SJPD Accused of Unlawfully Jailing Local Author, Activist

After assaulting bystanders and trained legal observers with rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and tear gas during recent protests, San Jose now faces blowback for arresting a well-known community activist on obscure, questionably applied charges.

It happened on June 5—a week after the city’s first protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Night had fallen. Most of the several thousands of people who participated in an NAACP-led “die-in” to memorialize the black lives lost to police violence had already left.

Dr. Sharat Lin—a 72-year-old author, speaker and longtime volunteer at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center—stayed behind with what looked like about 2,000 other protesters. The Friday evening demonstration was one of the most peaceful and relatively police-free since the protests kicked off in San Jose.

Heartened by the turnout, Lin decided to celebrate with an impromptu light show on the wall that stands just to the right of the City Hall rotunda. He pulled out a laser pointer and directed it to the concrete surface, where the red beam danced in circular motions.

About a minute later, cops disguised as protesters emerged to tell him not to point the light at the sky, where a police helicopter circled overhead. Lin says he complied, returning the laser pointer to a collection of various-sized flashlights socked away in his backpack. About 20 minutes passed before SJPD came back—this time in uniform.

From a cluster of cop cars flashing their red-and-blue lights, a row of about 10 officers who parted the crowd as they made a beeline to Lin.

“I thought they were trying to clear the plaza,” Lin recounts in an interview. “So, I thought ‘OK, looks like it’s time to leave,’ and started getting ready to go.”

Police had other plans.

Lin says one officer grabbed his arm, ordered him to let go of his backpack and declared him under arrest. When Lin asked why, he says they told him they’d tell him later.

Police cuffed him, ducked him into a cruiser and transported him to a heavily militaristic-looking staging area at the SAP Center. During the two-hour wait at the stadium, Lin says he overheard cops chatting condescendingly about protesters, wondering why they wouldn’t “just go home” or march in another city.

At some point during the long wait, Lin says an officer finally told him the reason for his arrest: endangering an aircraft. He says they didn’t provide him a penal code number.

Lin says he felt aghast by the overreaction. Apparently, they didn’t care about the fact that he never once pointed the laser beam skyward and immediately put away the device after one warning. Lin says his light show was meant to be “artistic, colorful and peaceful” and maintains that it “did not threaten any aircraft.”

“It seemed to me,” he says, “like they were trying to find reasons to arrest people.”

Next stop: the Main Jail, where officers booked Lin—neglecting to write the charge on his pre-booking sheet—and placed him in a holding room, where he spent the night.

The next morning, around the same time a Santa Clara County Superior Court magistrate reviewed his case and set bail at $0, officers showed up again—not to release him, per court’s orders, but to move him to another jail. About an hour after he should have been legally freed, Lin arrived at Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, where he remained under lockup for yet another eight hours.

Dr. Lin walked out of Elmwood at 3:15pm on June 6 after spending 17 hours and 45 minutes jailed for a zero-bail, arguably cite-and-release case.

Daniel Mayfield, a lawyer representing Dr. Lin, calls what happened a clear case of unlawful detention. Further, he says the arrest shows how—despite ceasing use of projectiles and tear gas—SJPD continues to intimidate peaceful protesters by using minor offenses as pretext for arrest.

SJPD has yet to comment on the case. “We will look into it and get back to you,” Officer Gina Tepoorten, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an email today.

Dr. Lin says he finally got to pick up his backpack from SJPD on Thursday, but that police are hanging onto his camera as “evidence.” Evidence of what, though, is unclear, considering that Lin says he was the only one using it and he never took a picture of himself performing the light show.

“They must be on a fishing expedition,” he says. “That’s what it looks like.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

47 Comments

  1. If he has a case sue the city, thats what civil court is for. Thank Bill of Rights.

    Otherwise, this is just a propaganda piece.

    • Oh my God, SJPD appears to be unlawfully locking up peaceful protesters and you think sharing the facts of it with the public is PROPAGANDA? Would you prefer to just live with your head in the sand and wait to learn about it when it finally affects you? I can just imagine you in 1930’s Germany: “If the Jews were detained unlawfully, the courts should figure it out, but I don’t see why they need to report on this!”

      Ironically, head-in-the-sand attitudes like this contributed to the extermination of millions of kulaks in 30’s Ukraine. When there are widespread patterns of government human rights abuses, asking the victims to handle it individually and quietly amounts to dividing the victims and making them easier to be conquered.

      • Did you read my post?

        Let me break things down for you.

        “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

        Or in wikipedia for you:

        The Fifth Amendment provides several protections for people accused of crimes. It states that serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury. A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy) or have property taken away without just compensation. People have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials.)

        If Dr. Lin has committed a crime, arresting him is not only justified, but the duty of the SJPD; thus this article is noise and an attempt to further fan the flames of unrest without basis. The term “backlash”, which is popping up lately a lot in this rag, is a nothing-burger word and basically an attempt emote the public in favor of those positioned to create said backlash. If there is smoke, there must be fire, if there is backlash there must be injustice, word magic. Or in other, words propaganda. Like Black Lives Matter, if you are against BLM, regardless of what they are trying to get done, you must think Black Lives don’t Matter. Maybe you should read some books on how propaganda works.

        If Dr Lin has not committed a crime, the police had no probable cause to arrest him, he should sue, as he was imprisoned without the due process of law. It would be fantastic if he had been arrested without probable cause and he sued and won. The SJPD has morphed in the enforcement arm of the Democratic Party and has lost its charter, re June 2016 Trump Rally.

        Now, Ostrich, you make note of Kulaks. It is a fortunate coincidence (well maybe be design) that the Fifth Amendment also protects my property rights. Now, since you are such a lover of the Constitution, you can perhaps educate Mr. Peralez, Mr. Jimenez, Ms. Arenas, Mr Chiu, Ms Wadsworth, Prof Mariam Zuc, Dr Wayne Chen, et al, that they can not expropriate my property without just compensation, either through regulatory taking or eminent domain. It seems, San Jose and the state of California have inconsistent views on the Fifth Amendment, as they are forever trampling on my property rights.

        Had the Kulaks had the Fifth Amendment and a population with enough character to uphold it, which California does not have, history would have been different. I think it is interesting to note the more the progressive chisel away at property rights, your civil rights will fall with them, because property rights are one of the most fundamental civil rights.

        Is it more clear now?

        • “Enforcement arm of the Democratic Party” is a ridiculous claim Democrat voters side with Black Lives Matter and the right to peacefully protest. And our elected Democratic officials better figure that out fast and enact significant reform or we’ll vote in different leaders.

          • Did you not witness the egg-kake of Trump Rally Attendees by the thugs June 2016 under the protection and consent of the SJPD, the Mayor, the local media, and CA Democratic machine failing to get Hillary elected?

        • Having recourse through the courts does not negate his experience of being wrongfully arrested and detained. The fact that it happened is reason for pause and calls for close scrutiny of the Oakland Police. Mayor Shaaf, where are you?

    • PC 247.5 is not a wobbler. A wobbler is a crime than can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. A violation of this section can only be charged as a misdemeanor, and a minor one at that, 30days max.
      PC 248 is shining a light at an aircraft in order to interfere with its operation . It is more serious, but still only a misdemeanor, with a max of a year in county jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

      • Here is CA PC Section 247.5.

        Any person who willfully and maliciously discharges a laser at an aircraft, whether in motion or in flight, while occupied, is guilty of a violation of this section, which shall be punishable as either a misdemeanor by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year or by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or a felony by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, two years, or three years, or by a fine of two thousand dollars ($2,000). This section does not apply to the conduct of laser development activity by or on behalf of the United States Armed Forces.
        As used in this section, “aircraft” means any contrivance intended for and capable of transporting persons through the airspace.
        As used in this section, “laser” means a device that utilizes the natural oscillations of atoms or molecules between energy levels for generating coherent electromagnetic radiation in the ultraviolet, visible, or infrared region of the spectrum, and when discharged exceeds one milliwatt continuous wave.

        • That’s funny, because when I looked up PC 247.5 I got completely different text than you have set forth here hoapres. It only brought up the misdemeanor portion. I looked it up at another source, and found that you are correct. My apologies. I’ll make sure I access two sources when I look up codes again.

          • There is no need. Just use the official CA law site and you will have the most current version of an legal document. Leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

          • If you own firearms then it is a good idea to read the penal codes regarding assault with any type of weapon. I really wasn’t trying to split hairs with regards to PC 247.5 but point out that the alleged offense here isn’t just a cite and release matter UNLESS that it is the policy of the sheriff’s department and the DA.

            Lots of misdemeanors aren’t simple cite and release. Whether one should have the right to carry firearms as a private citizen in California is another issue, but the law is clear that unless you have a CCW which in Santa Clara County is almost impossible to get unless perhaps you make a big donation to the Sheriff, PC 171 and 26350 prohibit both concealed and open carry of firearms in public. Take the scenario that I am walking in public with my M1 carbine. The police stop me and arrest me. It isn’t a felony. Do you really want me to just get a cite and release with a promise to just appear in court ? (Again whether you should be allowed to carry a rifle in public is another issue, but right now in California legally you can’t).

            Cite and release is appropriate in a lot of cases but it isn’t appropriate for all misdemeanors.

            It may very well be the case that Dr. Lin isn’t guilty of the alleged offense. That isn’t the issue. The issue is being of sufficient probable cause for the arrest. Based on what is presented here, there is sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.

        • The firearms citation is an excellent example of where elected officials and government enable many legitimate civil rights complaints. Laws are passed, but rarely rescinded or updated. A strict reading would lead one to conclude CA has gutted the Second Amendment.

          Police rely on a simple interpretation. When in doubt, arrest and make it the DA’s problem. Protestors should focus on root causes.

          Tweaking SJPD’s Duty Manual doesn’t address the unholy mess of our laws and ordinances. Ignorance of the law *is* a plausible defense when incomprehensible.

  2. Dan Mayfield is representing him? Sharat Lin is prominent? These two guys have been floating around the Collins Foundation and San Jose Peace center since the hostile takeover in 2007. They have done more to dismantle the peace movement than solidify it. You see guys like Derrick Sanderlin taking the the rounds; while these two guys get a plug for some silly light show that had nothing to do with the issues at hand. Mayfield, a career defense attorney, couldn’t get Lin, a senior citizen, out of the cell with a zero dollar bail. Seriously.

  3. A die-in Jenn? Seriously? You have little enough credibility in your own arena with the VAST majority of people who comment here without engaging in that ridiculous hyperbole. Are you trying to destroy your last vestige of credibility?

      • JMO seems to have such intimate knowledge of Penal Codes and police procedures, but is unfamiliar with the term, “a die-in?” I recognized the names of several of these commentators as chronically critical of anything they think is left-wing. And their comments show up every where. And they are always very condescending in attitude.

        • admit, you’re just jealous Ms Wadsworth took the time to reply to him

          and you write such narrative-normative comments, it isn’t fair you’re ignored

          we still like you, commie landlord, your posts never fail to entertain

          • Die-ins are a well-known form of protest where people lie down and pretend to be dead and/or get chalk “crime scene outlines” drawn around them. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2014/12/a-brief-history-of-die-in-protests/383439/

            I attended, and there were too many people to stretch out on the ground in the traditional way. They “took a knee” for 8:46 instead.

            This was an organized event with speakers and an agenda. Some people left, others continued until dark, some people arrived after the original event. This is San Jose, after all, so of course the parade of cars with signs turned into cruising and a sideshow at some point.

      • The fact that someone uses a word incorrectly, the NAACP in the link you provided, does not make it accurate.
        Anything that is called an (insert word here)-In has always referred to the participants, not the political code for the event. For instance, a sit-in refers to the participants who sit down at some location to protest what’s happening there; e.g. a store lunch counter that discriminates against black people. A smoke-in is a relic of the past, when MJ smoking was universally illegal. The participants smoked joints as a protest against MJ laws. A love-in was an event where the participants engaged in sex and drugs. The term Has always referred to what the participants are doing, not the reason they are doing it.
        The fact that the NAACP or anyone else got it wrong and chose the inflammatory words to represent the man who died, versus the participants, does not make it correct correct usage of the term. For example, most people say “I could care less”, when the correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less” No participants died in the SJ protests. The term “die-in” is not only inflammatory, it is factually and etymologically incorrect.

        • JMO, if you just learned the term, I’m not sure you’re in the best position to criticize people for using it incorrectly.

          My eyebrows went up the first time I heard the word “die-in” as well, but that was several years ago, maybe more (I actually remember the specific moment, because I was confused – a congressman on TV was talking about the protest response to mass shootings), and I have heard it enough since then to be able to recognize it as a common term. It’s not inflammatory, and it’s silly to argue about its etymology being “incorrect” when it is already an established term.

          • Jenn wrote that thousands of people participated in a die-in. So, when and where was it held? I saw no one laying down pretending to be dead in any of the countless videos circulating.

        • > The term “die-in” is not only inflammatory, it is factually and etymologically incorrect.

          I like you’re explanation.

          I am also long, long since exhausted by the leftiies’ endless parade of symbolic gestures.

          “Symbolism” is their “vernacular” because their tribe members are too ill-educated and too scatterbrained to understand and use words.

          Progressive “symbolism”, though, is an enormous gold mine of opportunity for creators of snarky memes. Heh. Heh.

        • Before the pandemic, there was a regular Friday noon die-in at the City Hall Plaza by the Extinction Rebellion folks.

          It’s been “a thing” since AT LEAST the mid-1960s.

          • I’m replying to Jenn. But there was no space to do so right below her link, which showed nothing about a die-in.

          • JMO, the “die-in” is exactly what that link shows. Caption: “A few photos from the San Jose Die In yesterday at City Hall.” Images: thousands of people gathered for the NAACP-led protest. The third one shows people laying down for 8 minutes to memorialize George Floyd. I saw it in person and news helicopters captured aerial shots of the massive turnout. Here’s a link to the same tweet with a few more photos: https://twitter.com/DMJWade/status/1269305118987452418

  4. “He says they didn’t provide him a code number.”——-A code number? I think they call that a Penal Code.

    “SJPD continues to intimidate peaceful protesters by using minor offenses as pretext for arrest.”—-blinding a pilot in a flying aircraft hardly a minor offense.

    “heavily militaristic-looking staging area”—-haha Pulitzer stuff right there.

    • If you dig a little further and ask around I am almost positive that there is video of him shining his laser at the helicopters overhead. But don’t let reporting get in the way of your agenda.

    • A few days earlier around Lake Almaden/Santa Theresa Blvd. foothills, Firefighter and Police Helicopters were circling due to fire there. Many in the neighborhood were taking pics and sending them to the news. I myself a saw few video & pics of helicopters flying around on the “Nextdoor” newsletter & people wanted to know.
      So, what is wrong if you take videos, pics. etc. of helicopters flying around.
      Is that a crime for God’s sake. No one got arrested or anything!
      Very confused why a peaceful person like Dr. Lin had to go thru such an ordeal and
      dis-respect shown to him. he is an outstanding peaceful citizen who helps a
      lot in San Jose community issues. Also a well respected lecturer and his reputation
      has been attacked. Are certain forces in SJPD now trying such tactics to snuff out peaceful protesters. I deeply respect our Mayor and have seen Chief Garcia in the San Jose Council Meetings and had the impression that we have good leaders. Guess have to ask the Police what happened? Thanks to local newspapers for
      what they do. A Concerned Grandmother.

      • It’s the shining of the Laser pointer at the Pilots that is against the law, not taking pictures or videos, that’s totally legal.

    • Thank you for your comments, I have the same view that this incident is a
      different way to discourage anyone who want to protest peacefully. They
      should go after the violent persons who were sent to create confusion and
      chaos. Arresting peaceful citizens on some pretext is not right.

    • I live near City Hall and “militaristic-looking staging area” is completely accurate. They were already assembled by City Hall in full riot gear, armed with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, when the medic/water crew arrived to set up. This is military-type gear that became popular with police departments after 9/11 to “fight domestic terrorism” which apparently means old hippies with laser pointers, anti-bias trainers, legal observers, press, teenagers, guitarists, and anyone in a crowd.

    • “A code number? I think they call that a Penal Code.”

      Buddy… The penal code is the collection of laws in a jurisdiction. The penal code associates a number with each law. Hence, each law has a code number. Seems straight-forward to understand, and like the sort of thing you’d focus on if you’re looking for a “gotcha” to try to (bizarrely and illogically) discredit a piece of journalism.

      “blinding a pilot in a flying aircraft hardly a minor offense.”

      Did Professor Lin blind a pilot? Did he point the laser at a helicopter? Did he point it at the sky at all? Did he even have it out after he was asked to put it away? With that logic, I can arrest you for carrying around a magnet and justify it by saying, “destroying government hard drives is hardly a minor offense.”

  5. This case may come down to a question of fact—who allegedly saw Lin discharge the laser AT an aircraft—and a question of intent. The statute requires the action to be willful AND malicious. Good luck proving both in combination. That is a very poorly written statute; lotsa wiggle room for a defendant and his attorney. Talks between the arresting officers and the charging D.A. to come up with a unified story may explain the long delay. The D.A. Would be wise to dismiss the charges.

  6. Was there any report by the pilot of the helicopter or any other aircraft?
    Radio transmissions should be available from the control tower at SJC or the FAA.

  7. My guess they held him for that long in the hopes he would do something while in custody that would give them the excuse the thump him.

  8. I wasn’t there, so my I cannot say he did it or not, but I would think no protester there would admit he did what the police said he did, if he did. The police could have exaggerated the situation, or not. But what we do know from Lin’s own admission is that he did bring a laser pointer to a protest. Why? To do an impromptu, colorful display on a wall? Sounds pretty strange to me, so gotta call B.S. on that excuse. I have seen plenty of protesters on video shining lasers at cops, so was that his intention or what he might have done prior? My experience of getting a laser shined into my eye for less than a split second, was down right scary. I can see no good reason to bring one to a “peaceful” protest. So shame on you Dr. Lin for doing so, it brings the scale of justice down on your side just for possessing one. Worse even if you are not telling the truth and have “assaulted” anyone’s eyes, let alone SJPD’s.

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