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Soon after Cambridge police arrested and handcuffed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on a disorderly conduct charge, they realized the black man they wanted to prosecute was a renowned academic. As a result, he was released and the charges against him were dropped.
The ensuing public debate – in which Cambridge authorities now try to justify arresting a man because he refused to comply in his own home with police directions and deny that race had any influence on how the police reacted – suggests that if an ordinary black homeowner, rather than a Harvard professor, had been arrested under these circumstances, the criminal charges would not have been dropped so readily.
Consider the pending case of Rivka – a black, very dark-skinned, extremely devout Orthodox Jewish woman. Rivka is employed in New York, spends Shabbat in Washington, and her work frequently takes her on extended trips overseas. Being single and in her mid-fifties, she rented a 3-bedroom apartment on the West Side of Manhattan, and advertised on Craigslist for female roommates willing to accept short subleases. All applicants were informed by Rivka that the apartment was strictly kosher. A special page prescribing the kashrut rules was added to the lease that each roommate signed.
The rules were followed by a series of women Rivka accepted as roommates. In July 2007, a white blond-haired girl named Brooke answered Rivka’s ad and signed a five-month lease with the kashrut provisions. Brooke promptly violated the kashrut rules and admitted, in sworn testimony, that she brought nonkosher food into the apartment in knowing violation of her signed agreement. Rivka told Brooke she would have to leave.
Having e-mailed Brooke that she had arranged, at her – Rivka’s – expense, for a hotel room where Brooke could stay while she was looking for other accommodations, and believing that Brooke had agreed to have her belongings transported to the other location, Rivka began moving Brooke’s clothing to the hotel. Brooke arrived at the apartment unexpectedly and called the local precinct, reporting, “My roommate is currently stealing stuff out of my room.”
When Rivka returned after depositing Brooke’s belongings in the reserved hotel room, she found two policemen at the apartment with Brooke. The senior police officer (who is white), testified that Rivka showed them the lease and the e-mail she had sent to Brooke, and explained that she had moved Brooke’s belongings to the nearby hotel because she had an agreement with Brooke to do so. Rivka insisted to the officers that she wanted Brooke out of the apartment. The officers testified that Rivka interrupted her conversation with them to spend ten minutes in prayer.
Rivka then left the officers and retreated to her bedroom and locked her door. The officers demanded that she come out. On her cell phone, Rivka called a friend from the Georgetown Synagogue in Washington who had a law degree but was not in private practice. He told her to ask the officers for a warrant and for their precincts and badge numbers. The white policeman said in his testimony that he “did not recall” whether he gave his precinct and badge number.
When Rivka did not emerge voluntarily from her bedroom, the sergeant called the Emergency Services Unit – the police department’s riot squad. They came in full force, with more than one dozen policemen. They broke down the door to Rivka’s bedroom, dragged her into the hall and up against the wall at gunpoint, handcuffed her, and then took her downstairs to a waiting ambulance.
The ambulance drove to a nearby hospital. One of the officers tried to have her committed to the psychiatric unit. After an examination, the hospital said there was no basis to admit her. The police then took Rivka to the police precinct, where she was permitted one phone call. She called a person she had befriended while regularly attending Shabbat services at the Georgetown Synagogue, but the arresting police officer hung up the telephone in the middle of Rivka’s call.
Rivka was then taken to another hospital, where she was handcuffed to a bed. Next morning, she was returned to the precinct. The rabbi at the New York synagogue she attends on weekdays heard of her plight and brought a kosher meal to the precinct – the first meal Rivka had since her arrest the day before.
Rivka was charged with “Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the Second Degree” and with “Unlawful Eviction.” The New York D.A.’s office refused to dismiss the charges even after all the facts were presented. The young prosecutor first demanded that Rivka plead guilty and perform community service and ultimately was willing to accept an unconditional “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal.” Rivka refused to accept any terms other than outright dismissal because she insisted she had done nothing wrong.
The case went to a nonjury trial before a (white) judge who was a former prosecutor. He excluded much defense testimony as irrelevant and hearsay and rejected out of hand Rivka’s right to remain in her own bedroom after her discussion with the police. At the end of the trial, he found Rivka guilty on both counts and fined her $500. Rivka is appealing.
Would the police have broken the bedroom door of a white gentile and charged her with crimes after being called to a dispute between her and a roommate? Is this another instance – as the Gates arrest is said to be – of injustice against blacks, aggravated by Rivka’s Jewish identity?
Rivka is suing New York City, the policemen, and Brooke in federal court. The docket number of her case is 08 Civ. 10065. I am her lawyer.
About the Author: Nathan Lewin is a Washington, D.C. lawyer who has argued numerous cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and teaches a seminar in Supreme Court litigation at Columbia Law School.
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If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…
The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.
Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof
Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.
The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.
Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US
No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?
For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.
It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.
For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.
Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation
Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.
In the Thirties it was common for anti-Semites to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”
The inauguration of an American president has, since 1937, always begun with an invocation by a clergyman
The late Israeli Supreme Court judge Menachem Elon, was a pioneer of Jewish and Israeli law.
On Tuesday, February 28, it was widely reported that the basketball team of Houston’s Robert M. Beren Academy had “forfeited” its place in the semi-finals of the tournament conducted by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) because it would not play on Friday night and Saturday. But a headline in Friday’s New York Times read: “In Reversal, a Jewish School Gets to Play.”
On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, a member of Hamas, drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem, where the bomber blew himself up, killing 15 people including Judy Greenbaum, an American citizen from New Jersey.
Editor’s Note: On July 30, the firm of Lewin & Lewin, LLP, filed in the Supreme Court its brief in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, No. 10-699, on which the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in early November. The constitutional issue in the case is whether Congress had the authority to enact a law in 2002 that directs the Secretary of State to permit U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to record their place of birth in their passports as “Israel.” Because the State Department has consistently refused to recognize any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel, the government has refused to implement the 2002 law, claiming it violates the President’s constitutional authority to “recognize foreign sovereigns.” This is the Introduction to the Zivotofsky brief written by Nathan Lewin, followed by a Summary of Argument.
Congress has never seen a better friend of the observant Jewish community than Stephen Solarz, who died of esophageal cancer on the 22nd of Kislev. Yonoson Rosenblum’s recently published biography of Rabbi Moshe Sherer describes Solarz as an “invaluable ally” for many Agudath Israel projects and there are 20 references to Solarz in the book’s index.
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