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by Clifford A. Schaffer
This is a true story. The facts have not been embellished. In fact, I left a lot of stuff out.
When I first met Art in the late 1960's, he had just gotten out of prison the first time and was in college, desperately trying to make a go of his life. He was a bit scroungy in his appearance, but everybody was a little scroungy in those days and the truth was that Art never did have the money for fine clothes. He did the best he could. Art was one the nicest, friendliest, and most agreeable people I ever met. As a friend, I enjoyed his company on every occasion and found that Art was not a complete angel (neither was I, for that matter), but there was no reason to ever believe that he might be any real threat to society.
But Art was the unluckiest soul I have ever run across. For example, the first time Art went to prison, it was for stealing his own motorcycle. He was later arrested and/or went to prison for burglarizing his own apartment, stealing a mattress from a Salvation Army box, and for selling marijuana that even the police knew wasn't his. Those are only a few of the misfortunes which befell him and I haven't even gotten to the part about his lawyer. I will explain.
When Art became old enough to get a driver's license, he worked hard and saved his money until he was able to buy the vehicle of his dreams, a three-wheeled motorcycle. When he thought he had enough money, about $1,000 as I recall, he searched around and found a three-wheeled motorcycle for sale at a local wrecking yard. The owner of the wrecking yard was not well-renowned for his honest business dealings, and Art probably should have been more cautious but Art was so dazzled with the prospect of fulfilling his dream that he bought it anyway. As Art tells it, the owner of the wrecking yard made certain promises about the mechanical fitness of the vehicle and Art quickly found out that the vehicle was in no shape to be driven.
Art called the owner of the junkyard, raised the riot act, and demanded that repairs be made immediately. The owner of the junkyard told him to bring the bike on over and he would fix it up. Art did so.
About a week later Art showed up to pick up his bike. It was all repaired and ready for the road, complete with a bill from the junkyard owner for several hundred dollars worth of repairs. Art went ballistic, screaming and shouting that he had been robbed and that the junkyard owner had warranted that the vehicle was in good shape when he bought it. It was an old story, the used car dealer with a mechanic's lien against the injured buyer - who are you going to believe?
Art left in a rage and his common sense, which never was in great supply, left him completely. The next weekend, he went to the wrecking yard when it was closed, cut the lock on the gate, went in, got his bike, and took it home.
On Monday morning, it was perfectly obvious to the junkyard owner what had happened. The lock was cut and only one thing was missing. This didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out. He had long experience in turning such situations to his advantage. He quickly called the police, reported the theft and, in addition, claimed that several thousand dollars of other goods had been taken. Who can tell what is missing from a junkyard?
The police simply stopped by Art's house, found the bike in the driveway, and hauled him off to jail. The DA then trumpeted the news that a major theft ring had been broken and shipped Art off to prison. The proof that Art was part of a major burglary ring was supplied by the fact that there really wasn't much evidence. They expected, from the junkyard owner's description of the incident, that there would be tons of stuff in Art's garage. As it was, there was nothing but the bike which indicated only one possible conclusion - he must have stolen tons of the stuff and been able to fence all of it in less than 48 hours - obviously a major theft ring. The DA and cops got a lot of good publicity for saving the community from this awful scourge. Fine police work saved the day, they said.
The junkyard owner got Art's money, the bike, and payment from the insurance company for the items "stolen" but not recovered. Art's lawyer got a mortgage on Art's parents' house. The situation worked out great for everybody, except Art. A couple of years later, when I met him, Art was still dealing with insurance company people who were pursuing him and his parents for reimbursement of the stuff he never stole.
For that he got a sentence of about five years, which netted down to about 18 months in prison. He might have deserved a day in jail and a short lecture about mechanics liens.
When I walked down the street with Art, or appeared in any public place, it was immediately apparent that the Sacramento County Sheriffs had it in for him. I am not sure whether they really believed that Art ran a major theft ring as had been alleged or whether they just didn't like his looks, or just didn't like Art. I suspect it was the latter. He was an easy target to pick on, and my personal impression was that they did it just because a number of them were plainly sadistic and they liked easy targets.
From that point forward, Art was likely to be stopped anywhere, any time, by any Sheriff who happened to see him, without any real cause that I could determine. They just made it a point to hound him wherever they saw him.
The Mattress Incident
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Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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