|(The use of this cartoon will make sense very soon)|
So, on October 25. 2018, I was found guilty in a court of law for ... sitting in a city council meeting.
The prosecutor lied to the jury.
The judge suppressed evidence.
Of the eleven witnesses I had lined up to testify, only two were permitted to testify. What gives?
The jury had no idea what was going on. They just went along with the basic principle that if a cop tells you to do something, you just have to do it. Really? What if he wanted to take my money. Am I then obliged to turn over the cash?
I was found guilty ... of sitting in a city council meeting. Officially, I was convicted of two counts of California Penal Code section 148a1, "resisting arrest" or "failure to follow the lawful order of a police officer."
I contend to this day that the order for me to be removed from the Huntington Park City Council chamber was an unlawful order. I was called out of order for no reason, and then someone in the audience blurted out, lied to the city council elected officials, and they in turn went along with the lie just to have me removed.
I refused to leave. They had no right.
What's done is done.
I left the court house that Thursday afternoon, puzzled that this had happened. "How could I be found guilty for sitting in a city council meeting?"
A number of my friends from We the People Rising joined me at the court hearing. They witnessed three bailiffs stand in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and then I stood up to hear the verdict.
"On count One ... Guilty!"
"On count Two ... Guilty!"
I was just shocked, puzzled, but no tears, no screaming or yelling. The court officers were preparing for the worst, but the worst did not happen--at least in my emotions.
I left the court room, since sentencing was postponed until Tuesday, the next week. My attorney took the heat so that I could go to a work event in Texas over the weekend. I was not going to stop living my life just because someone declared me guilty on the most flimsy of premises.
That evening, I went out to eat with the friends who had come with me. I didn't really let anything hit me yet. Just like when you find out that someone close to you has died, the full pain of this loss does not hit you right away. You don't realize what the loss is going to look like until the memories start rolling in, and then the realization that the person with whom you shared those memories is now gone forever.
That night, I went home. I went home, and I was just overwhelmed with grief as soon as I entered my home.
I cried for an hour that night. I could not believed that this was happening to me.
How could this happen to me? How could this be allowed to happen? Lord Jesus, I had prayed for your favor, I asked for your grace to get me out of this, to ensure an acquittal, to stand up to the abuses of the corrupt city council, the police, the system.
And yet ... this?! WHY?
I had never cried so hard. It hurt my lungs, I was in such grief. With all of this cascading over me, I called the first I could think of ... my employer Brian Camenker. He had been through this whole trial with me. I have never had so great an employer as Brian, and a better career than working for MassResistance.
He was with me as I cried out in pain. It was such a devastating loss. He shared with me similar challenges, pains, losses that he had faced in his life. He also talked about the overcoming spirit that he and his own father had demonstrated many times over.
Brian shared with me part of an elegant quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Yes, I had been in the arena. I had welcomed victories, and I was not bracing a defeat.
The anxiety I felt was great, too. Had I been mistaken this whole time? Did I miss God? Did I get this all wrong or something?
I was panicking somewhat at this point, too. Was I all alone in this world? Since God did not rescue me from a guilty verdict, was He someone whom I could not trust for anything now? Those doubts were the most crushing, and were certainly the deepest reasons for my despair.
I ended up calling two other people, friends of mine who had joined me at the courthouse that afternoon, and ate dinner with me that evening. One of them said "It will be OK, buddy." Another one admitted to me his own run-in with the law, and how the event brought him to his knees to ask Jesus Christ to be His Savior.
Quite a powerful, yet quiet admission that this man had made to me. I realized that I had to come to God directly with this. I had to not run from Him, or act as if He was not there for me. I needed to rest and recognize "There is a reason for this."
I went to my event in Texas. It was so hard not to focus on "The Sentencing!"
But then I began to return to the gift of righteousness which we receive (and keep receiving!) because of Christ Jesus (Romans 5:17).
No matter what is happening, no matter whether I understand what God is doing, or not doing, I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). At no time could I doubt or wonder whether God was for me. Truth be told, however, I could not understand what was going on.
That recognition of my righteousness in Him--apart from works, from feelings, from circumstances--began to ease my heart and soul.
The sentencing was going to be interesting, that was for certain. More to come.