By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Lydia Grant, an LAUSD student safety activist and community liaison, says she's disgusted by the piling-on of accusations against a student observer with a cell phone camera, and the severe charges that could send him to a California prison.
"In my opinion, the district is responsible for the beating of a youth and the entire bus-stop incident, including the false imprisonment of a special education student for seven months," Grant says. "The officer involved failed to write a police report, and the LASPD has failed on two occasions to appear in court, under subpoena, to turn over any evidence."
Coincidentally, six days before the bus incident, Grant says she reported two officers to school authorities, Erin Robles and Angelica Kegayan, "and asked for their removal," after Grant got complaints from students and parents that the two were harassing them.
L.A. School District Police Department deputy chief Tim Anderson stands by the case against Marks, saying, "When someone is arrested, we obviously have to know everything from reasonable suspicion, probable cause, the elements of the crime, etc."
Berry-Jacoby says Robles met with deputy District Attorney Ed Green for nearly three hours and told Green she saw a video taken by a "kid" inside the bus that would substantiate her claim that Marks urged the 15-year-old to attack her.
Berry-Jacoby says she has asked the D.A. for a copy of the video, as is her right as a member of the defense team.
But, she tells the Weekly, she was appalled to learn from Deputy D.A. Chuck Stodel that Officer Robles never viewed the video purportedly taken from inside the bus — and the student on the bus no longer has the phone that purportedly contained the footage.
Cooley's office says it cannot comment on evidence outside of court, and the "kid" from inside the bus has not been identified by prosecutors as a witness.**
School police chief Anderson says, in defense of the stiff bail hike that is keeping Marks in the rough adult Peter Pitchess jail for months, "I don't know him personally or have any other information about him. However, one of the unique things about our department is that we are on or around these two campuses every day, and we get to know the students, the staff, the community, etc., very well."
But in fact, L.A. Weekly investigated the tiny, and controversial, school police agency in 2009 in its cover story "LAUSD’s Finest: How an Oblivious School Board Lets a Tiny, Scandal-Ridden Campus Police Force Endanger L.A. Kids" (Sept. 4-10, 2009) and found a different situation.
The Weekly found the tiny police force is a little-watched and highly isolated organization, heavily armed and given extremely broad policing powers on Los Angeles city streets — not merely on school campuses.
Its officers and brass are subjected to very little oversight or accountability, and two extensive, secret 2007 audits obtained by the Weekly called for a radical remaking of the police force.
Unlike virtually every other police department in California and in the West, the LAUSD's campus cops and their top brass have undergone no serious, modern-day reforms.
Most important, the Weekly found, the Los Angeles School Police Department's internal affairs division "sat on 16 investigations of police wrongdoing for so long that the officers can't be punished, even though all were ultimately found guilty of misconduct." As the story reported, "Its top brass have failed to heed sharp private warnings against letting its woefully undersupervised cops patrol L.A.'s streets far beyond school boundaries."
It may be that Jeremy Marks was a kid unlucky enough to have been in trouble with the LAUSD school police in years past.
Before his parents requested his transfer to Verdugo Hills High School in 2009, Marks was involved in fights at Kennedy High School, had been given "truancy tickets" by campus police and was arrested once for robbery.
Hoping to get their son a better academic and social grounding, his parents transferred him to Verdugo.
Since last year he has been attending school regularly, passing his courses and trying to stay out of trouble, his mother says.
Grant, the parent activist and liaison, lashes out at the school police department and its persecution of Marks. Grant alleges the school police now are harassing outspoken students and even parent advocates like her.
"Now the witnesses, including myself, are being watched and harassed," Grant says. "They are putting us in danger."
Grant says she was unnerved when she spotted Officer Erin Robles outside the L.A. Superior Courthouse one day, watching as she, Marks' attorney Berry-Jacoby and six eyewitnesses visited the building. When Berry-Jacoby asked Deputy D.A. Green if he had subpoenaed Robles to be at court that day, she says, Green told her he had not.
Marks' case is attracting interest from the civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality of California, which is calling for donations to help Marks pay for a rigorous defense.
Celes King IV, CORE's vice chairman, learned of the case recently and wrote a letter to Cooley stating, "After looking at the video, it became quite apparent that this prosecution is not only without merit, it could very well be considered a libelous abuse of power under color of law."
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