Saturday, July 26, 2008


Fellow Citizens,

If you've never been arrested, it goes like this. (provided that you do not resist and we definitely do not recommend doing that)

It's Saturday Afternoon - You are handcuffed with your hands behind your back . You wonder what is going to happen to your art and your dog.

You are put into the back seat of a police car and delivered to the County Jail where the cuffs are removed .

You empty your pockets and give over your wallet.

You wait on a metal bench with no back in booking. Do not try to lie down or lean on your elbow even if your back is killing you. You will get a sharp command to "SIT UP!"

A nurse who is busy carrying on a joking conversation about another corrections officer's hangover will ask some cursory questions without ever looking at you. Blood pressure is taken. You mention your aching back and are completely ignored . The hungover officer is sucking oxygen from a clear mask. You think of of Dennis Hopper in the film "Blue Velvet".

You cool your heels on the bench another forty five minutes listening to the banter amongst the officers who are behind a reinforced plate glass window with paper trays slots for documents to be passed and signed. You are invisible. They discuss last weekend's BBQ, the "asshole" over in Putnam County and other idle chatter while they move papers around, stamping and stapling."I'M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN DUDE, SIT UP !" Your sciatica is shooting electric pains down the back of your left leg. You feel some resentment being called "Dude" by someone half your age. You are thinking about your 13 year old dog and wonder how he is faring in custody somewhere.

A guard takes you down the hall where you are fingerprinted and photographed with the traditional front and left side poses. A plastic bracelet is crimped onto your left wrist. On it is your Id with the tiny front view photograph and a bar code.

Next you are put into a sticky "holding cell" that smells of vomit. Another short metal bench. Try to lie down and you are again barked at from the window slot ( NO LYING DOWN !). You ignore the warning since your sciatica is acting up and you are weary.

After an hour has passed you are sent to a stall where you take a brief shower (you are being observed) You change into an issued orange jumpsuit, poly cotton boxer shorts and rubber sandals. Your clothes are put into a brown paper bag.

You are also given a stained plastic covered 2 inch thick mattress , a set of sheets, a toothbrush, a tiny toothpaste tube and a comb. Awkwardly carrying the mattress and items you are taken to a lock down cell on the second floor loggia,semi circled around what looks like a common area for prisoners. A few prisoners are occupying the other cells A few yell out requests to the guard ,"Can I make a phone call?", When is food coming?"etc. The door closes.Your cellmate is a guy named Dave who was charged with stealing a bottle of rum from the liquor store. You immediately sense that it has been sometime since his last shower. Sounds are distorted with reverberating echos bouncing around the cinder block walls.The intercom in each cell makes some sort of human voice sound once in awhile but the exact words are indecipherable.

You will not go anywhere until the next morning since you were arrested on Saturday and the judge will not come in until Sunday. The judge will set your bond and a court date. If you are accustomed to reading before you sleep at night forget it. After reading some of the graffiti scraped on the walls (Sheriff Shoar Sucks! Jesus Loves You) There is not a lot of diversion other than your mind to occupy yourself. A food tray is delivered but you do not eat it keeping in mind that the food contract went to the lowest bidder. You will eat when you get out. You try to sleep worrying about your 13 year old dog.

Sunday Morning. Eighteen hours after your arrest, a garbled scratchy sound comes from the intercom speaker and the gate clicks open. You and five other prisoners are chained at the ankle and handcuffed .You are all strung together with a "belly chain" and you can't help but think of the old Woody Allen monologue where they escape prison as a giant "charm bracelet" (Did we really laugh at that?) Dave is chained next to me and the guy on the other side of Dave is causing trouble cause of the smell. "SHUT THE FUCK UP!", says the guard. He does.The others seem more adept at making our way down the hall. You can't seem to get the group rhythm down and your missteps affect everybody chained to you. You don't care.

After standing around for a half hour ("NO LEANING AGAINST THE WALL!") you and your chain gang buddies are shuffled into a room with a desk in front and five rows of benches (again no backs!) facing the front. The group is told that the judge will be arriving soon and we are not to discuss our case or speak without being addressed by the judge. It you do so you may be removed from the room. The judge enters looking annoyed (It IS Sunday) papers are shuffled three or four others are up front. Two are not in uniform (Public defenders? Prosecutors?) Two sleepy looking tangle haired women prisoners are brought in and placed on the benches in front of us. Looking around at the prisoners you notice something in common. Lots of facial hair and tattoos. You wonder why criminals would want to mark themselves to be so identifiable. One guy seems still a little inebriated and starts spouting off about the unfairness of his situation. He is unchained from the rest of us and taken away.

Cases are called. DUI and domestic violence dominates the charges , after all this is Sunday morning after a full moon Saturday. Writer Raymond Chandler wrote , " ....On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen...." A few are in for drug possession and you wonder why they don't leave their drugs at home since most have had these charges before.

Your case comes up. The judge is perplexed "This is a city ordinance violation?" A ridiculously small bond is set at 100 dollars. Great! You are confident that your friends will bail you out. You are anxious to get out to find where they have taken your 13 year old dog . He must be in distress!

Eventually you do not get out for another 12 hours. Your stomach is churning not having eaten for a day, Declining the food trays slid under your gate you start imagining what you will eat when you get out. The twenty dollar bill in your wallet can get you a nice meal.......mmm, a a steak!

Finally, you are told to drag your mattress to the front of the common area and are given your clothes. You get dressed and are relieved that you will be going home. "Go down the hall to the last room. "Do not stray from the yellow line!", says the jailer. You enter the room where you are told that they want to swab the inside of your mouth for a DNA sample. "No", you say, "I'm not gonna do that". "OK, THEN YOU'RE  GOIN' BACK IN THE CELL AND YOU CAN ROT THERE!," the jailer bellows. Once again you undress and put your clothes in a brown paper bag with your name written on it with a sharpie pen. This time you get no "gift bag" of toothpaste, comb etc. I find out later that DNA samples are taken of all inmates who have prior felonies, of which I have none.

You are finally released at 8:30 pm , Sunday Night. Friends posted bond. They waited hours earlier for your release but finally went home.Their inquiries as to when the release would be is, met with the response ,"I don't know". You have been incarcerated for almost 31 hours.You say, "Hey. I had twenty dollars in my wallet!" The large heavy breathing , obese , angry jailer says, "We took that for administrative expenses." Looking at his name tag you see that his last name is "Pious". You feel robbed.

With no money, not wanting to disturb anyone on a Sunday night, you walk the two miles back to your car and on the windshield you discover a red tag from the police stating that your car will be towed if not removed in 48 hours. It's 10 PM Sunday night and another artist is set up in the Plaza. He loans you some money to get something to eat. Tomorrow you will find out where they took your old dog.

On Monday morning you get your dog back after paying 75 dollars to Animal Control who housed him. You promise him that this will never happen to him again. The animal control people said that he was not happy there and would not eat.You get a "free" leash outta the deal.

Six months later your "unauthorized art" is returned in the courtroom and you are found innocent of the charges. You wonder if you will ever see that twenty dollars that was taken from your wallet.

In addition to this incarceration the artist Suvo has been arrested and jailed on the same charges three more times. Eleven other citations had been issued as well.  UPDATE...In May 2009, Federal Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled against the City of St. Augustine and in favor of the artists in Bates et al VS The City of St. Augustine. All charges were vacated and costs were billed to the City of St. Augustine. Over 100, 00 dollars has been spent by the city in outside legal fees on indefensible unconstitutional ordinances.It is now September of 2010 and the city continues to harass artists by threatening fines and arrest.


  1. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    wow man you tell it just like it is. except in petersburg you go to video court, you dont even get the chance to see the court room in person.The judge I went on camera to, was very puzzeled that I had no crimenal record. And nomatter how long , and how extencive the search they could not find a shread of past record.I now have a record of calling my aressting officer a dammed fool.

  2. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    You were arrested for violating a city ordinance and they wanted DNA from you! Not even Orweel would've envsioned this! America....What is happening?

  3. Anonymous26 July, 2008

    No spellcheck on this thing. I'm lost without spellcheck

  4. That is complete bull shit! It’s so fucked up they treated you that way. What the hell is the world coming to when you can go to JAIL over art? land of the free my ass. There really needs to be some kind of change for the better after all the crap they’re still putting St. Augustine’s artist though. I’m really sorry about your dog. Did he come back the same? The freedoms they took away mean a lot to many people, even me. And I don’t even live there. It’s a part of the culture. So, I thank you for going through what you had to. It hopefully helped people in high places or whatever notice just how ridiculous all this is.
    sorry for my lanuage. thats just how i feel.