After one week in jail, public outcry over an obviously malicious prosecution, reinforced by a straight-forward Internet campaign, forced the District Attorney's office to reduce an unjust six month sentence to time served. The full story, plus the original Internet campaign web page, may be found below.
. . . . . . . . . . . Steamboat Pilot photo
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
This is David and Giles... This email is the breaking news! At 3:30pm this evening we were informed of our release from jail. We were released 3 hours later and now for the first time I am viewing your website!
First and most important, thank you so much! The outpouring of support is amazing. If you get this email tonight, you can update the site, and also in the morning a news report will be in the steamboat pilot with our release story.Again, thank you so much. I will be in touch tomorrow with more thanks. Now, since I just got out less than an hour ago, it is time to celebrate a little.
Give a hip hip horrah for the truth being out and freedom for us, the LITTLE guy. ITs good news for dumpster divers everywhere. I am glad that the one person who didn't see the reality of this situation finally gave in or began to see what commotion he was causing.
Thanks, David! Thanks, Giles!
I'm celebrating with a glass of wine. Look forward to hearing from you again, soon.
And thanks to the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who made a difference. The credit goes to each and every one of you.
This incident rates a front page story in The Denver Post.
. . . David, Giles, fresh from jail, Denver Post photo (retouched)
Chat with David Siller and Giles Charle
This Steamboat Pilot chat with David Siller and Giles Charle occurred at 10 a.m. [Colorado/Rocky Mountain time] on Thursday, September 7, 2006.
Giles Charle and David Siller have been released after serving seven days out of a six month sentence. Total time served: ten days, plus most of the summer shot.
In this letter, the Assistant District Attorney most responsible for their incarceration cites "what the public believes" as one justification for their release. He admits no fault, and re-asserts a questionable burglary accusation, even as he bows to public pressure.
The most likely truth: the initial police reports were wrong, but were never corrected, and the District Attorney's office just cannot come to grips with their own short-comings. But faced with considerable local, national, and even international criticism, the D.A.'s office eventually realized that their political troubles were growing, not diminishing. The only way to get out from under the constant barrage was to change course, to let the prisoners go.
The sheer viciousness of a six month sentence for dumpster diving only hints at the depravity of the Routt County District Attorney's office in charging the two young men for this offence. The Assistant D.A. asked the judge to fine the two a "guest" fee for the cost of their stay in jail, an amount equal to $42 per day. If they'd served a full sentence, their additional "guest" fine would have amounted to more than $7,500 for each of them. Fortunately, the judge disallowed the assessment.
But throughout this effort, i've encountered numerous indications that the harsh treatment of Giles and David was not an isolated case in Steamboat Springs.
There is also a behind the scenes story that i have not addressed on this webpage. In their emails, other elected officials have acknowledged a problem, and have privately promised a fix. I will not speculate on the nature of that fix, but the words of Steamboat Springs citizens, quoted here and at the many Steamboat Pilot links below, offer some clues.
Meanwhile, the District Attorney has promised to create a citizens’ review committee to look at how her office handles various cases. If the citizens of Steamboat Springs want justice for all, they should pay close attention to who is appointed to that panel.
Days after being rocked back on their heels by a "maelstrom" of "web and media" protest, forced to let Giles and David go free, the D.A.'s office in Routt County has found a way to spin the story to national media, and thereby limit political damage. They've now put the responsibility for prosecuting the case, and now for ending it, entirely upon the produce store's owners, but in a way that isn't as likely to create a backlash compared to their earlier attacks. They've managed to get a "puff piece," a newspaper article of unwarranted deference, picked up by the Associated Press (which syndicates news all across the nation,) that doesn't even hint at worldwide disgust with the draconian measures they were forced to forego. The article declares that "one of the Sweet Pea Produce owners originally estimated the items taken by the two were worth $15 retail. [Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James] said another co-owner has since come forward to say the items were worthless."
Thus, it appears that the two have been allowed to go free over what amounts to a simple accounting error— as if the entire dramatic episode can be dismissed due to such an insignificant discrepancy. This is an interesting study in how the mainstream media is frequently able to create its own reality in support of the status quo. But you and i, and anyone who took part or who browses the links from this page, knows the real truth.
So how did a D.A.'s office that seemed so incompetent just days before suddenly come up with the expertise to spin a story so effectively? I don't know, but i find myself wondering whether they ultimately relented due to ski industry pressure, and were obliged to accept P.R. assistance from the same folks, who undoubtedly have that capability in abundance.
An important question for readers of this webpage must be, why did all of this happen? How does a District Attorney's office come to believe it is serving the public through seeking a very substantial punishment for a relatively trivial offense? In "The Rainbow Effect," a quite serious article published at an occultist website, James Donahue, a veteran reporter from The Times Herald has written insightfully about the incident in Routt County.
Steamboat Springs "treated these men like bums. Actually they are far from that. Charle is a social worker and Siller a volunteer for Americorps and a yoga instructor. Both men are college graduates with plans to attend graduate school." .[.richard observes— "bums" don't deserve to be treated that way either....]
Donahue describes from his own experience a paranoia that may be typical in nearby communities before the Rainbow Family arrives for their annual gathering:
Weeks before they arrived, the local authorities were holding town meetings, planning how to deal with what they believed was a “crisis situation.” Extra police were brought in. Stores were heavily guarded. Mothers kept their children home and behind closed doors.
There were press briefings with the police as the big event drew near. We were told what to look for, how the Rainbow are regarded as thieves, vagabonds and people to be leery of. Store owners were warned to watch closely for shop lifters and general misbehavior. By the time the big day arrived, the townspeople had generated a lot of personal fear within their hearts. They watched from between drawn curtains as the classic Volkswagen vans and bright painted buses and campers rumbled through town on their way into the hills beyond.
But Donahue discovered the real Rainbow Family:
There were some very well-to-do and intelligent people at that gathering. I met writers, musicians, business people and a lot of eager, bright-eyed youth with no malice at heart. They were contemporary rebels against the established world and were gathering just to have a good time... There were thousands of people, a lot of middle aged and older folk from the original hippie era participating. And what surprised me is that there were no incidents of violence.
Donahue discovered some counter-culture practices at Rainbow Gatherings, but found them ultimately inoffensive. He concludes that "no town should fear the Rainbow."
Recap of the Internet campaign: the initial story of the Steamboat Springs dumpster divers broke on the Drudge Report. That significant publicity made everything else possible. Colorado Freedom was launched as a Yahoo! group at 3:44 PM Sunday afternoon, and this page and the petition were created shortly after that. David and Giles were released less than 72 hours later.
The idea to turn the general outrage into a systematic, organized protest with a single, focused demand— their release— was put out initially on nearly fifty email lists, from which the messages were forwarded to others, who forwarded again. For example, i have received an email mentioning forwards from a listserv in the Czech Republic. The original story has appeared in the Portuguese language, and on a Russian website. Individuals from a number of foreign countries have signed the petition.
Giles' mother, Shaune McCarthy-Charlé, was very active in the campaign— she and i were sequentially interviewed on Jay Marvin's Air America program, for example, and she has been quoted by numerous news services.
It wasn't this webpage, nor the emails that i initiated, that ultimately freed David and Giles. It was the many concerned individuals who expressed their views, in comments at the Steamboat Pilot, in phone calls, emails, and snail mail to local officials, and elsewhere, all of which actually started before this webpage was created.—richard myers, Colorado Freedom
A post selected from the Steamboat Pilot comments:
September 6, 2006 at 9:59 p.m.
Like most people in Steamboat, I am delighted that Mr. Charle and Mr. Siller have been released. Over the last fews days, people from all sides of the political spectrum in our town have expressed their dismay and outrage over the unjust manner in which these gentlemen have been dealt with.
On behalf of our town, I also thank Mr. Charle and Mr. Siller for their remarkable tolerance, and their willingness to visit us again, despite everything that has happened to them. Like them, I would urge people not to boycott Steamboat, because, trust me, the only losers in that would be the "little guys".
Now, to business -- does anyone out there know what the actual process is to get a recall election on the ballot? Please -- no crazy rants -- just simple and clear instructions on how a group of concerned citizens goes about such a process. Do we circulate petitions? Is there a specific format for the petition? How many signatures are needed? Does the recall election have to coincide with the standard November ballot? Thanks for any advice.
A Mom From Steamboat
A comment from richard:
Please, everyone, support Sweet Pea Produce. It has been a very tough time for them, and after some initial difficulty, they've been most courageous and honorable.
Athens, Ohio considers its celebrated grandson.
Special feature: what is truth?
Below is the original Colorado Freedom page, pretty much as it existed upon David and Giles' release.
DUMPSTER DIVERS SENTENCED TO JAIL
It is now apparent that something is rotten in Steamboat.
And it isn't spoiled fruit in a dumpster.
There was a surprise meeting in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday. Some new information came out. According to the Steamboat Pilot, the Steamboat Springs District Attorney insists that there was breaking and entering of the Sweet Pea Produce building.
The initial police report was made after dark. But the store owners inspected the building during daylight and determined that the men had not entered the store.
So-o-o-o— raiding a trash can isn't really what they were prosecuted for.
But what they were charged with, they apparently didn't do.
The accused were told by their attorney that they couldn't get justice at a trial (either.) So they accepted a devil's bargain — six months in jail to avoid felony convictions, which would be based upon erroneous initial police reports. (And i'm certain that accusing someone of a much more significant crime based upon an erroneous report is a wonderful way to intimidate folks into a plea bargain...)
It now seems that the initial reports of burglary can be attributed to a frantic co-owner who simply over-reacted. Yet the D.A.'s office and a captain of police still decline to admit that the initial report was in error. Hey, its on the books, that makes it gospel, don't confuse us with the facts.
The Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted the case has said, if he thought the men simply took food from a trash can, he would have handled the case differently. It now appears, the men took food from a trash can. (They've admitted they trespassed to do this.)
Yet even with strong indications that the initial police report was in error, the D.A.'s office stubbornly defends putting two men behind bars for burglary, a crime they never committed. Although a store owner called with the intention of setting the record straight, he apparently never quite got his point across to an Assistant D.A. intent upon "sending a message" to the community, and possibly, "making examples."
Where is justice, when the Assistant D.A. and a main witness passionately disagree over what is now the most fundamental question in the case: whether the two men ever entered the building?
If the two men didn't do what they were prosecuted for, how can the verdict stand?
And most important— how soon can these young men be allowed to go free?
Here is the Steamboat Pilot article:
Here is a partial transcript of Tuesday's meeting:
Here is my favorite out-of-context excerpt from the meeting's transcript:[Shop owner Jonathon] Hieb: So among all this other stuff that you’re doing, and the mistakes that you’ve already made, now you’re calling me a liar? Is that what you’re doing?
[Assistant District Attorney Kerry] St. James: I’m saying we disagree as to that conversation.
Hieb: You know, right now, I think, this is just my two cents. It’s probably worth nothing. But right now, what you need to do, as a man, is take responsibility for your actions.
St. James: I’m sorry. I can’t do that.
Well, Routt County District Attorney Bonnie Roesink deserves an out-of-context excerpt too. In her words, from the same transcript:We do not have to talk to the victim in this case. We can handle this case any way we want to handle it.
The case now comes down to a question of credibility, with questionable circumstances all around:
- The D.A.'s office was providing no comment over the first few days of this media storm. Now the D.A.'s office blames the local newspaper for not knowing what the D.A.'s office declined to tell them.
- The D.A.'s office also blames the shop owners for changing their story.
- The shop owners mis-understood the process, and the Assistant District Attorney apparently already had what he wanted, so he wasn't too keen on helping them set the record straight.
- When they advised their clients to plead guilty, the defense either knew the deck was stacked and their clients couldn't get a fair trial, or failed to appreciate that prosecution's case was on the verge of disintegrating.
Here's a new article from September 6 that offers a decent summary:
Steamboat Springs newspaper the Steamboat Pilot editorializes:
Roesink and St. James should amend the plea to a more appropriate and lesser sentence.
Reversing a plea agreement is not a step we recommend lightly. But in this case, it seems the most practical and sensible way to ensure justice is met.
Bill Johnson weighs in from the Rocky:
[.And, Bill Johnson wraps up the story..]
Giles Charle of Somersworth New Hampshire and David Siller of Wayne Pennsylvania needed food, but most of the stores in Steamboat Springs, Colorado were closed. They dumpster-dived and recovered some discarded fruits and vegetables. For their trouble they were sentenced to six months(!) in jail.
This web page is a resource to fight for freedom for these two young men. Hunger is not a crime.
Don E Wirtshafter provided the following information in http://groups.google.com/group/alt.gathering.rainbow:Here are some suggestions as to whom to put the pressure on.
Local residents and people with positive attitudes are invited to call the District Attorney's office. People with bad attitudes are discouraged from calling this office:
District Attorney Bonnie Smith Roesink
136 6th Street, Box 770129
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477-0129
Phone: 970.879.1146 Fax: 970.879.6276Protest to:
ROUTT COUNTY COMMISSIONERS:
Daniel R. Ellison: email@example.com
Doug B. Monger, Chairman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy J. Stahoviak: email@example.com
136 6th Street, Box 773598
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477-3598
Phone: 970.879.0108 Fax: 970.879.3992
BCC@co.routt.co.usRiley Polumbus, Communications Director
Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association
1255 S. Lincoln Ave, PO Box 774408
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477 (P)970.879.0880 (F)970.879.2543
Please also sign the "Hunger Is Not A Crime" petition:
Send a comment to the city council:
You may wish to create an account with the Steamboat Springs online newspaper, and write a letter to the editor:
(Note that the email for Riley Polumbus appears above, and also at this link.)
The Steamboat Pilot has interviewed me and has mentioned this web page. My comments in the article lost some context due to editing— the writer was right at deadline when i turned in the comments, so i'm not too surprised. Here is my actual statement.
Here are the latest comments at the Steamboat Pilot.
It is a long slog through the Monday comments, but there are some juicy (unconfirmed) nuggets to be found, apparently from Routt County locals. There is talk of bitter political rivalries, past prosecutorial irregularities, and a suggestion of a petition for a recall election. The Sunday comments are also still going strong, as are the Saturday comments.
The Steamboat Pilot website has been receiving so many hits from this story that it recently crashed.
The assistant district attorney responsible for this mess is named Kerry St. James. Mr. St. James has had an interesting career. Who knows what to make of this? [ And what curious timing, if you've followed that link then you'll want to check out this one too. Is someone worried that reporters might start digging? ]
There are numerous other accusations against Mr. St. James, again, apparently made by Steamboat Springs locals. We have no way of verifying, so we won't repeat them here. But you may browse through all the comments links to find them.
STORY GOES INTERNATIONAL
Signers of the petition identify their locations: Mexico, Israel, Canada, Turkey, Sweden, Australia, the UK, and Portugal. Messages of solidarity are being forwarded from a listserv in the Czech Republic.
Here is the story in Russian:
I cannot read Russian, but there's a photo of a dumpster, and i'm told the headline reads "Americans jailed for half a year for stealing from the garbage". (Thanks to Ivan for the headlines translation)
Well, OK, just for fun, here is a bizarre translation of the Russian webpage from Babblefish.
A web page declares, in Portuguese (rough translation):
Condemned for "stealing" food out of the garbage
In the land of "freedom" and "justice", two men have been condemned for six months of arrest/jail and must pay a compensatory fine of 15 dollars for having "stolen" fruits and vegetables from a garbage caixote at a frutaria in the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Capitalism continues without solving the problem of world-wide hunger. A 1994 study disclosed that in the U.S.A. they waste 43.000.000.000 kilos of food per year. To the sentence against the young of Colorado, add one of life imprisonment for a Californian who stole a piece of pizza.
The bankers and entrepreneurs who steal the wealth from the working class have nothing to fear. Capitalism protects them.
THE STORE OWNERS ARE NOT TO BLAME
The owners of Sweet Pea, the store that discarded the fruits and vegetables, have disavowed the harsh punishment meted out by the assistant district attorney and the judge. If this action ultimately results in any sort of personal or organized boycott of the Steamboat Springs area, it should not focus on that establishment. If anything, the shop owners were guilty only of initially reacting emotionally to a police call, and then an inability to communicate to an Assistant District Attorney information that he did not want to hear.
Here is a copy of a comment made by a co-owner of the Sweet Pea (self-identified on the Steamboat Pilot web site,) provided here unedited and in its entirety:
Thank you for all your comments concerning this sad situation. I'm speaking for myself, Jonathon Hieb and on the behalf of Katherine Zambrana,owners of Sweet Pea Produce.
Sorry it has taken so long to reply, as we were working at our store and doing our local farmers market today.
Sweet Pea does not agree with the offer made to these young men, by DA St. James.
I personally spoke with St. James concerning this matter a month ago. I told St. James that I was concerned with what he had offered these men, and before I could even explain my position St James rudely interrupted me and specifically told me he wasn't going to have these young men and the rainbow people come into our nice town and take it over. And he added, that he was going to make an example out of them. I was so furious I soon ended the conversation, in fear I would say something that I would later regret.
Now I'm going to say what I should have said to St. James that day.
In my opinion DA St James purposely put these young men in a situation were they had to choose jail time instead of excepting a felony that would have ill effects on them for the rest of their lives. These young men are clearly not criminals and are ambitious in their endeavors as social workers and as teachers, a felony on thier record would surely crush these dreams.Basically, St. James made them choose between the lesser of two evils.This matter could have been handled with an apology, an at most a small amount of community service.Instead, St. James has made Steamboat Springs look like a place that is absent of compassion and most of all common sense.I think it's time Mr. St. James questioned his ability to serve the people of routt co.
I will be glad to talk to anyone concerning this matter but please no more threatening phone calls to Sweet Pea, as some of my employees are truly scared. Please call me personnally [phone number removed]
Sincerely, Jonathon Hieb
P.S. We do recycle our overipe produce, we give it to local pig farmers. And thanks for the compost idea.
(posted by) jonathon
September 2, 2006 at 10:14 p.m.
There is more.
My name is richard myers. I created this web page, launched the Colorado Freedom group on Yahoo, and started the "Hunger Is Not A Crime" petition. I expect this is just the beginning; some news stories build, to eventually become movements.
Why is this situation important to me? Because i believe in individual freedom and the right of all people to dignity and respect. Our economic system exploits working people, and punishes anyone who is different. We can change it only if we stand together and fight.
I also happen to be a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Wobblies are no strangers to the local jail. Throughout our more than a century of fighting for the rights of working people, our members have frequently been forced to engage in free speech fights which landed union members in "the can." Sometimes Wobblies used the strategy of intentionally filling the jails to win the right to speak freely.
But mostly, i'm just outraged that a society so intent upon worshipping the dollar criminalizes the most sensible behaviors— such as seeking to make full use of the precious bounty of our world. The real crime occurred in the courtroom.
To send an email to me:My website: