Wednesday, February 17

Looking Back Looking Forward

The Defense Attorney in Person
Looking Back
There's been a lot going on. It seems like an eternity ago that North Texas was covered in record snowfall, but it was just last Friday. That, however, is last week's news. This week, ChipSeal went to trial in the City of Ennis and was convicted on three counts of impeding traffic by a jury of his peers. The jury assessed fines as noted in the "High Noon" comments. The two hour trial was painful to watch, and I need to write notes in this brief period when the memory is fresh, but passion has abated. PM Summer was present, but as a witness, he mainly heard what went on in the hall outside the courtroom. Y'all can read comments from the previous post to pick up many of the considerations, but I would not advise any of my readers to take a bike case to a jury trial. I will publish a summary of the proceedings derived from my notes as soon as possible. I will attempt to distill the main facts and keep my personal opinions out of the account.

There are three points I will add here and now that have not been clearly noted noted in the comments.

First, this was a case in which the City of Ennis not only had the two arresting officers present, but also one of the supervisors AND the City Police Chief. I have not attended other Ennis traffic court cases, but I suspect that if you are picked up for speeding, you won't have the Chief present at your trial.

A second point to note is that none of the officers has ever cited cyclists in Ennis before, other than for things like shooting off a sidewalk and through a red light. You know, the usual bicycle dopey acts. As far as I could tell, none of the participants in the trial (other than Chip and his witness) were familiar with bicycle law, which should not be a surprise given it's a small part of the law enforcement picture in Ennis. ChipSeal might as well have been from Mars.

Third, while some might question Chip's wisdom to act as his own attorney, he was well versed on the applicable laws and attempted to argue them coherently. The court was not inclined to allow evidence from jurisdictions outside Texas. Even the excellent video from the kind folks at CommuteOrlando was accompanied by instructions to the jury that this was the way things were seen in another jurisdiction that they could consider and weigh as they saw fit.

Oldfool, perhaps said it best, though I think the "different" aspects are the biggest factors. Last night I felt pretty down. I drove to work today, even though the weather was fairly nice. Now, I'm at least past wanting to just sell Buddy.

Looking Forward - Plan for the Worst and Hope for the Best
First things first. ChipSeal's Ennis trial was crimped by his considerations. If you are unemployed and in modest circumstances, hiring an attorney is a difficult step to take. If your circumstances are modest enough that you can't afford a cell phone and you've lost your internet, that step gets more difficult. Being car free and getting ticketed while trying to do daily life slows things down even more. It's also tough to even know what others are up to that might be relevant. A measure of the man is that he is determined to carry forward with an appeal, even if he has to act as his own attorney again. I hope that PM Summer and I talked a little sense into the man. Our advice (I hope PM will comment if I misstate his view), was essentially "don't worry about cyclist rights and all that, the cyclists can figure that stuff out themselves and a lot of them are pretty smart. YOUR task is to obtain acquittals. Shut up and accept help graciously." He is now in contact with an attorney and has a disposable cell phone that we suggested he keep fairly private. I imagine added details will unfold as the story develops.

This is NOT just a simple lost case. Chip has at least one ADDITIONAL trial on the exact same subject. Different jurisdiction - Ellis County. This is the case where he was originally ticketed for "riding a bicycle on the road." And that will happen before any serious appeal action occurs on the Ennis City cases. Chip has the unique, if unenviable opportunity to get "do overs." We did advise him to take some added detours in the near term because everything was quite complicated enough already. I'm nearly as confused at all this as you are!

That being said, if anybody has tips on where Chip can find employment, suggestions would be VERY welcome and I'd be happy to pass suggestions on, but it might be better to cut out the non-value-added middleman. He is also able via public internet, to check his own blog and that'd be a good way to get word to him. If I were in a position to hire, I'd strongly consider someone with the dedication and drive this gentleman possesses.

I think there are AT LEAST a couple of people working on figuring out how people can contribute to this case if they wish. I'm not very savvy on Paypal and such (beyond how to buy stuff with it on eBay), so I'll leave the details to them. Since I live only a couple of counties away, I have the option of writing a check. In some ways I'm old fashioned. I have no idea how much a successful legal adventure such as this might cost, but I imagine it might not be trivial. Still, I can do without new bike stuff a lot easier than I can do with the thought that I might be tossed  into the hoosegow because someone doesn't think I should be riding somewhere I myself know from training and experience is safe.
Going a bit further, I read of thoughts of demonstrations and boycotts. Myself, I do not favor such things, and particularly not while the justice wheels are turning. Cyclist groups that interact with Ennis are more valuable as allies then as targets. They represent local contacts and knowledge which is badly needed. In a small town, knowing the players is important. Similarly, larger cycling organizations should be viewed in the same light. Up until now, and even at this point, this is a small, local case. Cycling groups, however, REGARDLESS of differences, have a common interest in not seeing legal cyclists become targets for law enforcement and further marginalized. I don't concern myself with credit, and I'd be thrilled to see these groups enter the fight productively in any way they can. Myself, I just want to be able to go, point-to-point, where I want to go in a safe and legal fashion. I know at least one gentleman who is working hard to build bridges within the cycling community instead of walls on this. We really DO have more in common than sometimes appears to be the case.
Brief Rant
While I'm concerned about cycling issues, I don't have to ride a bike, and I know how to ride on shoulders and sidewalks safer than most that ride bikes in any event. I can always drive to the gym, and if gas gets so expensive nobody can drive, I won't have to worry about those being cycling issues anymore. Personally, I don't even agree with all of Chip's theories on riding specifics. What really gets my goat is I don't like seeing someone get targeted by the government because he is "different" and maybe "menacing and dangerous somehow" because of that. THAT pisses me off. Maybe I took too many US History classes when I was growing up. Insert your own favorite "founding fathers" quote here.
I Haven't Forgotton
I still plan to do my post on the far, extreme fringe of cycling. A subject so obscure that I never knew of it until just a couple of weeks ago, though I have cycled for nearly 50 years. A subject so obscure that even John Forester left it out of his book. At the same time, this cycling cult is open to view by anyone Googling one simple word. It turns out there are even magazines (well, at least ezines) devoted to the subject. Discovered courtesy of "The Lowest Gear."
My Street Last Friday - Seems Like it Was YEARS Ago!


Anonymous said...

I was sick to here the outcome of Chipseal's trial, though I will say I was not surprised.

Words are failing me.
Perhaps an appeal to the BF community would yield someone who knows how to set up a fund for him.

RANTWICK said...

Since it is now clear that ChipSeal aims to mount an appeal, I would like to offer to take the lead on some online fundraising efforts for a legal defense fund.

I've already looked into some options and have a good idea how to proceed in way that would allow anybody who wanted one to place a widget on their web site or blog and assist in raising money.

I have no idea how much would be raised or what target to set. Conventional wisdom is that setting a target helps to get more contributions.


1) I have made the assumption that most people close to ChipSeal (including ChipSeal) read this blog. Comment here if you have any objections to my plan of organizing online fundraising for ChipSeals legal defense. I won't do anything until the weekend so that people have a chance to comment, but time is of the essence, I think.

2) I would welcome suggestions on what might be a good target amount.

3) If a non-web based fund is created anywhere, I would be happy to forward any funds raised online right into it.



Principled Pragmatist said...

Anyone know if the trial transcript is available yet, and, if not, when it will be?

Oldfool said...

Texas justice once again lives down to my expectations.

Anonymous said...


I'm in for contributing if you get something set up.

PM Summer said...

It is of interest to note that while waiting for jury selection to begin, a young-adult caucasian male (with a backpack and helmet) was observed traveling north on S. Dallas Street, through Brown St., and in front of the Ennis Police Station... traveling through a stop sign and riding on the wrong side of the street.

He apparantly felt no fear of the Ennis P.D.

Keri said...

It's the pigeion deal. Do any disgusting thing you want, just don't get in the way of motorists.

Chuck Davis said...

Solo efforts such as ChipSeal are pretty much dead ends and tend to be indicative if what may be in some cases the "impotence" that many so called vocal advocacy groups seem to demonstrate

Chuck Davis

Steve A said...

To the best of my knowledge, Chip is not a member of ANY advocacy group, vocal or otherwise. As far as I can tell, he does not fit any organized advocacy group's agenda. Mostly those involve sucking money from the taxpayer.

To the best of my knowledge, Chip is not making some sort of effort other than to get around a mostly rural area without a car. That may well be a dead end, but it is sad if a person cannot survive in today's society without same. I do not accept that proposition myself.

If Chuck has some knowledge to the contrary on either of these points, I'd really WANT to hear of it. I've ridden with Chip. I've talked with him. I've seen his dwelling and the surroundings.

Chuck MIGHT hava a point if he were talking about me. I've got choices. The Land Rover is an option for me. The cops decide I'm a target on a bike, I can always drive. I've actually been DOING that for the last three weeks.

If Chip's effort is a dead end. The "dead" part of it is more true than Chuck imagines.

OTOH, I'm tired of close passes by cars doing 85mph three feet off of my bumper. It's really getting time to get back on the bike and lower my own stress level a bit. Even the motorists mostly treat me better when I'm on my bike.

Doug McLaren said...

Which charge exactly was he convicted of? The term "Impeding Traffic" does not exist in the Texas transportation code (Though I don't know about any local Ennis ordinances.)

Is this the charge?

§ 42.03. OBSTRUCTING HIGHWAY OR OTHER PASSAGEWAY. (a) A person commits an offense if, without legal privilege or authority, he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
(1) obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, railway,
waterway, elevator, aisle, hallway, entrance, or exit to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access, or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances, regardless of the means of creating the obstruction and whether the obstruction arises from his acts alone or from his acts and the acts of others; or
(2) disobeys a reasonable request or order to move issued by a person the actor knows to be or is informed is a peace officer, a fireman, or a person with authority to control the use of the premises:
(A) to prevent obstruction of a highway or any of those areas mentioned in Subdivision (1); or
(B) to maintain public safety by dispersing those gathered in dangerous proximity to a fire, riot, or other hazard.
(b) For purposes of this section, "obstruct" means to render impassable or to render passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

(Note that this offense is not part of the traffic code.)

Does this section of road have a posted minimum speed limit? If so, then "§ 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS" would apply, but it has a very explicit exception that says "except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation".

Steve A said...

Chip was convicted on three counts of violating the Texas Transportatop Code, namely:

Sec. 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Because the court was not a court of record, the manner of appeal is via a rehearing of the entire case, which will happen at the County Seat of Waxahachie rather than in the Ennis court. In total, there are the three Ennis cases that will be reheard, one county case, that will also be heard in Waxahachie, and a new Ennis case that will likely be heard IN Ennis. To the best of my knowledge, ALL represent violation of the same statute, listed above.

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