International Woman’s Day could have come and gone without a contribution from me to mark the importance of celebrating women around the globe who I am proud to call my sister. What I promised myself and a few hundred of my sisters right here in Phoenix, Arizona I will make good on this day where again my belief that there is no such thing as coincidence has been confirmed, God has perfect timing.
I was born in Phoenix where I have lived my whole life. My grandmother was born in a mining camp in Pinal County in 1885. Blanche Charlebois Cavness became one of the first women State Legislators in Arizona elected in 1931. My grandfather was a cattleman, his death in 1935 left her a widow with four children to raise on her own. I never met my grandmother who died five years before I was born but I grew up listening to my dad talk about the woman who fearlessly put out the flame of a cross burning in their front yard as some members of the community did not agree with her politics. Her love of the Catholic Church. How much she loved her children. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
My dad was a lawyer. An Arizona legend whose courtroom defense of his client on trial for murder or the fair division of marital property dad presented with equal brilliance of the law he celebrated.
Our home growing up surrounded by judges, lawyers, and clients at our dinner table with drinks followed to the living room, the party continued long after my mom put me to bed. My dad held his audience captive with his latest case and how the jury found his client innocent told by the master storyteller as I hung on his every word from my bedroom. By the time I was old enough to sit with the adults I had heard my father tell the same story many times but listened with the same thrill, I felt the first time, just like he planned. What he wanted me to learn was worth repeating. Dad knew he wasn’t always going to be here to remind me with a story.
What did I learn? The truth will always win in the end, even good people can make a horrible mistake, innocent men are sitting on death row, never allow anyone the chance to blackmail you…no one will remember you six months from now. When you have the right to remain silent, keep your mouth shut. Thank you, dad. I hope you are proud of me.
My story of jail starts in tunnels under the streets of downtown Phoenix. The basement of the Luhrs Building was where I first discovered the winding floor with a slow spiral slope downward and then a long hallway that lead to who knows where when I was a little girl. Years later I took that walk down the hallway with my dad to the courthouse. On our walk back above ground, dad told me the courthouse on Jefferson and Washington used the tunnels for transporting inmates needing access to and from the jail and court. The Luhrs Building and Tower were also connected and other downtown buildings occupied by lawyers. To keep me from getting more freaked out, dad gave away there was once a bowling alley underground used by Phoenix Union High School kids who didn’t have to walk in the Phoenix heat after school for fun.
Thirty-three years later I was walking through those same tunnels on my way to jail. Head high, no tears, high heels, and handcuffs, straight from the courthouse.
Judge Kevin Wein appeared on the bench with a warrant for my arrest that had expired. Wein explained his duty as an officer of the court required he remands me into the custody of the MCSO until I could see a judge in the morning. I was spending the night for the first time in jail.
Jail by ambush. I appeared in court that day, as ordered, for a hearing on the constitutionality of Judge Wein’s gag order placed only on my free speech. Judge Wein ordered I remove my social media accounts and any subpages, including my popular Facebook page devoted to justice for my son. I was to immediately stop posting on any publicly available forum the truth, stop naming every judge and lawyer facilitating my son’s captivity, stop the exposure of family court corruption.
That walk on a familiar sloping floor to the jail where I was released hours later was meant to scare me, my lawyer told me about Wein’s lesson teaching with jail after my sunrise release. Judge Wein sentenced me to flat time, 6 months behind bars if I didn’t take down my blog about George. The first amendment protection of my free speech continued on my blog.
The second walk I took to jail from Wein’s court came in December 2018. Judge Wein sentenced me to that 6 months flat time for Criminal Contempt of Court. The charge was not a crime and would not result in a criminal record. I sat in jail for 180 days. Estrella jail is the Maricopa County Jail for female inmates. I lived in a dorm with 130 other women in conditions I never knew existed in the United States. How was this place legal and why hasn’t someone talked about what goes on inside these locked shitholes after they got out and before they came back again? The revolving door of Estrella is well known with little to no resources to help these girls after the jail sends them back out to the street where they were picked up a month ago. Back to the drugs, prostitution, and homelessness that will have them walking through that revolving door again as the DO’s tease the girls they remember like bullies on a playground.
My front row seat to the dirty little secret on Buckeye Rd. made me ashamed to call Phoenix my hometown. Sheriff Paul Penzone should be brought up on crimes against humanity. These girls don’t need jail, they need HELP! Drug rehab, safe housing, mental health services, job placement, healthcare! Why are we allowing our daughters, sisters, nieces to rot in a jail breathing in black mold that will kill them one day only because they got caught sleeping in a doorway? When did trespassing turn into a capital offense?
Girls are so hungry they dig through the garbage cans looking for anything to eat. Eating rolled-up pieces of toilet paper before bed will expand and keep hunger pains away while you try to sleep. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
My release in June 2019 reeling in shock after witnessing months of human suffering at the hands of the MCSO in charge of the care of these women who deserve their protection. But the MCSO are no more than power freaks, uneducated, overweight, getting a cheap thrill watching what would make a normal person retch. I promised my friends in G dorm I would write about the inhumane suffering of women needlessly in Estrella. Including the girl who died after a drug overdose in the shower whose naked body was rolled out of the stalls by male DO’s, not one piece of material to cover her blue dead body.
My return to Estrella four months ago during the pandemic as Judge Kevin Wein again sent me to jail for talking about the corruption of the Family Court and the lawyers and judges and state agencies who facilitate the kidnapping of children from their homes. This wasn’t my only offense although I am still protected by the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution. Loving my son, I sent George a birthday card for his 17th birthday telling him I love you, I miss you xoxo. I tucked a $20 bill inside before I sealed the envelope and dropped it in the mailbox. My love had me back in front of Judge Wein in October 2019. I was going to trial again.
In March 2020, the Governor of Arizona shut down our state, Covid-19 kept us in our homes, closed our businesses and our schools. Administrative Order No. 2020-70 ended all in-person hearings in The Maricopa County Superior Court and jury trials and limits were placed on court operations and facilities.
Covid deaths climbed by April 2020 and continued through the summer months. By November the number of dead surged as America was asked to spend Thanksgiving without a large family gathering or to have their celebration outdoors.
The Family Court, Maricopa County Superior Court including the Family Court of Judge Kevin Wein were not hearing cases in person only video by November 20, 2020, the date set for my in-person trial for the birthday card and my Blogtalkradio show. For months the trial had been postponed due to the pandemic as my lawyer Eric Kessler and the opposing party’s lawyer Margo Shorr requested a continuance due to compromised health issues that would complicate their separate health concerns should their court appearance expose them to Covid-19. Judge Wein granted each continuance only on the word of these two lawyers without any specific mentions of their compromised health or documentation of their risk.
My court date was set for September, my health now in question and my husband’s age was also a concern. I explained my heart condition named in a recent CDC report could cause death in patience infected by COVID-19. My husband was 72 years old and in a high-risk category if infected with Covid-19. My lawyer asked that my appearance be permitted by telephone explaining my health concerns. Eric Kessler emailed me the evening before the trial with instructions on how to communicate with him the next morning as I wouldn’t need to appear in person.
The following afternoon I received an email, not from my lawyer Eric Kessler but from his legal assistant that a warrant was issued that morning for my arrest with a $2500 bond for failure to appear. Kessler made no mention to Judge Wein that my absence was on his recommendation. Kessler filed his Motion to Withdraw as my defense lawyer after I filed my complaint with the State Bar of Arizona. Bar Counsel, Matt McGregor received my complaint with trial transcripts and emails between Kessler and this client as evidence of attorney misconduct. Not my first complaint to the State Bar, McGregor has heard my testimony and examined copious evidence against the worst offenders of his elite club. Not one violation found, covenant with a card-carrying membership to the State Bar of Arizona.
Eric Kessler is a brilliant lawyer. I testified to that fact at the Motion to Withdraw hearing where I also stated Kessler was a better lawyer when he was telling the truth. Judge Wein denied Kessler relief, I still had a warrant making sure I would appear at my trial over a month away. My second plea offer from the Attorney General came in a phone call from Kessler with a warning about Covid-19 infecting inmates at Estrella. The State promised no jail time with my plea of “Responsible” and the judge would agree. I had turned down the same offer with no jail time if I took a “Guilty” plea because I AM NOT GUILTY. What the hell does “Responsible” mean anyway?? RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT? Kessler hung up on me as his temper got the best of him again. No plea. I was going to trial.
Judge Wein didn’t care if I died. Covid-19 could kill me in that cesspool I will never forget. Wein gave me 40 days during a worldwide pandemic. No crime, no criminal record, I was going to pay for sending my son a birthday card.
My first night in jail was spent in H dorm as my 40 days would be cut to 20 days if I worked. Two for one it’s called. By morning, I was moved to G dorm and in quarantine. No two for ones in quarantine, I was the only sentenced inmate in G dorm living with 130 girls all waiting to see a judge. Half had been waiting two weeks before I arrived and not one girl had been tested for Covid. In quarantine, these girls were not allowed to leave for their court dates and the public defender’s were not answering their calls. Due process for those in quarantine did not exist.
G dorm where I spent 6 months sitting without a crime to my name was exactly as I left it in 2019. No social distancing, no 6 feet between you and anyone else, I slept next to the girl in the bunk next to mine closer than I slept with my husband. My toes touched the head of the girl in the bunk in front of me and the bunk above me was occupied by a sweet girl who only had to bend down to talk to my face. All 130 bunks were just as intimate. We were all given a mask but wearing a mask wasn’t mandatory.
November 20, 2020, my appearance in person was ordered in Judge Wein’s courtroom, the basement of the Old Courthouse. Administrative orders restricted court operations with the use of technology to maximize public safety during the height of the pandemic with court proceedings by teleconferencing or video-conferencing. Judge Wein above the law, my trial was the only in-person proceeding in the courthouse that day. The prosecutor and the opposing party and their witnesses and a bodyguard for Margo Shorr were all allowed to enter the courtroom. My husband and my POA were stopped at the door as I walked through the metal detector, they weren’t allowed in the courthouse at all. Took the elevator to the basement and there was Kessler. His plan for the morning began with my plea of “Responsible” continued until I reminded him I rejected that plea sending him into a rage. Nothing prepared defense, no witnesses, no evidence, the show he put on for me outside the courtroom went over about as well as his show in front of Judge Wein. The State was just as bad but halfway through the trial I knew it didn’t matter to Judge Wein, I was going to jail again.
Double masks were mandatory for every DO or MCSO who came into the dorm as were gloves.
With no newspaper or television to keep these girls up to date on the pandemic outside, what little they knew about Covid-19 was scary as well as untrue. Medical was a ghost town, no doctor, no nurses only two MCSO staff stood guard the one time a few of us older gals were taken for a blood pressure check.
Since the shutdown, canteen order was cut down from once a week to orders every other week. No hot meal on Saturday and Sunday. That meant two sacks with PB&J on the weekends and more hunger than I witnessed in Estrella the last time I watched girls eat from a garbage can. Whatever food found left on a tray during the week turned into a fight and an extra apple or orange you picked over the one you were allowed sent you to the hole. If there were extra, the DO locked them up in her cage. No way would kindness allow a hungry young lady an extra apple.
Our first chance to get out of quarantine came on December 5th when we were all tested for Covid, our results would come in three days. Two weeks went by without any results and courts were still not allowed.
With no family to call, more than a dozen girls sat in the Covid-19 jail on $50 bonds. Another dozen had bonds of $250 or less to get out, away from Covid-19. What judge allowed these girls to be exposed for less than the cost of one day in Estrella? Was their life not more valuable?
Just before Christmas, the news came that a second negative Covid-19 test was needed to lift the quarantine. We had all just received negative covid-19 results from earlier that month and days later that second negative result arrived but the quarantine sign stayed on the door. On December 27th the announcement that all working dorms were now quarantined including laundry, canteen, and kitchen came just as our quarantine sign on the door of G dorm came down. Who would make the meals, fill canteen orders, and clean our sheets and blankets?
I was released the next day serving 38 days, not 40, leaving these girls behind who due process forgot, promising to write about what was happening inside Estrella jail during a worldwide pandemic. The pandemic continues with little said about the conditions in the jail or Arizona Prisons.
Shame on you Arizona.
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