Well do Head and Garcia deny they spoke with the group? Did they tell them they would be arrested? Did the activists leave with the understanding, as they claim, that they could continue what they were doing? It's hard to imagine meeting with police to inform them of your illegal activities, leaving the meeting to continue them, and then not be cited for years on end without local officials' at least tacit support.
a San Antonio police officer cited Day, a 73-year-old retired commercial real estate appraiser and co-founder of the nonprofit group Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition, along with two board members, on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia — a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Now police say they plan to refile the case this week with District Attorney Susan Reed as a more serious Class A misdemeanor, distribution of paraphernalia, which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Meanwhile, a legal team that includes high-profile criminal defense attorney Gerald Goldstein is assembling to represent the three in court.
"These are enormously decent, charitable people, and what's happening with them smacks of persecution," said Neel Lane, an attorney with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which is representing the coalition at no cost and has filed a brief with the state attorney general's office on the group's behalf.
Looming over it all is a larger legal question, one that doesn't directly involve Day or his group.
Legislation passed last year authorized local health officials to organize a pilot syringe exchange program in Bexar County. It would be the first legally sanctioned program in Texas.
The program is stalled since the district attorney declared her view that the legislation authorizing it is faulty. Both sides await an opinion from the attorney general's office.
Assistant Police Chief David Head said the legislation — if it survives the legal challenge — authorizes only Bexar County's health authority to run a syringe exchange program, not a privately run group like Day's.
"Their meetings with this chief (William McManus) and (former) Chief (Albert) Ortiz did not lead to an approval to begin operating," Head said.
Police Officer Oscar Flores said in his report that he spotted a 2003 Chevrolet van parked at South Hamilton Avenue and Vera Cruz Street just before 4 p.m. Jan. 5, "with several known prostitutes and drug addicts next to the vehicle."
Day, Flores wrote, showed him a typical syringe kit, and said he was "swapping syringes" with people on the street. He produced business cards of a sergeant working in the chief's office and Deputy Chief Ruben Garcia with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, "stating he was given permission" to exchange syringes.
Both Head and Garcia deny that permission was given.
But what makes the case more venal and petty was DA Susan Reed's insistence on ramping the charges up from a Class C misdemeanor - the citation the officer wrote - to a Class A misdemeanor that carries up to one year in the county jail and a stiff fine.
Reed did so IMO not for any public safety purpose (this 73 year old volunteer is no big threat to the public), but because Reed opposes a Legislatively approved needle exchange program. So she took this opportunity to maximally harass her political opponents. That's an invalid, politicized abuse of prosecutorial authority.
If you can think of a single public safety benefit to Bexar County from jacking up these charges, please tell me what it is. ("Sending a message" doesn't count - the non-profit would likely have ceased based solely on the Class C charge, since they were operating on the long-standing, empirically accurate assumption the program was tolerated.)
To me, this seems like an abuse of the Bexar DA's position, and an example where she's failing to live up to her oath to "seek justice," and instead seeking either publicity, to score political points, or both. Unless San Antonio has no more real crimes to investigate or prosecute, Reed needs to reduce or drop these charges and refocus her attention on locking up actually dangerous people.
Via South Texas Chisme and several readers via email (thanks, folks, keep them coming!)