A Christmas Present

For eight months, Verdugo Hills High School student Jeremy Marks has been in a tough adult jail, facing years in prison for felony crimes he allegedly committed while videotaping a Los Angeles Unified School District police officer grappling with another student.

Now 18, Marks was waiting for a ride after school when he saw a school cop beating 15-year-old Erin Robles.  He pulled out his cellphone and videotaped the beating.  From LA Weekly :

Jeremy Marks was an onlooker who touched nobody. But prosecutors piled felony charges on him, including making a “criminal threat,” and claimed that he called out the gang name of the Piru Bloods. The unnamed 15-year-old, who actually did fight with the campus officer — who struck the minor with her baton and sprayed him with mace — was quickly released. But Marks has been held for eight months in the tough adult Pitchess Detention Center.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s prosecution team says that Marks’ alleged calling out “Kick her ass!” amounted to an “attempted lynching” — defined under the law as trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.”

But videos shot and posted to YouTube by other students with cell phone cameras show that Marks was one of the quieter kids watching the incident. (Click here to view videos.) Marks can be seen in the YouTube videos using his cell phone camera to tape Robles as she repeatedly pushed the uncooperative 15-year-old smoker against an MTA bus.

Maybe Marks is a gang member, though it’s unclear which gang uses videotaping of cops beating 15-year-olds as its chosen method of wreaking havoc on society.  Maybe he did say something, though equating it to the absurdly inflammatory “attempted lynching” makes the prosecution look silly and ridiculous.

He was held on $155,000 bail based on the allegation that he was a gang member, buttressed by the testimony of a “gang expert.”  Marks says he’s not.  Marks’ mother couldn’t put up the 10% required to bail him out, so he sat in Pitchess wondering what they serve kids for Christmas dinner.

Enter Google software engineer, Neil Fraser.

Fraser wrote: “I am in a position to post bail for Jeremy so that he may spend Christmas with his family.”

Fraser explains, “When I was growing up, I spent several years in Germany — a country still traumatized by the Holocaust. One of the things I learned was that bad things can only happen if good people do nothing. I consider myself to be a good person, so I had no choice but to act when I saw something like this happening.”

Fraser also sent the family $1,500 for Marks’ defense attorney costs, which was matched by Google.

Neil Fraser put up $50,000, making a deal with the bondsman that it will all be returned if Marks appears as required.  Despite a hiccup, a juvie hold that had been erroneously left in place, Marks’ should have been released by now.  As of this writing, there’s no information that he hasn’t.  Or that he has.  But he will, and a high school student imprisoned for videotaping a cop beating a 15-year-old will be home for Christmas.

In the meantime, Fraser has gone shopping to make sure there are presents under the Christmas tree for Marks’ homecoming. His mother says two gifts have already arrived.

There’s no Santa Claus.  Neil Fraser is a very real person, who gave a Christmas present to another very real person, Jeremy Marks.

H/T Radley Balko

6 thoughts on “A Christmas Present

  1. alice harris

    Until prosecutors and police face their owm “consequences for their actions,” there will be no justice.
    Thanks to Neil for giving me some hope that reasonable, kind people exist and will act on their kindness.

  2. John Marshall

    Judges are supposed to be the neutral arbiters between the mob and the accused.

    Judges are supposed to take every factor into consideration.

    Perhaps that has actually happened here, though it seems unlikely.

  3. Joseph

    This is one hell of a story on several counts.

    The put him in a cage for videotaping a police officer beating a child? And him a child at the time himself? 8 months?!?

    How can this happen in America without some news anchor counting the days he is in a cage each day?

    Look, I read your blog a lot and others that are similar — I know this stuff goes on. But how can it? I mean, after all, how can this shit go on?

  4. VanDyne

    I followed this story on PINAC, and was just as disgusted as Joseph. Unfortunaly, this is the face of the new America. People seriously wonder why wingnut candidates on both sides of the aisle have become popular? It is reactionary to the increasing number of official injustices.

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