Toys, But It’s Not A Game

One of Fresno’s top criminal defense lawyers, Rick Berman, was arrested yesterday. The circumstances of the arrest are unsurprising to me: I’ve often told my wife as I leave for work in the morning that it could happen to me.


Because Fresno’s law enforcement officers — particularly in courthouses — are no different than those elsewhere in the country. As Fresno attorney Peter Sean Bradley put it:

The militarization of the police is a problem. It seems to have fostered the attitude among the police that they are a kind of occupying power in a conquered nation of people who are criminals who have just not been caught yet.

Or to be more blunt about it, in the minds of law enforcement: “Our job is subjugation. We have no legal restraints. Resistance is futile.”

The Fresno Police Gazette, also known as the Fresno Bee, comes about as close as they can to being “fair” in the story. That is, as close as they can. It is no secret within the legal community that local news media won’t report the depth of depravity within local law enforcement departments because they’re afraid they will “lose access.” So while they do try and frequently get a portion of the story right, what the local news media won’t do is report that an officer has overreacted.

Besides, it makes for good theater — particularly when we’re talking about video news reporting agencies. For example, last month when a deputy ordered a judge to leave the courtroom after he apparently decided they were talking to someone else during a courtroom scuffle with a distraught family member in a murder case and ignored the initial commands: now that was good theater, even if the deputies overreacted and decided they were going to commandeer the judge’s courtroom. Of course, sometimes when deputies are overreacting, they don’t immediately recognize they’re abusing a judge; other times, it’s just because they don’t like what the judge is doing — that’s because the default mode for “handling” citizens is to force compliance, regardless of whether or not there is a need for it.

This latest incident involved the deputies attempt to confiscate a toy — yes, let’s make sure that’s understood: however much people want to keep calling it a “plastic wrench,” as if that makes it more ominous, the deputies decided to confiscate a toy.

It makes for more excitement to call it “a plastic wrench” and avoid the use of the word “toy.”

After all, we wouldn’t want anyone drawing comparisons between the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and TSA, which was recently in the business of confiscating toys from mentally-disabled special-needs autistic individuals in diapers.

Yeah, we couldn’t have that. After all, TSA admitted that they made a mistake and said that “better judgment was needed.”

Those words are not in Sheriff Mims’s vocabulary unless she’s applying them to someone her deputies have attacked or beaten.

Rick Berman is, as the Bee reports, one of Fresno’s “high-profile defense attorneys.” He is a former Chief Deputy District Attorney, which means he had some significant time and experience in and had been deemed by the District Attorney’s Office to be someone of good judgment. He is not known for being stupid. And he is 65 years old with back trouble.

I guess you can see where I’m going with this: I have significant doubts that Rick Berman attacked a deputy in a courthouse lobby full of deputies. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible, particularly when you consider that good and intelligent criminal defense attorneys realize the joke that is courthouse security. If I’m a deputy district attorney, I can flash my badge and pretty much sail right on through security. No need to run my bags through the x-ray machine. Hell, if I’m a defense attorney the bailiff likes, I might get away with it, too. I might have a gun in my bag, but the deputy “knows” I’m a “good guy,” so he isn’t concerned to check.

Of course, the only time I’m aware of in the history of the central valley that an attorney has actually ever committed an act of violence in a courthouse, it was a prosecutor. That was when a Deputy District Attorney set the Madera courthouse on fire. That fire caused between $1.5 and $2 million dollars in damage.

Based on my own personal knowledge and a Google search, I am aware of no other incidents involving attorneys attacking anyone or committing any acts of violence inside a central valley courthouse.

Nevertheless, most defense attorneys check our bags through the x-ray machine. No badges for us.1 In Madera, we do the same “remove the belt, turn on your cellphone and (sometimes) your computer” that everyone else does.

As outrageous as this is to those of us who believe in the United States Constitution, like the TSA harassment of the autistic disabled person which stopped one plastic hammer, but missed the one in his mom’s bag, these procedures do pretty much nothing to make us safer. Attorneys tend to be smart people and could sneak things through if they thought about it. But you don’t have to think about it: I’ve known of attorneys who accidentally brought weapons to court. Fortunately for them, no one caught them “trying to smuggle” them in during the “security” check.

So how good is the security check, really?

To law enforcement and the judges, it doesn’t really matter in the end. This is because it’s not really about security; it’s about creating an attitude of subservience.

And that’s why I don’t believe the Sheriff Department’s statement that Rick Berman shoved the deputy. I’ve seen with my own eyes — and you can, too — how the police can become upset and attack someone for asking questions, even if you’re lost and just asking for directions, or just for watching them. It doesn’t matter who you are, even a reporter doing a story. (There are non-video stories about reporters being arrested for asking police questions, as well.)

Afterwards, law enforcement is happy to lie about what happened. (Watch the video in that last story. It’s long, but absolutely will floor you.)

The reasons for this are simple: the job of the police is to suppress citizens. There are no exceptions.

I’m not saying Rick Berman did not do what he was accused of. I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen it. (I’m not sure why law enforcement doesn’t just give video to the reporters, by the way. It happened in the courthouse where everything is filmed. But, on the other hand, since the Fresno Bee is willing to report their allegation without the need for validation, why should they turn over evidence that might exonerate Berman?)

Frankly, I think it’s much more likely that the officer — who knows that she can throw her weight around and that her fellow officers will protect her — attacked Berman, than that Berman, who is a smart and well-respected criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, attacked her.

  1. Ironically, in one of the most fascistic counties in the central valley — Kings County — attorneys who wish to do so can pay $15 for a county badge so we can sail through security just like the big boys in the District Attorney’s office. []


17 Responses to “Toys, But It’s Not A Game”

  1. Rick on March 21st, 2012 10:56 am

    Here’s another incident from today. As I said, bailiffs are beginning to think this is their birthright.

    And it will continue until people start arming themselves and being willing to fight back.

  2. deep sandhu on March 29th, 2012 10:15 am

    the police dept. is damned if they do and damned if the don’t in the mind of some. If they do not search horowitz when going into the courthouse they are thought of as lazy and not really doing their job. If they were to search the briefcase/bag of horowitz then they would be harassing the poor man. The police cannot win in this scenario.

  3. RickH on March 29th, 2012 10:21 am

    They are only “damned” for searching in the minds of sheep and idiots who believe that American citizens should be searched without probable cause. There is no probable cause to believe that everyone coming into the courthouse is engaged in the commission of a crime, or carrying evidence of a crime. And under the United States Constitution, that is the only basis for a search.

    But our governments no longer care about the Constitution, or freedom, because once every 20 years or so, something might happen.

  4. deep sandhu on March 29th, 2012 10:50 am

    The police are our greatest asset especially in times of trouble. The freedom we have to simply walk the streets and have a reasonable expectation of safety is due to our brave men and women in blue. They are both underpaid and underappreciated for how they protect us and give us a society (at least most of the time)that we can manuever about in safety. God bless the men and women of the Fresno Police Dept.

  5. RickH on March 29th, 2012 10:52 am

    You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you know what they’re paid? Do you know what they do? Many people — especially in minority neighborhoods — do not have freedom to simply walk the streets and have a reasonable expectation of privacy because of “our brave men and women in blue.”

    But you keep drinking the Kool-Aid. They depend upon people who won’t question what they do in order to continue to do what they do.

  6. deep sandhu on March 29th, 2012 11:10 am

    I question everything and everyone. I have been watching police operate with professionalism for as long as I have been alive. I had two call them twice in the past because of burglaries and was treated very kindly and professionaly. I thanked God for the police both times. God bless our boys (and let’s not forget our girls) in blue. If loving the people who put their lives on the line to protect me and people they will never really know is wrong, then we are living in dangerous times.

  7. RickH on March 29th, 2012 11:13 am

    I’m going to start changing your name on future comments to “Pollyanna Chatterbox.”

    As I’ve written before, the police do a good job. But, of course, you want to fill my blog comments with posts blindly praising the police, because you don’t like my criticizing them, even when what they do is wrong.

    Start your own blog and praise away.

  8. Pollyanna Chatterbox on March 29th, 2012 11:16 am

    I know exactly what they are paid because my cousin is a cop. And they are very much underpaid. It is a dangerous and under appreciated job with hardly any upside. The men and women who do it, do it at their peril. They put their life on the line every single day. And that thought humbles me and it should humble everyone reading this. Sure, once in a great while a cop may stray from the path but aren’t there bad apples in any profession. Is there one profession in which I could not find someone misbehaving? If there is pleast tell me.

  9. RickH on March 29th, 2012 11:19 am

    Police officer salaries are above-average salaries for the area. Especially when you consider that many of them only have high school diplomas and can’t read or write standard English. Google is a wonderful thing. So is the Freedom of Information Act.

  10. Pollyanna Chatterbox on March 29th, 2012 11:21 am

    you amuse me rick. you can give heat but you cannot take it. You cannot stand to be challenged. Perhaps if I had your mindset I would not welcome that situation either. Be well, ds

  11. RickH on March 29th, 2012 11:23 am

    Yes. I hate being challenged so much that I’ve stopped approving your posts. (Oh, wait. I haven’t.) If you want to live here all day and be a cheerleader, that’s fine. I try to provide a more balanced and honest view. And if you were reading more posts, instead of living here all day on this one, you’d know that.

  12. Pollyanna Chatterbox on March 29th, 2012 11:28 am

    I actually like you rick. You many not believe that but it is true. It is just that you sometimes go overboard in your persecution of law enforcement. In some of the scenarios you comment on and construct the police are often put in a no win situation. Neither one of us would like to live in a world without law enforcement I imagine. I do admire the work that you do. It is necessary because sometimes cops do cross the line. And when they cross that line and use the color of authority to cross it they pose a grave (in more ways than one) threat to society.

  13. RickH on March 29th, 2012 11:33 am


    Again, though, you may wish to read more of my writing. It’s entirely possible to disagree without hating being challenged. That I think you’re an uneducated cheerleader does not mean I hate what you’re saying. I think it’s ignorant, but if you want to cling to your beliefs, I have no problem with that.

    If you decide, however, to stop speaking out your nether regions, you should at least note that I’ve already said in the past that I wouldn’t want to live in a world without law enforcement. You wouldn’t have to imagine if you actually read some of my other posts.

    It’s entirely possible to criticize things that someone — including the police — do and note the problems that have developed. It’s only when the ignorant chatterboxes come along and complain because not every post is a cheerleading post that I remember some people can only think in binary mode.

    So, I’m glad you “actually like” me, but I don’t really care.

  14. deep sandhu on March 29th, 2012 11:58 am

    c’mon rick, like me back. It won’t cost a dime and I will still respect you in the morning. I do agree with you about cheerleading posts. Actually I am probably more critical of police than you are. I just like getting you going by playing the devils advocate role on occasion. Hearing from the loyal opposition helps keep our mind sharp. Although I must say that your mind is usually fairly sharp. Keep up the fight, and I mean that without any sarcasm. Your work work is appreciated.

  15. Chief661 on April 26th, 2012 2:22 pm

    Rick I really appreciate your blog, but the Police State stuff raises my BP. I had not seen the kind of attitudes by the PD until I moved here (for work) from my former home (PA). For years I worked with the PD back east (PA and MA) when I was a paid-on-call/volunteer FF and volunteer EMT. From time-to-time I would see the arrogance and the badge heavy approach, but nothing like I have seen here. It is getting worse.

  16. T. Charles on January 3rd, 2013 8:24 am

    Rick, you are amusing!

  17. michelle on April 3rd, 2014 12:45 am

    Good lookin 8ut Rick. Those who defend the fpd clearly havent yet, been targeted. Believe me, I never experienced any thing like the fpd. Get pulled over for a light above plate out and end up arrested with your public defender telling you its hopeless because the report they wrote is complete fiction, if you ask for dash cam to prove your story, the defender says they dont record, just plead guilty. NO WAY. I did nothing wrong except not know the plate had a light that was out. But, these cops may be able to send me to prison for 3 years according to the defender, based on total BS. I hope they have someone lined up to care for my 22 yr old autistic son. Fresno pd are evil, out of control liars.

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