Disturbing the Peace

I arrived in Rockland, Mass, a small town charm, just 20 miles south of Boston. I’ve been waiting patiently several days for this load, one that probably wasn’t even worth my time. Boston is a world class city and a major intermodal seaport. But a trucker without a trailer is like a vagrant without a sign – gotta take whatever’s thrown at me.

I couldn’t find anything leaving the city heading south.  Most loads were coming into the city and making its way from the port heading east, south and all points in between. So I settled for a moving van from Casey’s Movers. Instead of freight, the load was comprised of furniture, household goods for a 3-bedroom single family house with a large living room and home-office den complemented with a 7-piece oak dining room.

The goods needed to be shipped to Glen Burnie, MD, a suburb south of Baltimore, a tad bit bigger than Rockland.   It was the day before  July Fourth, so the family would have to wait until after the long holiday weekend. When I arrived I was greeted by Debbie, who apologized for the trailer not been ready. The movers were doing last-minute securement, so I decided to go across the street to grab a cup of joe.

Marylou’s is an aesthetically-pleasing coffee shop adorned in bright pink walls, countertops, solid-wood stools and colorful signage.  The floors complemented the delicate floral shades with monochromatic black & white like a gigantic checkerboard to dance on.

“Super cute. Really digging this decor,” I exclaimed. My immediate reaction was to pull out my handy Ricoh Theta V and take a 360 spherical shot of the pastel walls and dark checkered floors. I greeted the barista and asked if it was ok to shoot a picture.

“Umm, what for?” she asked sheepishly. “Google street view,” I replied matter-of-factly.  So you can see inside, too.”

“Sure thing,” she replied. I quickly took the shot remotely controlling the shutter with my iPhone, reviewed it, then brought the phone over to her so she could see it, too. “Oh cool, that looks fine,” she replied.

I nodded in agreement and thanked her kindly. Then I sat down next to a counter by the window facing the main street. From there I could see the red of my truck next to Casey’s. But there was one more thing I needed to do before I picked up my load. I turned on my laptop and opened Google maps. I wanted to double check my route and check on the traffic heading south. It was the busiest time of the year to drive – it would be a hell of a day to drive.

Then just as I was about ready to shut down my laptop, a lady taps me on the shoulder.

“Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a marketing manager for the company, and I just happened to be here working on a new promotion for our latte. I understand you wanted to take a picture of the store. Can I ask why?”

“Yes, it’s for Google Street View – so customers can see inside the business on their phones.”

The lady paused for a long second as she reviewed the image. “Do you work for Google.”

“No, I actually work for RUNINOut as I turned my laptop towards her to show the homepage of my site.  But Google no longer dispatches their own crew to capture local businesses. Instead the work is crowdsourced to their street-view trusted photographers,” I replied nonchalantly  as I handed her my card.

“Why didn’t you call ahead that you were coming?”

“Well, I’ve never heard of Marylou’s before. I just came over to grab a cup of coffee and noticed on the Google Street view app that you don’t have an interior street view posted online.”

The lady glanced at my site, then at the picture I took. She seemed satisfied with what she saw then mentioned that she had to check on something and would be back shortly. She was back before I could exhale.

“I just called Corporate. We would appreciate it if you depart the premises immediately.”

I faced her and met her strong gaze in disbelief.  Why the sudden stern tone, I thought. ‘Certainly. I’ll leave right now,”I said. I was ready to go anyway and the trailer should be all set by now. “And if it’s ok, I send a message to the company’s Facebook page so you’ll  know how to get ahold of me. In case you have any questions or issues with the picture.”

The lady thanked me despondently, and I headed off towards my truck ready to couple onto the trailer, carrying a families most cherished possessions.

A week later I was back in Rockland to return the trailer. I had delivered the load of household goods to a cheerful family and was able to secure a backhaul of aluminum rods from Baltimore to Boston in order to leverage my earnings. As I brought the trailer to the parking lot of Casey’s I realized I was famished. Mouth-watering images of Marylou’s hot breakfast sandwiches whetted my appetite. I ordered a sausage and egg on an everything bagel and cafe latte.

Then I walked around the coffee shop looking for an outlet for my laptop.  The food came quickly, and I took a load off. I had not taken a second bite, when I noticed three police officers enter the premises. They quickly checked in with the manager and then approached me suspiciously. Clearly they’re not here for me. Is there something wrong with my truck? “I hear you’re taking pictures!” A strong voice bellowed. I looked bewildered. Was he asking or telling.  Either way the question was strange and rhetorical.

“Not today”, I said.

“I was last week though. why do you ask?”

“We got a complaint that you are trespassing. May we see an ID?”

“Why do you need to see my ID.  I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“We need to see your ID so we can write a no trespassing order, so you’ll be formally notified never to come back.”

“I’m not trespassing sir. No one ever told me I couldn’t be here. I’m a paying client trying to eat my breakfast in peace. However if you like, I’d be happy to take my food out and depart the premises”

“Not until you provide an ID.”

“Whoa, am I under arrest?”

“Not yet, but if you don’t cooperate, you could be.  What is your name and what are you doing here?” the officer asked sternly.

“My name is Chito Peppler. I’m a truck driver from Washington, DC, and I was just enjoying my breakfast and coffee so I don’t starve before I head back home.”

“Why won’t you show us your ID?”

“Because I haven’t done anything wrong sir.  I know the law. Massachusetts is not a Stop and ID state.  Now I have things to do. So can I please leave now?”

“No you may not – until you show us your ID.” I winced in disgust.  Then I picked up my bag and started to leave. A big, burly officer who towered over me blocked my way. Unsure of what to do next, I reached over to grab my phone to  start recording just in case they try something funny. But I never got the chance. As soon as I picked up my phone, the officers jumped into action.\

They slammed me hard against the window, turned me around like a crumpled-up ragdoll.  One officer grabbed my phone.  The other cuffed me then marched me into his idling cruiser, pushing me hard into the backseat. They drove me into the precinct which was only a 5-minute walk from the coffee shop. There they emptied my backpack, found my military ID and exclaimed.

“You were in the Navy! You should have shown us this in the first place – all this nonsense could have been avoided.”

“What, just because I’m a veteran? I’m standing up for all people –  military, civilian, citizens and non against unlawful detention and arrest.”

“This is the second time, we’ve been called on you, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think so. I’ve never talked to the Rockland police.  The last time I was at the coffee shop, I left when they asked without incident.”

“Then why did you come back?” “They never said I couldn’t.  And they never told me that there was an issue in the first place.  But they had no problem taking my money today.”

Wait. Hold up. I’m talking too much to the police. Best to  invoke my rights from here, and save it for court. The detention took over four hours.

They photographed, finger printed me and charged me for Witness Intimidation, Disturbing the Peace, and Disorderly Conduct. I then paid my bail and was ordered to return after the weekend – Hingham District Court for my arraignment. On the way out, they handed me this Letter of No Trespass.  Not a problem – I’m giving Marylous – this one as well as all 40 of them – a wide berth.

 

The Arraignment
The Court dropped two charges and kept the Disturbing the Peace (which is great news since Witness intimidation is a felony).  The Prosecutor told me that the DA would dismiss this charge if I pay $150. However the arraignment and the dismissed charge would show up on my record – that’s not good if I want to work for the government again and need a security clearance.
 
I told them I would rather have the charge dropped (not dismissed) which they refused. They begged me to pay the 150 for the dismissal but I held firm.  If only Marylou’s would inform the DA that they wished not to press charges against me, the entire case would be dropped, and I would not need to return.
 
They then set the pretrial hearing to Sept 12 – this would be tough because as a over-the-road truck driver, I would have to juggle my  schedule around to ensure I would be able to return.
 
I don’t qualify for a public defender so I told them I would represent myself.  They also informed me that the max penalty of Disturbing the Peace is $150 (the same amount they wanted me to pay today)
 
The Prosecutor hinted (informally) that this charge would never go to trial (they have bigger fish to fry) — I totally agree – they should have never papered the case in the first place – they did so perhaps to help the police department  save face.
 
The Trial

The Court: Trial matter. Commonwealth versus Chito Peppler

Commonwealth: Good afternoon, Your Honor. Molly MacKinnon for the Commonwealth. Judge, the Commonwealth will be calling two witnesses and would agree to a sequestration of the witnesses

The Court:  All right. I should discuss with you the fact that you have chosen to waive counsel, sir. This is not a felony – it’s a charge of disturbing the 6peace. I gather it is a criminal offense, but you would not qualify for counsel in this case because 8there’s no chance of you going to the House of Correction. The penalty is only $150 fine. You could retain counsel. People who choose to represent themselves are at often 12 times viewed as a disadvantage because they may not 13 know the rules of evidence and court proceedings. Do you want to hire your own lawyer or do you 15 want to represent yourself, sir?

The Defense: I would like to represent myself The state’s first witness was Ms. Snyed, the manager at Marylou’s.

Q: How long have you been working at Marylou’s

A: I’ve been with the company for four years, but only been managing that store for four months.

Q: Would like to direct your attention on the events of July 12th. Do you remember that day?

A: So a gentleman had come in. He bought a coffee and then proceeded to a counter where customers can sit down. And he started setting up a computer. He wasn’t really sitting down. He was walking around. His behavior was very — it made us uncomfortable. So then he proceeded to put a phone on our pastry counter with the camera facing towards us.  So it was an immediate red flag on my part. And the employee I was working with had informed me that he had already been in there once and took pictures of the girls. So I called my boss and said, you know, is it okay if I call the police, and they said, yeah, that’s fine. So I called the police because he just — we got a very eerie feeling about him being there.

When he first like set up the computer  — it was a red flag. People don’t do that. They don’t come in and sit. They usually just get their coffee and leave, so that was a red flag at first. And then when he didn’t sit down, he just kept walking 19 around the store.

I’m like okay, weird. If you’re going to use your computer, you usually sit at it. And then when he put the phone on the counter with the camera facing us, I had no idea if he was recording us. I didn’t know what he was doing. So it got a little  weird.

In both her written complaint and during the October 25 trial, the manager stated repeatedly that she felt “uncomfortable” with me.  Yet there was no reason for her to feel this way.  None of my actions or behavior would make any reasonable person feel uncomfortable.   The manager displayed implicit bias against me based on what the corporate manager told her.  The corporate manager defamed my character by talking disparagingly about me, so that the store manager already had a negative opinion of me upon my return on July 12th.

The job of a manager is to serve their customers, not to overly scrutinize them. They need to be open-minded to different customers of all gender, race and occupation.  In my situation, I wasn’t sitting down while waiting for my order because as a truck driver, I’ve been behind the wheel all morning.  I approached the pastry counter because I was hungry, and I was drawn to the mouth watering pastries. I considered ordering a Danish but ordered a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Bagel instead.  

Next was the cross examination.  I was look forward to asking Ms. Sneyd questions and it appeared she did not expect me to be questioning her/ Yes, Ms. Sneyd. Okay. The first question I have for you is on your written testimony to the police department. You  mentioned that your boss had called the police on July the 3rd; is that correct?

A Yes, because I know there was an incident that happened on July 3rd and they had asked him to leave at that point as well.

Q Okay. Do you have proof that someone from Marylou’s contacted the Rockland Police on July the 3rd?

A I was not there, no. But I was informed  because it is my store.

If this “is her store”, then it was her duty to verify whether or not the police were called previously. If she did not know this on July 12th, then she had plenty of time to do this before the trial on October 25th.

To strengthen her case, she lied to the dispatcher and defamed my character by stating that Marylou’s had called the police on me previously. 

Q Okay. I was given as evidence the CDs for the 9-1-1 call So you told the 911 dispatcher that the police were called before when that was not the case. “What is my race? Am I White?”

A: No, you’re not.

Q: Then why did you describe me to dispatch as caucasian?” You had an issue with me placing the phone on the danish counter.  Why didn’t you just come and tell me this. That’s your job as manager, not to call the police.

The manager’s goal was to get me kicked out even if that meant calling the police which could easily escalate into criminal charges and potential injury.  She claimed that no customers use their laptops inside Marylou’s and customers grab their coffee and leave.  Even if she has never been to a Starbucks (which she claims to be the case), she has to know that patrons at thousands of coffee shops throughout America, open up their laptops to go online and check their email – that’s not unusual and should not be reason for alarm.  And if sitting down and using laptops is not ordinarily allowed, it was incumbent on her to communicate this to me.  I am a truck driver from out of town, so she should understand my ignorance of this unspoken rule.  But the manager failed to communicate to me which is her responsibility, because she clearly did not even want to talk to me.  Instead she rushed to call the police who showed up within 5-10 minutes.  

Calling 911 for a non-emergency is a gross misuse of government resources and textbook harassment of the customer.   Doing so diverts law enforcement from a true emergency and could result in escalation of conflict and undue hostility.

The manager  stated a lot of factual errors, mistruths and discrepancies that hints to a cover-up and wholly impeaches her credibility During the Oct 25 trial, she mentioned she did not remember whether the patron ordered a sandwich (a fact that was confirmed by Officer Gilcoine who testified that I was still eating my sandwich when they arrived).  Either she has bad memory or she was hiding the fact that she denied the customer his right to eat his food and had a right to be in the premises.  Unlike what happened in the Starbucks in Philadelphia, he was a patron and had not yet finished his food.  Once I was done, I had no plans to stick around. I had to get back in my truck and I had a long drive to Washington, DC.

If the manager had a legitimate issue with the customer’s behavior, she should have simply approached him and explained her concerns.  Her excuse is that the customer was “standoffish” which was far from the case.  It was the customer who upon entering, politely introducing himself, took the initiative to show the staff the pictures he took the week before.   He was clearly receptive to receive feedback, so he would have appreciated it if the manager had spoken to him and addressed her concerns before calling the police. 

Next I cross examined Officer Gilcoine.

Defense:

Q: So when you and the other officers arrived, what happened?

A: “We asked to see your ID.”

Q: “I refused to show my ID because Massachusetts is not a Stop and ID state and I had not done anything wrong. I did provide my name though.”

A: “I didn’t hear him state his name.”

Q: Were you shown the picture that I took on July 3rd.

A: I was shown a website.

Q: Are you familiar with Google Street View?

A: Yes

Q: Great. So you realize that with Google Street View you can see the inside of places, restaurants, museums – which is tied to seeing the outside.

A: Yes.

Q: When you looked at the photo did you realize that there’s a name on the corner of the photography?

A: No, I did not.

Q: Have you ever taken a picture inside a restaurant?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: Then what was the big deal about the defendant taking pictures?

A: Because he had done this before.

Q: Regarding the no trespass order, why were you insistent on filling it out? When I read the no trespass order, it is actually signed by Kaitlyn Sneyd, the manager of Marylou’s can write the no trespass order exclusively. Is that correct?

A: We were insistent because the police were called the week before.

Q: You mentioned this was the second call. So the previous call was allegedly made a week before on July 3rd. How do you know this?

A: Because the dispatcher told us this.

Q: Well that information actually came from Ms. Snyed who lied to the dispatcher.

Officer Gilcoine shrugged his shoulders.

Q; Did I ever ask to leave the premises?

A: Yes, but we would not let you until we get your ID.

Q: Isn’t Massachusetts not a Stop and ID state?

No answer.

If you’re not aware what the law is in Massachusetts – there’s no legal requirement to show an ID unless you’re driving a motor vehicle. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be supported by probable cause.

Q; Then why not just let me leave the premises and ask for my ID outside the coffee shop?  After all I would be heading to my truck, where I’m legally required to show you my ID when asked.

Q: Have you ever taken a photo inside a restaurant

A: Yes

Q: Then why was it so strange for me to take a photo

A: Because this is the 2nd time that we were called on it.

Q: How do you know this?  Do you have proof that the a call was ever made on July 3rd, and if so why was it made when the defendant left peacefully when asked.

A: That’s what the dispatcher told us.  Marylous reported to the dispatcher that this was the second time that we were called.

You want to know something – there was no previous call. This was the first time the police was ever called on the defendant.

The Court:

First: That the defendant engaged in conduct which most people would find to be unreasonably disruptive, such as (making loud and disturbing noise) (tumultuous or offensive conduct) (hurling objects in a populated area) (threatening, quarreling, fighting, or challenging others to fight) (uttering personal insults that amount to fighting words, that is, are so offensive that they are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction);

My immediate thoughts provided images of someone rioting or inciting to riot, perhaps breaking into storefront and vandalizing public property.

Second: That the defendant’s actions were done intentionally, and not by accident or mistake; and Third: That the defendant did in fact annoy or disturb at least one person.

To amount to disturbing the peace, the defendant’s acts must have been voluntary, unnecessary, and contrary to normal standards of conduct. You should consider all the circumstances, including such important Instruction.  Factors as time and location, in determining whether the defendant disturbed the tranquility of at least one person in that area, or interfered with at least one person’s normal activity.

Court: So the defense did not disturb the peace. You are free to go.

“Thank you your Honor!” I clenched my fist in victory – I was so glad I fought the charges and was ready to hit the beach and celebrate.

 

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