Mountain View Voice

News - November 15, 2013

Ideafarm vows to fight conviction

Refuses deal to avoid jail time; will contest charges

by Nick Veronin

Going against the advice of his public defender and drawing gestures of exasperation from prosecutors, Wo'O Ideafarm convinced a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge last week to postpone sentencing him, so that he might "prepare an attack on the validity of the trial."

Best known for his curbside displays of signs emblazoned with provocative messages, he was convicted on Oct. 28 of multiple counts of willfully and maliciously obstructing a public street and for being a public nuisance. He was scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 8, but the sentencing proceeding was continued for at least six-weeks.

The charges he faces stem from a three-day period — Jan. 21 to Jan. 23 — when Ideafarm decided to return to the streets of Mountain View after a lengthy hiatus, to protest what he said was an abridgment of his First Amendment right of free speech. He held a sign while standing just off the corner of either Castro Street and El Camino Real or Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway. In each case he was standing in the street, outside of the bounds of the crosswalk.

According to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson, who is familiar with the case, none of the authorities involved in Ideafarm's prosecution — from the police up to the District Attorney's office — have any intention of stifling free speech. She noted that recordings of Ideafarm's encounters with police, which he recorded himself, demonstrate the patience of responding police officers.

"The defendant's conduct goes way beyond (speaking his mind)," Hendrickson said. "Some people have a message, other people want attention." She said she believes it was clear that, in the case of Ideafarm, it is the latter.

"In this particular case, he was standing in a traffic lane," Hendrickson said, referring to Ideafarm. "The bottom line in our goal is the safety of the public and to not allow Mr. Ideafarm to hijack police resources."

Hendrickson added that the judge presiding over Ideafarm's current case has been very patient and fair during the proceedings.

At the Nov. 8 hearing, Judge Allison Danner appeared to listen intently and earnestly to Ideafarm, and did not become angry when he interrupted her.

Danner provided Ideafarm with a written copy of her recommended punishment: three years court probation, plus fines and fees. The sentence also carried with it an incentive for Ideafarm's cooperation; the city of Mountain View and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office were prepared to drop two other pending criminal cases against Ideafarm.

Ideafarm refused sentence, which would have allowed him to remain free, albeit on probation. Instead, he informed the judge that he planned to challenge the ruling, saying he knew of a variety of legal "attacks" he could make against the proposed sentence.

Ideafarm's lawyer, Andrew Tursi, said little while the self-identified "public speaker" recited a number of legal maneuvers he believed he could use to postpone his sentencing and possibly get a new judge to consider the case.

In the hallway after the hearing at the Palo Alto Courthouse, Tursi appeared frustrated as his client held forth about corruption within the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and among Mountain View officials and police.

Later, in an email to the Voice, Ideafarm compared his attorney to Judas Iscariot. "For 30 pieces of silver, he was handing me over to be crucified," Ideafarm wrote, adding that his lawyer was ready to give up on the case as soon as the judge handed down her verdict, and implying that Tursi didn't have his entire heart in it. "These people are not called 'public pretenders' for nothing."

After a private conference with lawyers from the city and the DA's office, as well as with Tursi, Danner advised Ideafarm that his action would result in the withdrawal of the DA's offer to drop its pending cases against him. An attorney for the city of Mountain View then said the city would withdraw its offer to drop its cases against him as well. Ideafarm indicated he was fine with this.

The judge also asked him why he intended to stall the sentencing process.

"Because I want to win," he responded.

Outside the courtroom, after the hearing, Ideafarm told the Voice that he welcomes the continuation of the current case as well as the beginning of the pending cases against him — one of which involves his alleged false imprisonment of a woman, whom he believed had tampered with one of his signs.

During that incident, Ideafarm grabbed the woman and told her he was placing her under citizen's arrest. In the struggle the pair fell to the ground. He was later arrested by Mountain View police. who said they did not accept the validity of his arrest.

When asked why he didn't accept a sentence that would have allowed him to stay out of jail, and which would have resulted in the dropping of the two pending cases, Ideafarm said that he didn't believe he should be put on probation, as it would increase his "vulnerability to police harassment."

"Those cases are even more outrageous than this case," he said. "I don't mind them going to trial. I want them to go to trial. I want them to be publicly viewed."

He said that then the corruption of the court and the city would become apparent and that the people of Mountain View might finally wake up and become aware that they are being oppressed.

The way Hendrickson sees it, Ideafarm is not being oppressed.

"His behavior suggests, rather than having a message, he really wants to get attention — any kind of attention," she said.

While the DA's office has currently withdrawn the offer to drop Ideafarm's other cases, that doesn't mean that offer won't be extended again, should he decide to be cooperative. And that's not because of any fear over what Ideafarm has to say. Instead it's more a matter of practicality, Hendrickson said.

"We've got other cases we're trying in Santa Clara County. This is not the 'Ideafarm courtroom.'" she said.

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