and Harvey had friended some of the guys on Facebook. Oh, and Duncan wrote rap songs that contained violent imagery, though no information about, encouragement to perform, or even inspiration taken from these murders or any other specific murders.
But you should only believe that that’s what motivated the arrests if you believe what Castro and Henderson testified to in a court of law. From submissions of written statements and from the in-person testimonies of these two very, very clever detectives at a November 2014 hearing to justify the continued detention of Duncan and Harvey, we learn surprising little. What we do learn damns neither Duncan nor Harvey, but it sure as Hell damns Castro and Henderson.
From the submissions signed by the very, very clever Castro that were presented in order to obtain Duncan’s arrest warrant we learn that:
- certain people admitted on Facebook to being members of LPK
- Duncan had either friended some of those people, or they had friended Duncan, or both*3
- Duncan posted, “Free Lil Hawg and Tae Dip” on Facebook
- That posting occurred after the arrest of two men Duncan knew who went by those names and were arrested for their participation in LPK crimes.
- and finally, Duncan was a member of a rap group called “Black Angel Music Group”
That’s it. But Castro & Henderson clearly must be very, very clever, because they saw in these facts admissible evidence of guilt.
Prosecutors later expanded on the case against Duncan, asserting that Duncan, whose album “No Safety” features a picture of a revolver on the cover, gained in “reputation” through association with gang members, and this street cred increased the ability of Duncan to sell albums, which led to a profit for Duncan he would not have received if the murders had not been performed. Castro & Henderson weren’t able, in their testimony, to provide any more specific facts that would have justified the arrest, and certainly none that were actually known to police at the time of the arrest.
As a side note, when arresting Duncan, the cops hadn’t acquired a warrant to search Duncan’s home… but they did so anyway. For hours. Taking full control of the home during the search as if it were a crime scene. But I’m sure that the very, very clever Castro and the very, very clever Henderson have some explanation for why that was all so very legal and justified.
Curiously enough, prosecutors would not be able to earn a living if crimes were not committed and would not be able to perform their job, which includes convincing witnesses to testify and testify truthfully, without credibility. While prosecutors have been known to gain in credibility through putting criminals away (something they could not do without a crime being committed), it is curiously more common to see rappers arrested under these “reputation theory” crimes than it is to see prosecutors arrested under the same statutes.
As for the case against Harvey, well, Harvey had moved out of state to pursue a real estate broker’s license in Nevada. Nonetheless,
- certain people admitted on Facebook to being members of LPK
- Harvey had either friended some of those people, or they had friended Harvey, or both*3
- Harvey appeared in photographs posted to Facebook along with men who were allegedly LPK members
- and finally, wait for it, Harvey was said to be “keeping gang members in order.” No information was provided about who was saying this or whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, much less how he might be accomplishing this from Nevada.
According to the complaint,
No reasonably competent officer would have believed the facts stated in the declaration established probable cause to arrest Mr. Harvey. No reasonably competent policymaker would have believed that the facts pertaining to Mr. Harvey justified his arrest.
And yet, Castro and Henderson apparently believed these facts established probable cause. Hmmmm.
Although Duncan’s 2014 arrest has received more press attention, the arrest of Harvey is a great deal more disturbing. There is not even a fanciful benefit to Harvey being alleged by any fascistic police officer or prosecutor, such as the very, very clever Castro or the very, very clever Henderson. If the police can assert that “someone says” or “people are saying” something about my interaction with a criminal, it doesn’t matter if the expression is so vague that it could be describing stopping drunk criminals from further harassing people who have already said no, maintaining a queue at a movie theater where I work on a day some criminals happen to attend, or stabbing people who violate the orders of a gang boss. No, when language is so vague as to be meaningless, very, very clever police officers like Castro & Henderson will tell the court I deserve to be arrested.
Of course, my father kept people at a party in good order and the alcohol flowing from his kitchen right up to – and after! – his brother in law drove off drunk and caused a serious accident. And my father wasn’t arrested. I wonder. I really wonder. What, precisely, could be the difference between my father and Aaron Harvey, in the minds of cops like Castro & Henderson.
It’s too bad we’ll never know.
*1: Official name? US District Court for the Southern District of California, but I find the double-district annoying and the lack of the word “federal” to be confusing to some people who don’t know that a “US District Court” is always a federal court.
*2: Even the law under which they were charged is a very low standard, and is controversial by itself for encouraging “guilt by association” – but whether the legislators encouraged Castro and Henderson, let’s keep our focus on fascist policing here. Fascist legislating can be addressed in a separate post.
Nonetheless, for those following along, it might be useful to describe what Castro and Henderson thought to be the crime of Duncan and of Harvey. In the language Castro, as submitted to the court, Duncan and Harvey violated California’s “Penal Code Section 182.5, a felony, by unlawfully and actively participating in a criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in and have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity and did willfully promote, further, assist and benefit from felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang”. Note that in the actual statute, one need not “promote, further, assist, and benefit”. Instead it is enough if one “promotes, furthers, assists, or benefits”. Just one is sufficient.
*3: the language “friended” (as reported in the complaint to the court) is not exactly clear on who performed the friending