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8.03.2005

Bullied? Fresno cops will arrest you (and Maribel Cuevas)

Okay, there are bigger issues on our little blue marble of a globe for us to worry about, but sometimes something comes along that's so blatantly stupid that you just have to comment.

The Maribel Cuevas story fits the bill perfectly. The poor girl goes on trial today and faces four years of incarceration.

This story is floating around through various news sources, but the best and most accurate version so far is the one at SFGate.com.

Here are the facts. Maribel Cuevas, an 11-year-old girl, was playing in a relative's yard with her six-year-old brother, his six-year-old friend, and that friend's four- and three-year old sisters. Eight-year-old Elijah Vang and SIX OTHER BOYS ride up on bikes. They throw water balloons AND ROCKS at Maribel and the small children around here. The water balloons hit Maribel in the head; the rocks "merely" hit her in the shoulder and side.

Maribel picks up ONE OF THE VERY ROCKS THROWN AT HER to scare off the kids that are threatening her and the tiny children around her. Maybe she intentionally threw it; maybe it's true that she just pretended to throw it to scare the bullies off and it slipped from her hand. Regardless, it left her hand and hit Elijah Vang in the head. It gave him a cut that was about an inch-and-a-half and required stitches.

So far, not good. Bad situation, maybe we need some counseling and mediation, but it sounds like typical bullying that should be reigned in... and, given the result, maybe punk boys will learn a lesson and see that they shouldn't pick on toddlers and kindergarteners because some responsible kid like Maribel will step in and make them stop.

Not in Fresno. Sorry.

Because in Fresno, they'll send out cops who'll pin your girl to the ground, cuff her, take her to juvenile hall with the promise she'll be there "a few hours", and HOLD HER FOR FIVE DAYS!

Now, attentive readers will say, "Wait a minute, Eric. Cops themselves don't hold kids in juvenile hall. They have no control over that." Half-true, dear reader. The problem here, as quoted in this excellently-written article, starts when reality- and fact-challenged cops wrote up the report on 11-year-old Maribel:

"The police report listed Maribel's age as 13 and said she threw a 5-pound rock at Elijah, whose age was misstated as 6. He is 8. The rock caused a 4- inch gash, the report said. A report from the hospital where Elijah was taken said the cut was 1 1/2 inches. It required several stitches. After earlier press reports, the police said the rock was actually 2 1/2 pounds. Maribel says the rock that left her hand was much smaller."

Even if you discount the claim that the cops picked up the wrong rock as "evidence"... but, wait! Why should we discount that claim when these morons couldn't get anyone's age right and can't tell the difference between four inches and an inch and a half?

(I have my own personal theory that these gentlemen are used to overestimating the length of things that are measured in inches, which would explain why a mere inch-and-a-half looked like a more impressive four inches, but that's just speculation on my part.)

When dispatching cops to a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, do you think Fresno dispatches Spanish-speaking cops? Nah. But they do read 11-year-olds their Miranda rights when they arrest them. Of course,
KTLA points out that they can't even get that right:

"I read Cuevas her Miranda warnings and asked if she understood, she replied with 'no,' " Officer Christopher Green wrote in his report. "I read them line by line and explained until she understood each line."

If this weren't happening to real kids (and warping the heck out of them; read the stories for the full picture of Maribel's treatment, and I haven't even talked about putting her under house-arrest with a "curfew" so stringent that she couldn't get home from school without violating it...) it would be hysterically funny. Remember the old SNL Weekend Update routine with Garrett Morris in the corner of the screen, shouting the news for the "hearing impaired"? Apparently, Fresno has picked up that model of "translation" for its cops. Don't understand your Miranda rights -- because your English isn't great and, more importantly, YOU'RE ONLY 11?!? We'll just read them slower. (To be fair, a police chief says the officers later requested an interpreter. Brilliant move.)

Now, if Fresno wants to become a jack-booted police state, they can. It's not like we have rights in this country that are governed by a "federal government" and supersede... oh, wait. Never mind.

Anyway, here's my question: If Fresno wants to be "tough on crime", why wasn't Elijah Vang arrested? Assault is assault. He freely admits that he "started the fight" and pelted Maribel with rocks and water balloons. Sounds like there's an "intent to harm" there. No word on whether the house behind her was unlocked; if not, she was effectively trapped in a fenced yard by a gang of boys on bikes who she (and the tiny kids she was with) had no hope of out-running. She claims she was just defending herself and the small children around here -- a claim easy to support considering the unprovoked attack. Sounds like self-defense to me. Does "assault" in Fresno really depend soley on how lucky or unlucky your aim happens to be, regardless of circumstances?

Apparently so. Or, maybe they just don't care.

Finally, before someone derails my senate career by saying I'm comparing Fresno's law enforcement practices to the Nazi Holocaust, let me clarify that I mean no such thing. Instead, I'm comparing their law enforcement practices to pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany, in which a police state showed open indifference and derision toward a minority community. I'm sure we're a long way from a Fresno "cristal noche", but I truly believe you can judge the health of a society by how its institutional systems (particularly law enforcement, which has a unique license to be "legitimately" abusive) treat "the least" members of that society.

Fresno has let Maribel Cuevas down. And, with behavior that's not only abusive and stupid but just plain embarrassing, it let down the community it claims to protect.

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