Rolling about 25 squad cars deep, police from San Jose and Santa Clara served a search warrant normally reserved for the most violent criminal cases to arrest an anti-racist activist for a single count of felony vandalism.
The judge who approved the San Jose Police Department’s declaration of probable cause for the Saturday night crackdown set the bail at $500,000 for a charge that’s had a zero-bail schedule since the pandemic started.
Nearly two days passed before Hailey S. found out what they were being accused of: vandalizing Mayor Sam Liccardo’s house on Aug. 28.
Police arrested Hailey—a 23-year-old member of HERO Tent, an organization that offers food and protective gear to protesters—one night after detaining two other activists suspected of vandalizing the Thomas Fallon statue during a Sept. 23 protest.
A spokeswoman for the mayor has yet to provide a damage estimate for the vandalism at Liccardo’s house, but city officials say it cost less than $2,400 to repair the Fallon statue off of Julian Street by Highway 87.
The arrestees say authorities never showed them copies of the warrants and that they didn’t know what, specifically, they were being accused of until SJPD’s media announcement days after the fact.
According to Hailey’s attorney, Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Carson White, that’s because police used what’s known as a Ramey warrant. Such warrants allow cops to make an arrest before any charges are filed and before even submitting a case to the District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration.
“Normally when someone is arrested on a criminal arrest warrant, they’re brought to court at the next available court date and they get a copy of criminal discovery and copy of the warrant,” White explains. “But when someone is arrested on a Ramey warrant, they’re held in custody until the DA makes a charging decision. That means, if they were arrested on a weekend or a Friday, they can be held in custody up to five or seven days.”
White says she had yet to see a copy of the Ramey warrant issued in Hailey’s arrest.
Hailey would likely not even have an attorney right now were it not for a pilot program, of which White is a part, offering pre-arraignment representation for defendants.
After meeting with Hailey at Elmwood late Sunday night, White and her supervisor, Pre-Arraignment Representation and Review Director Carlie Ware, filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging the constitutionality of Hailey’s detention and exorbitant bail amount.
In White’s view, the way police went about the arrest and the bail set in the case are way out of proportion to the alleged crime.
“This is egregious to me and really highlights the intersection between SJPD intimidating activists, the abusive practices of Ramey warrants and Santa Clara County law enforcement’s practice of booking people into custody and then never forwarding the case to the DA’s office for review—so the people never get a lawyer, can’t be brought to court and can’t be released by the DA rejecting the case,” she told San Jose Inside. “They just sit in custody for their maximum [statutory] period on unaffordable bail.”
In the habeas writ, White questions the court’s judgment in setting the bail so high.
“In general, the valid interests for which the state may set bail to incentivize an arrestee to return to court or to protect the public safety,” she writes. “Neither concerns of flight nor for public safety justify half-a-million-dollars bail in this case. Hailey has no criminal history. They have never been convicted of a crime nor ever missed a court date.”
To keep Hailey locked up in lieu of $500,000 is unreasonable and “clearly disproportionate to the offense involved,” White goes on to argue.
“This is that rare case ‘in which the amount of bail demanded would be so great as to shock the common sense, and be seen to be utterly disproportionate to the offense charged, and in such a case it [is the reviewing court’s] duty to interfere,’” the writ states. “There is no legitimate government purpose that merits the setting of half-a-million dollars bail. There is, however, an obvious illegitimate purpose for which half-a-million-dollars bail might be set in this case: retaliation for Hailey’s exercise of their First Amendment right to protest in support of local political action.”
Even Mayor Liccardo balked at Hailey’s bail amount.
“I don’t know anything about the specific details about the arrest or the defendant, but I don’t understand why bail would have been set so high by the court,” he told San Jose Inside. “In my days as a prosecutor, I saw much lower bail amounts set on people charged with violent assault. ”
In the press release sent to reports earlier this afternoon, San Jose police say they support the public’s right to peacefully protest, but that they will conduct “thorough investigations” to catch the people suspected of vandalism and arson.
Police have yet to explain why they opted for a Ramey warrant instead of going the usual route during any weekday over the past month or why they asked for such a high bail amount. Bail for 25-year-old Daniel Barrera was set at $0, while 30-year-old Jesilyn Faust had her bail set at $25,000. Faust has since paid her way out.
SJPD is still looking for a fourth suspect and urges anyone with information on her to call the Assaults Unit, offering cash rewards for tips leading to an arrest or conviction.
Faust, who was at the scene of Hailey’s arrest, says the police response scares her—but also makes her more determined.
“The police have really shown what kind of fascist stuff they’re about, how they treat protestors and activists,” Faust says. “This is something that has happened to protesters and activists historically. I think about that and I think this shows that we’re doing the right thing. We’re making them feel it.”
HERO Tent President Kiana Simmons says Hailey’s arrest and $500,000 bail are “absolutely ridiculous and absolutely unfounded.” As for the Ramey warrant, she adds: “It’s a loophole in the system where [they] can interrogate and harass you.”