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Should woman in Lafayette cross hubbub face arrest?

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, November 30th, 2006 at 10:39 am in Contra Costa politics.

At two recent speaking engagements before Contra Costa Democratic clubs, folks repeatedly asked me why the Times had not written about the legal fate of the woman who kicked down a Lafayette Iraq war memorial sign.

By way of background, area peace activists obtained the permission of landowners Johnson and Louise Clark to install more than 300 white crosses and a sign detailing the Iraq war costs in human lives on a parcel along Deer Hill Road.

On Nov. 14, Jean Bonodio, in front of a news photographer, “kicked the wood sign until it fell in pieces to the ground,” according to the Contra Costa Times story.

Granted, Democrats at the gatherings where I spoke are highly sympathetic to the anti-war message.

But regardless of one’s political views of the war, Bonodio walked onto private property and took down a sign that did not belong to her. (Bonodio later told the Lafayette City Council and news reporters that she didn’t know it was private property.)

So, why hasn’t she been charged with a crime?

Lafayette Police Chief Mike Fisher has been asked the same question, too. He says he can’t do anything unless someone files a formal complaint against Bonodio.

“If a victim came forward and said, ‘We want a report,’ then we would write a report and submit it to the District Attorney’s Office,” Fisher said. “As of Nov. 30, I don’t have a report … Without a victim, it’s difficult to proceed on these matters.”

Yes, Bonodio may have trespassed and vandalized private property, and perhaps more importantly, she also trampled on her fellow citizens’ right to free speech.

But we should forgive her passionate, albeit excessive, impulse just as we forgive the millions of U.S. citizens who have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience throughout our history.

No permanent harm was done and if nothing else, her actions brought national publicity to this little hillside of crosses in Lafayette.

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  • Susan Prather

    If Ms. Bonodio had wandered on to ANY property and done some damage AND it was determined that she was homeless, she would be in the County Jail in a heartbeat. It’s the class system. Those with homes stay out, those without homes go in, quickly, crime or no crime.

  • Susan Prather

    If Ms. Bonodio had wandered on to ANY property and done some damage AND it was determined that she was homeless, she would be in the County Jail in a heartbeat. It’s the class system. Those with homes stay out, those without homes go in, quickly, crime or no crime.

  • John

    It has nothing to do with class and all to do with the law. The chief said it, no victim no crime. Do your research, it’s a misdemeanor not committed in an officers presence, therefore without the victim signing a citizens arrest form the police can’t do a thing. Even if they did see it and did arrest her, you still have no victim, so what is the District Attorney to do. They will drop the charges. That being said, although this is Lafayette, the police do have more important things to do than arrest a person for which they will not get a prosecution. Homeless or not.

  • John

    It has nothing to do with class and all to do with the law. The chief said it, no victim no crime. Do your research, it’s a misdemeanor not committed in an officers presence, therefore without the victim signing a citizens arrest form the police can’t do a thing. Even if they did see it and did arrest her, you still have no victim, so what is the District Attorney to do. They will drop the charges. That being said, although this is Lafayette, the police do have more important things to do than arrest a person for which they will not get a prosecution. Homeless or not.

  • Bob Hora

    Using your own first amendment rights to deny someone else theirs is a left-wing specialty practiced frequently at such bastions of free expression as UC Berkeley or Columbia University. Shouting down speakers, overrunning the podium, using large signs to block others with disagreeable messages, are all tactics employed by the budding anarchists of the left.

    So, although I sympathize with Sgt. Bonodio’s views, I was shocked and disturbed to see her, an apparent conservative, resorting to such left-wing excesses to make a point, however valid.

    Still, recognizing that the perpetrator was stuck in the military and therefore not overly bright, I hope that liberals would charitably part with some of the abundant tolerance they believe permeates their souls and let this deeply insignificant incident be.

    As for you, Ms. Vorderbrueggen, unlike most all of your colleagues at the Times, your writing continually frustrates attempts to guess your political affiliation. So, thanks, and please keep it up.

  • Bob Hora

    Using your own first amendment rights to deny someone else theirs is a left-wing specialty practiced frequently at such bastions of free expression as UC Berkeley or Columbia University. Shouting down speakers, overrunning the podium, using large signs to block others with disagreeable messages, are all tactics employed by the budding anarchists of the left.

    So, although I sympathize with Sgt. Bonodio’s views, I was shocked and disturbed to see her, an apparent conservative, resorting to such left-wing excesses to make a point, however valid.

    Still, recognizing that the perpetrator was stuck in the military and therefore not overly bright, I hope that liberals would charitably part with some of the abundant tolerance they believe permeates their souls and let this deeply insignificant incident be.

    As for you, Ms. Vorderbrueggen, unlike most all of your colleagues at the Times, your writing continually frustrates attempts to guess your political affiliation. So, thanks, and please keep it up.

  • jc

    what should we do give her twenty five to life? I would not be suprised if this land owner was paid for his property space to erect this rediculous antiwar memorial,jeese as if the overpasses werent enough,humm private property good strategy.

  • jc

    what should we do give her twenty five to life? I would not be suprised if this land owner was paid for his property space to erect this rediculous antiwar memorial,jeese as if the overpasses werent enough,humm private property good strategy.

  • eastbayguy

    Ridiculous. She is a member of the Marine Corps. She is (1) supposed to be held to a higher standard as a “defender of liberty” (2) she acted in the very means the consitution was written to defend against – a member of the arms forces supressing the freedom of speech. She’s supposed to already know this.

  • eastbayguy

    Ridiculous. She is a member of the Marine Corps. She is (1) supposed to be held to a higher standard as a “defender of liberty” (2) she acted in the very means the consitution was written to defend against – a member of the arms forces supressing the freedom of speech. She’s supposed to already know this.

  • WD

    Susan Prather has no clue about what she’s talking about.

    Hey Prather, stop blathering and offer some proof to your statement. NOT statistics, give names and examples of when that’s happened in this county. The fact remains, if there is no victim, no one goes to jail. Stop posting idiotic and INCORRECT statements just to support your own personal, and political, agenda.

  • WD

    Susan Prather has no clue about what she’s talking about.

    Hey Prather, stop blathering and offer some proof to your statement. NOT statistics, give names and examples of when that’s happened in this county. The fact remains, if there is no victim, no one goes to jail. Stop posting idiotic and INCORRECT statements just to support your own personal, and political, agenda.

  • Anonymous

    If Jean Bonodio smashed up a Starbucks, she would be arrested first, and the owner of the Starbucks contacted second. If she tore down the sign on a cemetary, which is, after all, a business, she would be arrested and the owner notified.

    The purpose of the police in America is to protect private property. Doesn’t Chief Fisher know that? I forgot, the rules are different if the destroyer is a wealthy white Republican and the property being destroyed tells a truth our government would rather we didn’t know.

  • Anonymous

    If Jean Bonodio smashed up a Starbucks, she would be arrested first, and the owner of the Starbucks contacted second. If she tore down the sign on a cemetary, which is, after all, a business, she would be arrested and the owner notified.

    The purpose of the police in America is to protect private property. Doesn’t Chief Fisher know that? I forgot, the rules are different if the destroyer is a wealthy white Republican and the property being destroyed tells a truth our government would rather we didn’t know.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    My sincerest apologies for taking so long to post these comments. My blogging software failed to notify me of your posts, which triggers me to click the little boxes and put them up on the site.
    (I’ll be sending an e-mail to somebody about that!)

    As one point of clarification from the posts, Ms. Bonodio publicly stated at the Lafayette council meeting that she is a former Marine. The original newspaper stories identified her as a Marine, and I’m unclear precisely how that happened.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    My sincerest apologies for taking so long to post these comments. My blogging software failed to notify me of your posts, which triggers me to click the little boxes and put them up on the site.
    (I’ll be sending an e-mail to somebody about that!)

    As one point of clarification from the posts, Ms. Bonodio publicly stated at the Lafayette council meeting that she is a former Marine. The original newspaper stories identified her as a Marine, and I’m unclear precisely how that happened.

  • WD

    “If Jean Bonodio smashed up a Starbucks, she would be arrested first, and the owner of the Starbucks contacted second.”

    First of all, if ANYONE “smashed up a Starbucks” it would either happen while the employees are there or after hours in which case they would, assuming the offender was caught, sign a citizen’s arrest and the offender would be cited for the misdemeanor offense or taken to jail for the felony (without a C/A depending on dollar loss).

    If it happens in the officer’s presence the offender would be cited and released (or taken to jail) for the misdemeanor or taken to jail for the felony.

    What no one seems to understand is that the act in question did not happen in front of a police officer AND the “victim” has not come forward to press charges. So, like it or not, NOTHING is going to happen. Get over it.

  • Susan Prather

    WD — people who are homeless are picked up and put in jail or, at the least, cited for “Trespassing.” It happens even when there is no vandalism involved. Trespassing is the charge business owners and others use to have Police remove homeless people from their property. Call any police department to check that out. It is a common charge. And WD – at least I have the courage of my convictions to sign my name.

  • Anonymous

    You have to feel sorry for Ms. Marine. She is brainwashed. Most of them are. They send my 13 year old daughter recruitment notices. When I confronted the brainwashed recruiter he called me a terrorist…go figure these boys and girls are sick!!!

  • Fred Marine

    Ms. Marine is brainwashed. These boys and girls are all nuts. They send my 13 year old recruitment notices and when I confronted them they called me a terrorist and said that the terrorists are all around us. They are only in Rummy’s head and it spreads throughout the armed forces. When I asked them to cease and desist they called me a threat.
    I guess we’re back in the UK again. Do you want to sail on the Nina or Pinta?

  • Anonymous

    Go f**k yourself and your approval

  • WD

    “people who are homeless are picked up and put in jail or, at the least, cited for “Trespassing.”

    Ms. Prather, please learn the law (and its proper application) before you type. Yes, you’re right, trespassing (PC 602) is a charge that property owners, or those with standing, use to remove unwanted people from their property or business. HOWEVER, those same individuals need to make a citizen’s arrest (AKA Private Persons Arrest) of the person that is trespassing.

    For example, a homeless person can not be simply taken to jail for being on one’s property as you alleged in your first posting. First, the owner or representative would need to command the person to leave and then that person would need to refuse to leave. Secondly, that owner or rep would need to place the offender under citizen’s arrest. A police officer while driving through your neighborhood can’t demand someone get off your driveway when you aren’t home. Unless that officer knows that particular individual has been warned or cited for trespassing on your property, he/she is powerless to make them leave.

    I’ll say it again. Unless there is a victim that is willing to press charges on a misdemeanor case, there is technically no crime.

    PLEASE stop making blanket statements that allege things that aren’t true. Because homeless persons are in jail doesn’t mean they were picked up just for being homeless. It’s not against the law to be homeless. They’re in jail because either the police saw them commit a crime in which the People of the State of California was the victim OR there was an actual victim that pressed charges if it was a misdemeanor. If it was a felony the police, with probable cause, can make an arrest whether or not the victim desires prosecution.