Letter to Syracuse City Judge Kevin Young, Aug 2002

August 6, 2002

Judge Kevin Young
RE: People v. Murtari
Syracuse City Court
511 S. State Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

Dear Judge Young and the District Attorney�s Office:

I was arraigned by you on Tuesday, August 6th, as a consequence of my actions in the Syracuse Federal Building the day before. There seemed to be a lot of confusion about what was going on and the history of my actions. I was especially concerned when told by you to stay away from the building and that I could expect a jail sentence for contempt if I am arraigned in front of you again on similar charges.

Judge Young, I certainly do not want that to happen. I have an 86 year old mother and I am her only child. While I understand and accept that my conduct has “risk,” I would like to avoid a harsh judgment based on incomplete information. I have great respect for the Court and am not trying to prove that Judge�s orders can be disregarded. I wish to take a brief moment to make you aware of what is going on and why.

I am at the building in what I can attempt to describe as an exercise in free speech and also to petition my government representative, Senator Hillary R. Clinton, for action on Family Law reform. Without going into details, the attached letter shows one of numerous attempts by members of our Group (AKidsRight.Org) to simply engage our elected representative in a dialog regarding the need for reform � so far she has refused to make any type of meaningful reply. This is unfortunate and is the immediate reason for me “walking” outside her office in a public area. We are trying to encourage other parents to do the same, but it is a difficult sacrifice to make.

At the beginning of 2000 I had over a dozen charges pending for this conduct at both the State and Federal Level. All the State charges were dismissed by Judge Higgins, all the Federal Tickets were dismissed by a US Magistrate. City Judge Merrill had found that such conduct was protected in the County Courthouse. Orders to “stay away” from the Federal building were found invalid. I spoke personally with the assistant US Attorney in charge of the case, Mr. Michael Olmstead, and he also appreciated the unique nature of my actions and told me I had a right to petition my government. Since then, on many occasions I have been allowed to proceed with no arrest. Earlier this year some similar arrests occurred and were dismissed by Judge Rosenthal in City Court and others at the Federal level.

It seems clear from the decisions that a charge of “trespass” in a public building is not supported, but I myself find some frustration at being constantly arrested and charged again with trespass for identical conduct. It also seems such a waste of resources when everyone seems to know the charges will be dismissed based on past decisions. I am a member of a small group of parents and we certainly cannot afford a Civil Right�s lawyer to argue our case, but I hope the Syracuse Police can be told that in this specific case, trespass is not supported. In the last two arrests Federal Officials have not written any “tickets” at all, just relying on the Syracuse Police to remove me from the building.

We are a group of Mothers and Fathers who believe positive change can happen without the need for anger or name calling. That significant social change can be made by people willing to use NonViolent Action, as most recently demonstrated by King and Gandhi. To show by the power of their actions and their willingness to accept personal sacrifice � that they deeply believe in both a loving God and the “rightness” of their goals.

When I am in the Federal Building I do not disturb any type of building operation or access. I do not chant or even make gestures. I do not speak unless spoken to. I just walk quietly in the hall outside Senator Clinton�s offices carrying some picture of parents and children unjustly separated. Sometimes people will approach me and ask me what is going on � then I will stop and explain. Our hope is that our actions, along with public attention and publicity will eventually show the Senator that we are sincere and that this is a very serious public issue. We know the Senator is a good person and concerned about family issues.

Please understand that no one more than I would like to stop these attempts to get a dialog started with Senator Clinton. I would like to wait until the 29th and the preliminary hearing to get a ruling from you on this matter, but so many clear decisions have already been made and a parent being unjustly separated from their child is such an important issue of Civil Rights.

Respectfully yours,

John Murtari

Attach: Letter to Senator Clinton