Black Lives Matters Pasadena Activist Jasmine Richards Sentenced to 90 Days in Jail in “Unlawful Taking” Case

img_1883img_1891img_1896img_1915img_1919img_1922img_1932img_1951img_1956img_1961img_1972img_1994img_2007img_4806img_4827img_4872img_4996

By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor

4:46 am | June 8, 2016


Black Lives Matter Pasadena activist Jasmine Richards was sentenced Tuesday morning to 90 days in LA County Jail less 18 days time served. Richards was also ordered to attend anger management classes following her conviction last week. Richards was found guilty of “Attempting to unlawfully remove a suspect from police custody” in an incident last August.

The charge, until last year, was known as “felony lynching.”

The courtroom was packed with supporters as a crowd of about 250 gathered and demonstrated on Walnut Street outside the courthouse.

In the courtroom during the sentencing, Judge Elaine Lu originally told both attorneys that she was “tentatively leaning towards probation.”  Richards reacted with a closed fist in the air. Richards was then instructed not to be disruptive as both attorneys presented their sentencing arguments.

Richards’ attorney Nana Gyamfi, in asking for the minimum sentence, told Judge Lu of the groundswell of support that Richards had received from a wide range of community members, including activists as well as academics. An online petition had garnered more than 78,000 signatures over the five days that Richards had been in custody awaiting sentencing.

A juror in Richards’ case also submitted a letter to Judge Elaine Lu requesting minimum sentencing for Richards, who faced up to four years in prison.

Gyamfi had previously argued last week that not all of the necessary elements to convict Richards of a felony were in place during the incident, specifically a ‘riot.’ which is necessary in such a conviction.

LA Deputy District Attorney Christine Kee asked for 180 days in County Jail, and pointed out Richards’ previous convictions over the years, including petty theft and assault. Richards had also received two violations while on bail for the charge. The probation department’s recommendation was for one year in County Jail.

Kee told Judge Lu that Richards had “inserted” herself in to a case that “had nothing to do with her, and where a suspect had already assaulted and injured someone.” She “did not allow the police to do their job,” Kee added.

Richards has previous convictions for assault and petty theft in 2010 and 2011,  Kee reminded the judge.

Richards’ case garnered national attention this past week, as she is the only African-American ever tried on such a charge. The law was originally designed to protect African-Americans from being removed from police custody and being hanged or beaten. Richards is now the first African-American in the country to be convicted of the charge.

State Senator Holly Mitchell, the author of SB 629, which removed the word “lynching” from the law last year, issued a statement late Monday saying, “It is difficult, when viewing the video of Jasmine Richards’ encounter with the police, to follow the reasoning behind a felony conviction.  Sadly, this case is likely to contribute to the notion that justice is selectively enforced.  It is my hope that Jasmine Richards’ sentencing is handled fairly and with a lenience that signals a less brutal style of law enforcement and less divisive rhetoric.”

Attorney Gyamfi said she was satisfied with the verdict and somewhat relieved. “We would have of course, preferred probation instead of jail time, but this could have been a lot worse,” she said.

Richards will return to court July 14 for pre-trial hearings in her two pending misdemeanor cases. She is charged with making a criminal threat and disturbing the peace in one incident, and battery of a police officer and resisting arrest in a second incident.

Prosecutors said they have video of both incidents.

“We still have two open cases,” said Will Rivera. “We’re still hoping to discuss possible negotiation with the defense, and we are pursuing that.”

A press conference was held outside the Pasadena Courthouse by demonstrators supporting Jasmine Richards.

 

The sidewalk gathering was “supportive and peaceful,” said one eyewitness, with police keeping a low profile and protecting people from walking into traffic. Demonstrators danced, made speeches and read poetry as the hearing continued upstairs.

A musician strummed his guitar and sang for the group, and a “Black Men for Bernie” bus pulled up in front of the courtroom backing up the protesters for about 25 minutes before law enforcement asked it to move. The bus then circled the area and drove past the courthouse multiple times, blasting its horn in support.  A helicopter also hovered over  the crowd for over 20 minutes, as well as a drone, although it was unclear who was operating either.

People on the sidewalk prayed, and also handwrote notes of support to Richards.

Melina Abdullah, of Black Lives Matter, told the crowd, “This conviction is a statement about how the government, the state is coming after those who dare to protest state-sanctioned violence. It’s a conviction of all of us who are standing up and demanding freedom.”

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors also addressed the crowd, saying, “We live in a country that denies Black people our democratic rights. We live in a country that denies Black people the right to be people who civicly engage in our community. What Jasmine (Abdullah) did was show up for herself like so many organizers have done across the country and, I would argue, across the world.”