Hats Off To You, Your Honor By Jon Benito

So unfortunately, between a time span of four months or so, I got picked up by the police for graffiti. The first time I got ACD (charges dropped) in return for six months good behavior. However, the second time I got picked up, I was arrested and held for about sixteen hours until I saw a judge. The ordeal was entertaining to say the least. Outside of the Christian proselytizing with signage telling me to ask Jesus for forgiveness, and the amount of disinformation being proliferated by the police was... Well... Not really surprising. Regardless, I recently had my follow up court date this past Friday, December 19th.

 art by Tomas Brewer

art by Tomas Brewer


Now for a little back up info. I recently have become well acquainted with the NYPD, as they have me, outside of my recent graffiti arrests. After leaving Alcoholics Anonymous and then being harassed for doing so; It’s a really long story. After several attempts to file menacing 1 reports with the NYPD, and their blatant refusal to file said complaints (highly suspect), and then being called crazy by various officers for doing so (again, highly suspect), I finally started doing my own research into criminal procedure law and found that the NYPD was in fact denying me my right to due process. Recently, I have decided to throw the book at the pigs, and their attitude has changed drastically in response to my claims (again, highly suspect). You feeling me yet? So mainly, what I am trying to say is my respect for our institutions went from non-existent to 0° Kelvin (please see wikipedia for nerd reference). But I digress...


My lawyer is this old hippy type from the Legal Aid Society with a long braid wrapped around her neck like a scarf, a purple sequined blazer, velour black track pants, and a cane thats tricked out to trip out. Being my usual 'fuck you' self, I decided that because I was so inconvenienced to have to go to court, I would extend them the same courtesy. Of course, its Chanukah, so you know... I'm part jewish, however never indoctrinated into the cult of Judah, but rather the cult of Roman Catholicism.

 

Regardless, I went into the courtroom with a plain black baseball cap, sat down, and was swiftly accosted by the CO's (court officers) to take off my hat. I replied with the fact that I was jewish and it was Chanukah and I was exercising my right to religious observance as is protected by the Constitution. They didn’t like this and asked me to wait outside... My lawyer didn’t either, to which I was surprised, since she was obsessed with the Act Up Movement in the 90's and Keith Haring. Well, really... I just thought she was one cool lady who could support the movement and vibe right with me. I quickly turned on my voice recorder on my phone. My lawyer looked down, and quickly changed her snap happy tune. She agreed to speak to the judge and came back out. Four hours later she comes back out telling me the judge has agreed to see me, hat on, and sincerely apologized for the long wait. She then went on to explain that the courtroom expressed that it wanted to wait until most of the defendants had left because the court didn’t want other people to realize that they had the right to wear a hat if declaring religious observance. Yes... Let that one soak in for a minute.

 art by Tomas Brewer

art by Tomas Brewer


The New York Court System was attempting to hide me so that other people couldn’t realize that they really cant tell anyone to take their hats off in court. To boot... There were two ladies in the courtroom when both were wearing hats. One was a leopard print Kangol bucket hat, the other was a cable knit skull cap. Hardly professional attire. Gender bias, anyone? Either way, I urge all of you to not take off your hats in court. Just stake your claim. If you don’t look [state religion here] that’s discrimination based on ethnicity/race. Just stand your ground, stay kool, dont yell, and dont take no for an answer. If its not the traditional garb, say you’re reformed, or putting your religion in a modern context out of fear of discrimination. Just tell the "truth," since they're telling you the same "truth." Catch my drift?