Friday, July 1, 2016
Superior Court Commissioner Cites Free Speech, Denies TRO in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner, raising First Amendment concerns, has denied a temporary restraining order against a man who allegedly ran along historic Olvera Street downtown raising his arms and yelling “Don’t Shoot.”
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office sought the order for the protection of Lisa Sarno, assistant manager of the El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority. She claimed that Jack Gerritsen, 80, made “statements…that cause me to have great fear for the safety of all employees of the El Pueblo, patrons and visitors and especially certain Security Guards and store owners” who have encountered Gerritsen in the past, including one who swore in connection with an earlier case that Gerritsen had threatened him with a knife.
But Commissioner Alan Friedenthal, citing Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) 395 U.S. 444, said “[t]he record is devoid of evidence that Gerritsen’s ‘speech’ is ‘directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.’ ”
That case involved statements made by a Ku Klux Klan leader at a rally. The defendant was convicted of “criminal syndicalism” under a statute enacted during the “Red Scare” of 1919.
The city will have the opportunity to seek an injunction against Gerritsen at a full hearing July 21.
Gerritsen has a long history of conduct that courts have recognized as annoying.
He was convicted in 2000 on state charges of interfering with police radio transmissions. He was arrested in 2005 on federal charges of “jamming” radio frequencies being used by the United States military, the United States Coast Guard, and other law enforcement and public safety agencies.
That case was prosecuted with the assistance of the Federal Communications Commission, which said it had received complaints concerning Gerritsen’s activities from ham radio operators and various agencies, including the military, the Coast Guard, local police departments and the American Red Cross.
Gerritsen was convicted after representing himself at a four-day trial before Judge R. Gary Klausner and sentenced to seven years in prison, after making apologies in court. A ham radio website reported that more than a dozen active radio operators attended the sentencing.
Bureau of Prisons records show that Gerritsen was released in February 2012.
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