I've been teasing it for months, but we're finally here: I'm going to tell you all about how the Hall County Georgia conviction machine screwed me out of a fair trial.
But first, I want you to remember that I'm getting the story a little out of order here. I was
falsely arrested kidnapped in August of 2014 and wasn't put up for a mock trial until January of 2016. That's right: Georgia's courts are so incompetent and inefficient that it takes well over a year to give a minister a trial concerning the issue of him speaking one single sentence in his own church. I had a lot of wild adventures in those 18 months, most of which involve my family sinking into soul-crushing poverty while I was unable to find work due to fraudulent criminal accusations affixed to my background-check, but we'll get to that another day.
So, without further ado, on to the circus.
When I went back to Hall County for trial, I made three major mistakes:
Those are pretty poor assumptions in the Democratic People's Republic of American Georgia
Obviously, there's too much to cover in that list for a single blog post, so today I want to focus on just one aspect of the case: the lies of Daniel San Miguel. Daniel San Miguel is the grossly overweight and horrifiyingly (criminally?) incompetent individual pictured to the right, and despite his humiliating performance at the Supreme Court he still works as Assistant Solicitor in Hall County. If he ever comes up in the Freeman house, we call him "Baby-face".
Just so we're clear, Daniel San Miguel's lies started before the trial even began. I had been accused of putting Jason Berry in reasonable fear for his life by screaming, shouting, and / or making obscene gestures. We can prove definitively that San Miguel knew that wasn't true. Nevermind the fact that Jason Berry has never claimed that he was afraid for his life, nevermind that there was never any evidence that such a fear could have ever possibly been reasonable. We know for a fact that the Hall County Solicitor's Office lied in making the accusation because they all know without any doubt that the middle finger (which I had been accused of giving) does not even remotely meet the legal definition of an obscene gesture. In fact, Daniel San Miguel ultimately admitted to knowing that a middle finger is not legally obscene before the SCOGA (at 17:15-18:26), agreeing instead that it is obscene in the sense that "I don't like it." So, for the record, Daniel San Miguel has admitted that he intentionally brought a false accusation, and that makes him, quite literally, a big fat liar.
And the lies continued from the moment the trial started to the moment it ended. Here was San Miguel's opening sentence:
And that pretty much gives you an idea of what this trial was about. It had nothing to do with facts or the law or common sense; it had everything to do with fear-mongering nonsense. Baby-face knew he couldn't rightly convict a minister for standing up and giving a controversial opinion in his own church, so instead, he was going to convict me of being a boogey-man in the brave new world of everyone-must-be-dangerous. Because, let's face it, in the "post-9/11 world" we're all supposed to be afraid of all of our neighbors (who, incidentally, did not fly planes into buildings or go on school-shooting rampages).
And let's note that Baby-face San Miguel's ploy was a big fat lie. "You can never be too safe"? Seriously? Listen, if you wear a floatation device when you go to sleep at night just in case the house floods, you're being too safe. If you skip work for weeks on end because there might be a rabid racoon somewhere out-of-doors, you're being too safe. Likewise, if you start arresting ministers who disagree with you because they might become mass-murderers at some point in the future, you're being too safe.
Incidentally, I don't think there's ever been a case in which a Christian minister shot someone with whom he attended church. It's definitively unreasonable to expect that something which has never happened before is likely to happen (particularly when there's no evidence that it could).
And make no mistake, shooting people (which has no relevance to the facts of the case or the accusation) was a common theme in the trial. In fact, despite the fact that no one ever accused me of having a gun in church, San Miguel literally compared me to the Columbine shooters in his opening statement:
And if that piece of absurdity isn't enough to convince you that this wasn't a fair trial, I don't know that anything will convince you. The Columbine shooting resulted in 13 deaths and 21 injuries. It involved nearly a hundred planted explosive devices and guys armed to the teeth with rifles, shotguns, and knives. This case is about me standing up and saying the rough equivalent of "Public schools suck."
Ironically, the Columbine shooting (which, occurred in a public school) is an exellent support for the very position I had been advocating - that public schools are dangerous for teenagers. But set aside the fact that I was (and obviously always am) right, this court had some convicting to do.
And also, for your information, Jason Berry did not compare me to the Columbine shooters from the witness stand as Baby-face predicted. As you may recall, he said this:
And this madness went on and on, despite the fact that I had not, on that day or at any time ever in my life, ever brought a gun or any other weapon to any church ever. And, of course, I found it all to be particularly ironic because at the time of the incident in question and right up to this very day, it is legal to carry a gun in church in Georgia. If I had been caught wandering the halls with a holstered gun, it would have been no crime.
But this is the kind of nonsense that constitutes a trial with Daniel San Miguel, and it went on right up to the end. For example, in his closing arguments, Daniel San Miguel said this:
Do I even need to point out the insanity here? San Miguel put words into Jason Berry's mouth, and then admitted that Jason Berry never said those things in the same breath. Jason Berry in fact said this:
Perhaps the thing that is most frustrating about Daniel San Miguel's dishonesty though was the way that he suggested to the jury that my wife and I must have been lying. After all, as the defendant, I had a motivation to be dishonest, didn't I?
But listen, I'm not just here to rehash my years-old legal battle. I want to use this to make an important point for you: everyone in a courtroom has a motivation to lie. Often, people presume that a person accused of a crime will be motivated to lie to get himself off the hook - and no doubt, that motivation does exist - but my case demonstrates that defendants aren't the only ones who can be dishonest. We've got evidence right here that Daniel San Miguel, the prosecutor, knew full-well that his accusations were false and that he wildly stretched the truth to get a conviction. I've shown you before that Jason Berry - the only genuine witness to testify against me - couldn't keep his story straight. Clearly, there's nothing to restrict lying to any one side.
The real truth is that prosecutors want convictions. If they're elected, convictions (legitimate or not) make them look like they're "tough on crime." Even if they aren't elected, winning cases is how they advance their careers, and in some locations, prosecutors even get bonuses for every conviction they wring out of a person.
The police also have a huge motivation to lie. Sometimes they make a stupid arrest, either out of pure malice or out of ignorance of the law. In such a case, they know that if they don't get the person convicted, they could face lawsuits, or (depending on the circumstances) even criminal charges. Once an accusation has been made, a cop has a motivation to lie about it.
Prosecution witnesses also have motivations to lie. In my case, it seems that Jason Berry said whatever he thought would cause him the least trouble in the moment. When a police officer was pressing him with information that made me look bad, he claimed I was bad. When my wife called him teary-eyed, he claimed that he had nothing to do with it all and that he wanted to help. When he was dragged into court and he might have faced legal repercussions himself, he told a story that was much more bland. But witnesses could also harbor any kind of secret malice against a person and might lie in court to hurt that person.
Even the judge can have a motivation to lie (or to sway the outcome of the court in a certain direction). Particularly, judges are prone to side with prosecutors. Long after my defense attorney and I have been gone from the scene, the judge still works, day in and day out, with the same prosecutors and police officers. He comes to trust them, to regard them as friends, and at the very least knows that he shouldn't press his coworkers and make their lives miserable.
And at the end of the day, judge, prosecutor, and policeman all have a financial motivation to lie whether they acknowledge it or not. They're all paid by the state, and when you're found guilty and made to pay a fine, that money goes into the state coffers. Who loses money when there's a lawsuit brought by a person who was wrongly convicted? Well, that would also be the state. So even if these characters don't have a direct connection to the money flowing around the trial, they're all still working on the same team, and that team doesn't have a motivation to bring impartial justice.
As for Daniel San Miguel, I can't say why he chose to be a big fat liar, but I can say that he is a big fat liar, and that he eventually walked into the Supreme Court and admitted it.
So, can you expect to get a fair trial in Georgia? Well, from where I sit, it looks to me like a prosecutor can invent a charge out of whole cloth, make up wild stories with no relevance to anything you've ever done, subtly tell the jury you're a liar, and falsely convict you of a crime you didn't commit. It happened to me, and if things don't change, there's no reason to believe it won't happen to you.