DEFENDANTS' PLEA TO BE GIVEN AT HEARINGS BEFORE COUNTY COURT, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA MISDEMEANOR DIVISION ...
DATE OF HEARING: 10:00 AM FRIDAY APRIL 20, 2001
COMES NOW JOHN DEMAREST BRYANT, DEFENDANT, AND SAYS TO THE COURT THE FOLLOWING:
1. Defendant and his wife, Lenora C Bryant, received identical citations on February 7, 2001 for violating together section 4-4 of the St Petersburg City Code. Because the supposed violation and pleading is identical in both cases, this single pleading refers to both Defendants, rather than merely to Defendant John.
2. The relevant part of the ordinance 4-4 reads exactly as follows:
"(a) It shall be unlawful within the City for any person to directly or indirectly perform any act which is reasonably certain to cause the assembly of any animals or fowl on the streets, sidewalks or public thoroughfares of the City for any purpose without first procuring a permit therefor from the City Manager; however, nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit any person from feeding any animals or fowl or performing any humanitarian act or kindness with respect to animals or fowl so long as such act is performed within the boundaries and limitations of any city parks, the municipal pier, or other place which is consistent with or which has been set aside for the propagation or care of animals or fowl."
3. Each Citation, as written by officer JJ Buggle, reads as follows:
"The undersigned [officer Buggle] swears that he has reasonable grounds to believe that the above named defendant on the 7 day of February 2001, at approximately 8:01 to 8:31 am at First Av S and Sunset Drive S in Pinellas County did [the following]: was causing a large congregation of pidgeons [sic] (birds) to gather and congregate on city easement on a daily basis. The birds make a mess on the sidewalk area making it unclean and neighborhood residents have filed complaints. Also no permit was issued from the Mayor's office. This occurred in St Petersburg, Pinellas County, FL."
4. The Defendants are not guilty of the violating the ordinance in either the strict legal sense of the ordinance or in the larger legal context, both of which are explained below.
5. The Defendants are not guilty in the strict legal sense, which may be deduced from the following paragraphs (5a) thru (5e):
5a) Defendants hold that the Citations are invalid because they contain reference to a non-existent entity, 'pidgeons'. Defendants additionally suggest that if Buggle does not even know how to spell the word which names the principal subject of his Citations and 'investigations', that this indicates a depth of ignorance that ought to lead the Court to discount his assertions.
5b) The ordinance under which the Defendants were cited permits the feeding of birds in city parks, and that is precisely what the Defendants were doing, and in fact is precisely what they have done in Sunset Park, unmolested by police or anyone else, virtually EVERY DAY FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS.
5c) There is no qualification in the ordinance of the right to feed birds in city parks, such as that they may not be fed if they 'make a mess'. This means that the accusation, made by Buggle, that "The birds make a mess on the sidewalk area making it unclean and neighborhood residents have filed complaints", is irrelevant to the Citations. In Defendants' view, however, Buggle's accusation is false, or at least is a purely subjective and self-serving interpretation of the facts.
5d) Each Citation says that the feeding was carried out on a 'city easement'. The reference here is to the grassy area between the sidewalk and the road shoulder in Sunset Park (hereinafter called the Park), and the implication is that this area is not part of the Park. HOWEVER, Defendants' legal research has turned up no statutory or case law authority to allow making a legal distinction between the so-called 'easement' and the Park proper, and none was given in the Citations. Defendants' position on this matter is additionally supported by the following facts:
5d1) FACT 1: No such distinction was recognized by officer Buggle when he visited the Defendants in the Park to discuss their bird feeding three months prior to writing the Citations. According to Buggle, he could see nothing that the Defendants were doing which violated any law, altho Defendants were doing their bird-feeding at exactly the same spot as when Buggle cited them three months later.
5d2) FACT 2: No such distinction was recognized by a certain Park Department employee, a Mr Cliff Footlick, who came to talk with Defendants about their bird feeding. As a Park Department employee, Mr Footlick should be an expert in this matter.
5d3) FACT 3: The concept of 'easement' is inapplicable to the border of a city park. In law, an easement is a right to the limited use of another's property, usually for access to a different property, or else refers to the area where the limited use is permitted. But this makes no sense in the case of the Park, because all of the property including the margin is owned by 'the people'; hence 'the people' do not require an 'easement' to use their own property; hence there is no proper or legal distinction between the Park proper and the so-called 'easement'.
5d4) FACT 4: It is true that the various Park signs are inside the area bounded by the sidewalk, but one cannot conclude from this that the so- called easement is not a part of the Park. In particular, the location of the signs is apparently governed by a desire to make them convenient to read by those on the sidewalk and in cars, while any other placement would not be so convenient.
5d5) FACT 5: Attached is a legal description of Sunset Park from the St Petersburg City Clerk's office. The boundaries for the Park given by the document correspond with the streets that border the Park. Therefore, all the grassy land within the boundary streets of the Park is part of the Park. Defendant was, by this definition, in the Park when feeding birds. Thus as a matter of law, the complaint -- which is based on the implied contention that Defendant was not in the Park while feeding birds -- must be dismissed.
5e) Therefore, Defendants hold that if the Prosecution contends that the so- called 'easement' is not part of the Park, that it is up to the Prosecution to cite authority for such an assertion, and to explain why even those intimately associated with parks (such as Mr Footlick) and those involved with law enforcement pertaining to parks (such as officer Buggle) did not know about this until, after three long months, Buggle's 'research' suddenly turned it up. It is Defendants' contention that the Prosecution cannot adequately accomplish this task.
6) From consideration of the facts in paragraphs 5a thru 5e, Defendants assert that they are not guilty of the charges made by the Citations in the strict legal sense.
7) But even if Defendants are adjudged guilty in the strict legal sense, the larger context of the facts surrounding the Citations make prosecution of the Defendants unjust. The major reason for this unjustness is the significant police misbehavior relating to the Defendants, described in the following paragraphs (7a thru 7f).
7a) Officer Buggle and other police department personnel spent three months 'researching' and 'investigating' the Defendants, including violating their privacy by surreptitious observation and videotaping, as admitted by Buggle to the Defendants; yet this investigation began with an interview of the Defendants in which Buggle stated at the conclusion of the interview that he could see nothing at all illegal about what the Defendants were doing. Furthermore, while officer Buggle's investigation was undertaken because of complaints against the Defendants, none of these complaints involved valid allegations of illegal activity as far as Buggle knew (as implied by his statement that he could see nothing illegal that the Defendants were doing), and in fact no allegations of illegal behavior have yet been made against the Defendants save for Buggle's Citations, which required no 'investigation' of the Defendants and which the Defendants have argued above are improper and unjustified. The only conclusion is that there was absolutely no basis for investigating the Defendants in the first place, and certainly no basis for spending three months on such an investigation, invading the Defendants' privacy, employing other personnel to videotape the defendants, meeting with residents, and all the other activities relating to the Defendants which Buggle engaged in during the three-month period prior to writing the Citations.
7b) At the same time he wrote the Citations, officer Buggle issued an order barring Defendants permanently from the Park under threat of arrest (Buggle referred to this as 'trespassing' the Defendants). As an officer of the law, Buggle knew, or should have known, that such an order was both illegal and contrary to Police Department policy. This was amply demonstrated by the fact that the citations of authority made by Buggle and his associate officer Hladik were invalid (Buggle asked Defendants to sign an acknowledgement form citing Florida statute 810.08, which pertains to entering structures (the Park is not a structure); Hladik cited a section of the St Pete code (21-40 (b)) which had nothing to do with a permanent ban, but only the requirement for a person to leave an area (ie, temporarily) if instructed by an officer for a lawful reason. It is notable that neither Hladik nor Buggle offered a lawful reason, or in fact any reason at all, even tho they were specifically asked for one.) In fact, after Defendants wrote to the City Attorney and contacted the Police Department legal advisor, this order was countermanded, and Defendants have since returned to feeding birds at the Park without further trouble from the police.
7c) The behavior of Buggle and Hladik in issuing a ban on the Defendants returning to the Park ('the trespassing order') was not merely without legal authority, but was an attempt to deny Defendants their right granted by the St Petersburg Code section 4-4 to feed birds in the Park; and the Citations issued by Buggle were an apparent -- tho illegitimate -- effort to create a justification for the ban by trumping up charges against the Defendants. As such, the Defendants were the victims of a conspiracy involving acts carried out under color of law which were both illegal and contrary to police policy, which conspiracy involved Buggle, Hladik, the superiors who approved Buggle's actions (Sgt Dukeman and his Major) and certain residents of the Sunset Park area who induced Buggle and the others to act to deny Defendants their legal rights. What is particularly important here is that the conspirators realized that if Defendants were forced to stop feeding birds for some length of time, that this would cause Defendants to lose contact with their birds; so that even if Defendants were able to have the trespassing order rescinded, great and probably irreparable harm would be done to Defendants because the birds which Defendants regularly fed would cease to show up at the Park. In fact, this is precisely what happened, as most of the Defendants' favorite birds are no longer showing up, and may in fact have died because of their dependence on the food which Defendants regularly provided them.
7d) Because of the conspiracy described above, the conspirators are also guilty of animal cruelty. If the police power to exclude Defendants from the Park had been legitimate, the officers could have prevented such cruelty by allowing Defendants to taper off their feeding before instituting the ban; but the fact that the officers did not do so demonstrates that the real purpose of their trespass order was to break the Defendants' contact with their birds in order to induce them (illegally) to leave the Park.
7e) A further demonstration of the officers' conspiratorial purpose was a refusal to honor the Defendants' specific request to come to the Park to remove the birds in their car, and act which would have allowed Defendants to continue the relationship with their birds by feeding them elsewhere, but which would have undercut the officers' earlier-noted apparent purpose to destroy that relationship.
7f) A further indication of the officers' conspiratorial purpose was the fact that, if their purpose had been to 'uphold the law', it would have been only fair to merely warn the Defendants that they were not, as they believed, feeding birds in the Park, in which case Defendants would have willingly moved. This lack of fairness is accentuated by the fact, noted earlier, that Buggle himself did not know of the presumed illegality of the Defendants' act until after his three-month 'research.'
8) Besides police misbehavior, the unjustness of the prosecution of the Defendants is further supported by the fact that several of the residents in the area who are apparently the source of the complaints to police about the Defendants have themselves behaved improperly, if not outrageously. This behavior is described below (paragraphs 8a thru 8d). In spite of this behavior, however, Defendants have behaved only with courtesy and restraint, treating everyone with propriety and respect.
8a) Allen Conner, president of the Sunset Park area residents' association, refused the Defendants' request to answer objections about their bird- feeding at a residents' meeting.
8b) Paul Knox, who lives next to the Park, broke his word to the Defendants concerning a verbal agreement he had made with Defendants regarding bird- feeding.
8c) Jeffrey McLeod, who also lives next to the Park, gave the Defendants a long ugly cursing-out and vowed to 'make your life miserable' with the strong suggestion of physical threat to the Defendants.
8d) A certain self-identified Jewish fellow named Marc, a friend and agent of McLeod and other residents, had the chutzpah to request that the Defendants show 'compassion' for McLeod by agreeing to abandon their bird- feeding activities in spite of knowing about McLeod's ugly behavior toward the Defendants; and then vowing in an ugly manner to oppose the Defendants in every way possible when his request was (politely) rejected.
9) Further proof of the unjustness of this prosecution is the fact that not only have there been NO allegations of illegal behavior on the part of the Defendants other than the Citations, but there have also been no allegations of harm caused by the Defendants which are anything more than the ignorant fantasies of those making such allegations. The only two actual allegations of harm have been that the birds which Defendants feed leave droppings which make the sidewalk 'messy' and constitute a health hazard. These are discussed in paragraphs 9a thru 9d below:
9a) Whether the sidewalk is made 'messy' by the pigeons is a purely subjective judgment, and completely mistaken in Defendants' opinion. It is Defendants' contention that the droppings would usually not even be noticed by anyone walking on the sidewalk, and that the allegation of 'messiness' is purely a device to take attention off the fact that there is no substantive harm which the pigeons do. In particular, the alleged 'messiness' constitutes nothing more than some spots on the sidewalk, as the droppings have so little bulk that they quickly dry to powder or disappear from evaporation, and anyone stepping on any of these droppings would probably never notice that they had done so. This is confirmed by the fact that Defendants are in the habit of jogging around the Park on the sidewalk before or after they feed birds, and the alleged 'messiness' has never constituted any sort of bar or hazard to this activity. In contrast, dog droppings are sometimes left on the sidewalk, as are palm fronds, and these are genuine hazards which the Defendants always remove in the course of their jogging.
9b) The allegation that pigeon droppings are a health hazard is false, except in very special circumstances which are not present in the Defendants' activities. In particular, Defendants have examined the statistics and mode of transmission for all alleged disease threats, and have determined that the risk for themselves, to say nothing of others, is vanishingly small. For example, Paul Knox, who says he is a doctor, and whose ignorance is exceeded only by his arrogance, alleged to the Defendants that his children were at risk for psittacosis because of Defendants' feeding; but as the Defendants pointed out to him in a letter, based on consideration of transmission mode and CDC statistics, his children have less risk of getting psittacosis than they do leprosy. In any event, Defendants have been in intimate contact with feral pigeons (and their droppings) for more than a decade, and have never suffered from anything worse than a cold.
9c) The issue of droppings has arisen not because of their existence, but rather because of their visibility. The fact that pigeons (and the many other birds at the park, including parrots, jays, crows, starlings, mockingbirds, etc) like to sit on the power lines directly above the sidewalk means that their droppings fall on the sidewalk, rather than in the grass where they would not be noticed. While people such as Paul Knox, Jeff McLeod and others who complain about pigeons may not wish to think about it, bird droppings are everywhere, and their visibility in Defendants' case is merely a result of having the power lines over the sidewalks. In any event, rain generally clears the sidewalk completely of droppings; and in light of this, one can hardly claim some major sort of accumulation. Indeed, perhaps the real problem is that the complainers are those who, for some as-yet undetermined reason, are seeing spots in front of their eyes.
9d) It is bizarre that Knox, McLeod et al would be so concerned with droppings in the Park, as the Park is on the other side of a wide street from their respective properties, and these individuals do not normally come near the park.
10) Besides the fact that the prosecution of the Defendants is completely unjustified in terms of both legal considerations and the interests of justice, it is important for the Court to understand the probable motivations behind the circus of which the Defendants' Citations are merely the currently most visible part. Because one of the Defendants (John) is the author of a book on psychology (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Mind's Construction But Were Afraid to Ask Because You Thought It Might Change Yours), as well as an expert on many aspects of pigeons, Defendants offer the following observations (paragraphs 10a thru 10d) which they believe will shed light on the real reasons for their Citations, something which they believe stems from a widespread and abiding pathological distaste or hatred of pigeons:
10a) Pigeons are largely out of style in America. This contrasts with countries such as Holland, Germany and India, where pigeon-raising is common and greatly valued. Pigeons were once very much in style in America, where they were the farmer's 'fowl of choice' before being displaced by the stupider and less-tasty but much meatier chicken; and most 'street pigeons' are descendants of farm birds. Even as late as the early part of the last century, pigeons were raised on a commercial scale in Florida. Historically, pigeons have been raised for centuries, and their incredible homing ability and flying strength were employed, for example, to carry messages all over the Roman Empire. This message-carrying ability was utilized as late as WWII, where several pigeons were awarded medals for their bravery and persistence in carrying messages over enemy lines. (Switzerland has only recently abandoned its extensive support for the use of pigeons by the military.) And it may be noted that pigeon droppings were once considered so valuable as to be regarded as the special property of European kings.
10b) Most Americans are three or more generations off the farm, with no acquaintance with any of the realities of farm life or animal husbandry, particularly the universality and general harmlessness of animal droppings. In addition, people have been falsely taught by so-called 'health books' that any encounter with 'germs' produces a risk of disease, whereas in reality -- as is becoming more and more recognized by alternative health practitioners -- disease is not so much a product of 'germs', which are everywhere, but rather of lowered resistance, due either to inadequate diet or insufficient exercise, conditions which often lead to a person's immune system becoming too weak to prevent the growth of normally-present microorganisms. While there is no room in this pleading to go into these matters, suffice it to say that pigeons, whose droppings are often obvious to casual observers because of the birds' heavy presence in urban areas and their propensity to roost on buildings rather than in trees, have become a hobgoblin of the little minds who are worried about 'germs', particularly those steeped in conventional medicine, such as Paul Knox.
10c) The result of the ignorance of the above facts has led many people to an irrational fear and hatred of pigeons. Defendants have experienced this irrationality and hatred before, and are experiencing it now, and believe it to be the ultimate cause which is fueling this prosecution. This is clearly demonstrated by (1) the fact that Defendants are doing nothing to harm anyone, and (2) the exhibition of intense hatred and often-bizarre and otherwise inexplicable behavior toward Defendants on the part of McLeod, Knox, Buggle and others involved in this dispute.
10d) Besides the irrational fear and hatred of pigeons, Defendants believe that there may be other equally-unsavory attitudes which are fueling this prosecution. In particular, Defendants have been informed by the above- mentioned Marc that the houses in the Sunset Park area are in the half- million-dollar range, and this suggests -- in conjunction with the earlier- noted fact that pigeons are not a 'stylish' animal -- that what Defendants are up against is a sort of terminal snobbery, in which certain neighborhood residents view relatively unwealthy 'outsiders' as 'invading' their 'territory', somewhat after the fashion of vagrants who might leave their discarded liquor bottles in neighborhood yards. While Defendants view the Sunset Park area as rather ordinary-looking and greatly overpriced for the value, they believe that their activities add a certain panache and upscale flourish to the neighborhood, which the droppings-and-germs- preoccupied Knox and McLeod and their friends seem unable to appreciate (Defendants' pigeon-feeding has several times been in the newspapers and on television, and -- according to Defendant Lenora -- Defendants have been observed by celebrities on at least two occasions: Burt Reynolds and John McEnroe). Certainly this is reinforced by the fact that Defendants are friendly with many residents, whose behavior contrasts sharply with that of the neighborhood newbies McLeod and Knox, who have been in the neighborhood far less time than the Defendants.
11) It is important for the Court to dismiss the Citations not merely because they are unsupported by law, are unjust, and are fueled by snobbery, irrational hatred and ignorance, but also to send a message: First, a message to the police that they are not to bully law-abiding citizens or engage in conspiracies to deny people their legal rights; second, a message to those wealthy residents of the Sunset Park area such as McLeod and Knox that they cannot use the police as their gofers and water-boys; and third, a message to the citizens of the larger community that they are not subject to investigation and spying upon by police unless the police have substantive reason to think that they are breaking the law.
12) Defendants therefore ask that the charges be dismissed.
Signed_______________________________________________________ (Pro Se Defendant)
I swear the foregoing and attached statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Sworn to and subscribed before me on _________________________. (date)
_____________________________________________________________ (Notary Public, State of Florida)
Copy to State Attorney's office
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