ED FREY, Attorney at Law
4630 Soquel Drive, Suite 12
Soquel, Ca 95073
April 14, 2015
VIA HAND DELIVERY
Jimmy Panetta, Deputy District Attorney,
County of Monterey
230 Church Street
Salinas, Ca 93901
Dear Mr. Panetta,
I represent Jose Castañeda, a member of the Salinas City Council, in the criminal charges the Salinas police are bringing against him. The first hearing is set for April 16th at 8:15 a.m. in Superior Court. This case has several signs of abuse of police power; it is merely the latest in a series of illegitimate actions against him.
The charges are driving on a suspended license and no proof of insurance. Two senior police Commanders, David Crabill and Henry Gomez, were staked out at his home on Saturday March 28, 2015 (at an unknown cost to the Salinas taxpayers), and when Mr. Castañeda drove away in a friend’s car, they stopped him and issued a citation requiring him to appear in court. Mr. Castañeda had no knowledge that a speeding ticket from Kern County three years ago had not already been resolved; further, he had not received any notice from the DMV regarding the suspension. As you may know, this last fact provides him with a solid defense to the charge of driving on a suspended license. Further, the automobile was fully insured at the time of the stop.
Within moments of the stop, a tow truck arrived as part of this law enforcement operation, but the car’s owner appeared on the scene and showed proof of insurance, which forced the police to send the tow truck away. (Mr. Castañeda is also insured personally for all his driving activities, so he was actually doubly insured).
If this were standard operating procedure, the Salinas Police Department would have gone bankrupt years ago—there must be hundreds of such suspensions every year among the residents of Salinas alone. We intend to seek a formal pre-trial judicial dismissal of all charges before further public funds are wasted by holding a jury trial. This is an obvious case of selective law enforcement prohibited by the case of People v. Murguia, and a gross misuse of police and judicial resources.
April 14, 2015
As you may know, Mr. Castañeda is a long-time advocate for poor and oppressed people, which apparently causes discomfort in the higher quarters of the local establishment.
I contact you not only because you are a public prosecutor and your office will be in charge of his case, but also because you have publicly announced your intention to consider making a run for Congressmember Sam Farr’s seat when he retires in 2016. As you likely have seen in just the past few days and weeks, the issue of police abuse has moved to the top of the national agenda, with many civil rights leaders and others calling for federal legislation to require close monitoring and control of law enforcement activities in every police jurisdiction in this country.
As a potential candidate for Congress, you are in a position to demonstrate your commitment to equal justice for all by making an early public declaration supporting such legislation to finally put some teeth in the “police review board” process. The city of Salinas is already on the national radar for the recent spate of five police homicides involving minority victims; the people in this congressional district are looking for genuine leadership on this issue.
Secondly, one of Mr. Castañeda’s major concerns is methyl bromide poisoning of farmworkers, school students, and residents living near strawberry fields. You may know that in the mid 1990’s, Congressman Farr began undermining the beneficial effects of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 world-wide treaty ratified by the United States and all other countries. That treaty bans the use of methyl bromide, one of the most toxic substances known to humankind. In exchange for re-election funds from the corporate strawberry growers, Mr. Farr obtained an ongoing exemption from the treaty. The official rationale for the exemption was plain and simple: maximization of corporate profits.
I say that you “may know” of Mr. Farr’s actions because, owing to an ongoing blackout in the corporate media about his actions, hardly anyone in this congressional district is aware of his sponsorship of this exemption: not even environmental activists and lawyers were aware of his involvement until I told them about it recently.
Any competent farmer can make a decent profit growing strawberries in the rich soil of the Salinas Valley or the Pajaro Valley without using methyl bromide, but if the goal is maximizing quarterly profits and you’re not concerned with the human consequences, the current Congress offers special privileges here and in Florida.
A few years ago the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health conducted local field and statistical research on the human effects of methyl bromide. One of the findings is that, among pregnant women, the closer they live to the affected strawberry fields, the lower the birth weight of their babies. The implications for these babies and for everyone else
April 14, 2015
living, working, or attending school nearby are frightening, but in a dramatic demonstration of the power and values of the local elite, Mr. Castañeda and two of his Board of Education colleagues were harassed and punished in 2013 for having the temerity to try to protect their students from this toxic chemical. The voters in this district have a right to hear your views about methyl bromide and whether you would take all steps necessary in Congress to put an end to this abomination. You could even urge Mr. Farr to reverse his policy right now, before further damage is done to the people.
Finally, please transmit our thoughts concerning the criminal charges to District Attorney Dean Flippo with the modest proposal that he confer with the appropriate city officials to first, obtain a City Council resolution calling for dismissal of the current charges against Mr. Castañeda, and second, present a District Attorney’s motion to the court, in the interests of justice and avoiding the further waste of public funds, to dismiss the charges.
I look forward to your prompt response to these matters.