Courthouse Security Arrests Defense Attorney

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Courthouse deputies manhandled and arrested a 58-year-old defense attorney after he briefly argued with them over why his wallet had to be screened at the security checkpoint, the attorney says in court.
     Harry Drandell sued Fresno County, Sheriff Margaret Mims and two of her deputies on Wednesday in Superior Court.
     Drandell’s attorneys Jacob Weisberg said the July 30, 2014 incident was likely the result of a deputy “having a bad day.”
     “The thing is that if a guy with a gun and a badge has a bad day, then it has some really bad consequences,” Weisberg said.
     Drandell said he followed normal security procedures that day by putting his belt, files, cell phone and keys in a bucket to be screened. Defendant Deputy B. Lehman asked him to put his wallet in the bucket too, which Drandell says he had never been asked to do before.
     Drandell says he asked defendant Deputy A. Horne if there was a written policy on the change, to which Horne responded: “Have your administrator talk to my administrator,” Drandell says.
     When he walked back to get a bucket for his wallet, to comply with the order, the deputies ordered him to leave the building because he was “trespassing,” the complaint states.
     But Drandell had to defend a client from a criminal charge. When he told the deputies so, they grabbed him, threw him onto the metal rollers of the conveyor belt of the screening device, pulled his hands behind his back and “smashed” his face into the metal rollers, the complaint states.
     He submitted to the arrest and was seated in a chair in the foyer for all to see, then taken to a room where three sergeants refused to take off his handcuffs, he says.
     Drandell was taken to Fresno County Jail and booked on charges of trespass and resisting arrest.
     After being released from jail, a few hours later, Drandell returned to the courthouse, complied with security protocols, and entered the building without incident.
     Weisberg says the trespassing arrest was illegal.
     “In California, if you enter with permission, you cannot be arrested for trespassing. If they thought he was disturbing the peace, they should have arrested him for that. But they arrested him for trespass,” Weisberg said.
     The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement at the time that Drandell had refused to comply with security protocol, became angry and started a verbal disturbance.
     “When it was apparent he was not going to calm down, he was ordered to leave the building. Drandell refused to leave the courthouse whereupon deputies ordered him several more times to leave. When he continued to refuse, deputies attempted to escort him out of the building. Drandell resisted and a struggle ensued, resulting in his arrest,” the statement said.
     Then the sheriff’s office posted a mug shot of Drandell on the front of its webpage for 16 days, which Weisberg called an intimidation tactic.
     “They put him on the front page of their website with murderers and robbers. Trespass is not even a misdemeanor, it’s an infraction. They didn’t keep anyone else on the front page for that long, regardless of the heinous nature of the crime,” Weisberg said.
     “It’s clear, I think, that they quickly realized they had made a serious mistake with the arrest and they were trying to force Drandell not to bring any action by essentially destroying his reputation,” Weisberg said.
     Having his mug shot as the lead image on the sheriff’s website for so long hurt Drandell’s business and caused him to lose clients, Weisberg said. He thinks that was the ultimate intention of the sheriff’s office.
     The courthouse deputies had no real problem with Drandell “other than that he’s a criminal defense lawyer,” Weisberg said.
     “There are some officers who just think criminal defense lawyers are not good people. They are not considered officers of the court, like prosecutors. If it had been a prosecutor in the same position, they would not have arrested him, believe me,” Weisberg said.
     The Fresno County District Attorney’s office never filed charges against Drandell.
     “There are some things about this case that are very problematic,” Weisberg said. “They have a camera that films everyone going in the court, but they claim that somehow it wasn’t working that day. So they illegally arrest him for trespass, claim the camera wasn’t working, and then put him on the front of the website for 16 consecutive days. There’s something not right here.”
     The sheriff’s office and the county declined to comment.
     Weisberg is no stranger to this type of case. He is representing criminal defense attorney Richard Berman, who was arrested a few years ago after deputies at the same Fresno County courthouse found a child’s toy wrench in the purse of a client’s family member.
     Berman says sheriff’s Officer Deputy Tracy Sink told the family member to throw away the toy and got angry when Berman told her she could take it back to her car instead.
     Berman, then 66, says Sink grabbed him with force, injuring his back and neck, and placed him under arrest. Berman was never prosecuted for the incident.
     His civil rights case is scheduled for trial in January.

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