Brian Lee of the Daily Gazette has written an excellent story on the decision by Judge Francine Vero to dismiss the charges against Jamaica Miles. The stories in the Daily Gazette are behind a paywall although I believe non-subscribers get to view a few stories online each month.
I want to urge the readers of this blog again to subscribe to the Daily Gazette which is the only reliable coverage of Saratoga Springs these days. Without the resource of a rigorous newspaper, our democracy will be seriously jeopardized.
According to all media accounts Ms. Miles and her lawyer Kevin Luibrand asserted that Ms. Miles was singled out and treated differently than the other persons charged in actions related to the July 14 Black Lives Matter protest in Saratoga Springs because she is black.
The history of this business is more complicated, however. As indicated in the Gazette article, 13 other persons, 3 white and 8 black, were charged for their actions at the protest. Those who had no criminal history were given “adjournments in contemplation of dismissal” (ACOD). This allowed for the dismissal of charges if the defendants committed no other illegal acts in a specified period of time. Ms. Miles was also offered an ACOD but refused this in an earlier court appearance.
Judge Vero noted that there had not been a “one size fits all” approach in dealing with cases resulting from the demonstration. She stated that “each defendant received an individual, independent analysis to determine their level of culpability and each defendant received a plea offer that was appropriate given their culpability and criminal history.”
It was apparent that Judge Vero was again looking for an ACOD for Ms. Miles at a later court appearance, but the Assistant DA declined to agree to it noting that Ms. Miles had previously rejected that solution. The DA did offer to reduce the false imprisonment charge down to disorderly conduct.
Judge Vero affirmed in her decision that there was in fact “evidence of guilt of Disorderly Conduct”.
It is perfectly understandable that Judge Vero was intent on finding a resolution that would not result in a conviction that would be inconsistent with the other cases. The judge noted that Ms. Miles had no previous criminal convictions. She has four children who she needs. to support.
The Gazette article noted that Mark Emanation, executive director for the Capital District Area Labor Federation, gave testimony to Ms. Miles’ volunteer work including her current tenure on the Schenectady School Board. He testified that Ms. Miles volunteers for mass food distributions for the hungry.
While Judge Vero observed that the video evidence clearly documents Ms. Miles’ disorderly conduct, she also wrote: “There would be no purpose in imposing a jail sentence upon a 47-year-old woman who has never been arrested before, particularly for an offense when there is no harm.”
Judge Vero also commented regarding problems with the prosecution’s case. The prosecution alleged that Ms. Miles was a leader of the demonstration without providing supporting evidence. She also observed that the victim in the case did not testify nor did the victim submit a written statement opposing the dismissal of the case.
So it is not surprising or unusual that a judge, having been thwarted in her attempt to resolve the case with an ACOD, would choose to dismiss the case.
Notwithstanding the allegations by Ms. Miles and her attorney, there is no indication that Judge Vero supported that race was a factor in the original arrest and prosecution.
District Attorney Karen Heggen’s Response
The Gazette reported that:
[District Attorney Karen] Heggen criticized the judge’s decision and suggested it sent a dangerous message that people who don’t have criminal records and perform good acts in the community get a pass to break the law.Daily Gazette January 25, 2022
Times Union Watch
The Times Union story was a study in contrast to the Gazette coverage. The TU basically focused on Jamaica Miles’ allegations that she was singled out by the police and DA because of racism.
A cursory reading of the TU article would lead one to believe that Ms. Miles’ charges were dismissed because she was innocent of violating the law.
Conspicuously missing from the TU article were the central tenants of Judge Vero’s decision: that video evidence confirmed Ms. Miles’ disorderly conduct and that the charges were dismissed for a variety of reasons including Ms. Miles’ personal history. Judge Vero also noted the time and resources that would have had to have gone into a jury trial particularly during Covid. Her opinion notes, “If the misdemeanor proceeds to trial a significant amount of the Court’s time and the time of the…jurors will be spent…in the process of summoning jurors, selecting a jury, instructing the jurors and waiting for them to deliberate…As a consequence…other Court matters will not be timely heard…”