Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

Two Letters to a Santa Cruz Judge Who Has Ruled Sleeping For the Homeless a Crime

Sleeping Ban "criminal" Sharon Paight appeals her illegal sentence from Judge Kathleen Akao.
Sharon Paight lives in her van and was cited for sleeping because she was nodding off in the driver's seat while parked in the parking lot at 24 Hour Fitness on the East side of Santa Cruz. She is a member of the exercise club. No posted rules exclude members from sleeping in their vehicles or parking their vehicles there at night.

Sharon Paight was found guilty of violating the Sleeping Ban after a brief trial in early June. Judge Kathleen Akao improperly sentenced her to 15 hours of community service (eight is the maximum allowed by law). Her volunteer attorney failed to correct the sentencing error by the judge, to use the necessity defense, or to raise the obvious issue of inadequate shelter being available. Paight received the usual "five minutes in the hallway" legal defense.

The following two letters are being sent to Judge Kathleen Akao about the situation.

P.O. Box 4254
Santa Cruz, CA 95063

August 3, 2005

Judge Kathleen Akao
Superior Court of California
701 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Case # 5SZ067499, Sharon Phoebe Paight

Dear Judge Akao,

On June 10th you sentenced me to fifteen hours of community service for violating MC 6.36.010a(3), the Sleeping Ban section of the City's Camping Ordinance.

I learned after sentencing that MC 6.36.040, another section of the Camping Ordinance, provides for a maximum fine of $20 and/or eight hours of community service. Since you gave me fifteen hours, I would ask you to lower the sentence.

I have also discussed my case with other members of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom), a local homeless group that I am part of. They will be sending you a letter separately about this issue, which I encourage you to consider.

Please advise me as to your decision in this matter.


Sharon Paight

309 Cedar St. PMB #14B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

August 3, 2005

Judge Kathleen Akao
Superior Court of California
701 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Case # 5SZ067499, Sharon Phoebe Paight

Dear Judge Akao,

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) is a local human rights group committed to supporting the rights of homeless people—of whom Santa Cruz has 1500-2000 each night. Since shelter space exists for less than forty-five of them in the City's emergency Interfaith Shelter Satellite Program, the vast majority of them unjustly face harassment, citation, arrest, and punishment for life-sustaining behavior for a basic human need that is a matter of necessity rather than choice.

It has come to our attention that you recently sentenced Sharon Paight to fifteen hours of community service after finding her guilty of violating MC 6.36.010a(3), the Sleeping Ban section of the City's Camping Ordinance on June 10th after a brief court trial.

Ms. Paight is a homeless working woman whose only shelter is her van. All other legal shelter space in the City limits was (and continues to be) full. This fact can be confirmed through Executive Director Ken Cole of the Homeless Services Center (831-458-6020) or Community Action Board Shelter Project Director Paul Brindel (831-457-1741).

We regret that her attorney Tony Bole did not bring up these facts at her trial.

We feel it important to acquaint you with these facts because cases may arise in the future involving the Sleeping Ban sections of the Camping Ordinance and for you to make decisions without knowing the true shelter situation in the City would be unjust.

Mr. Bole also failed to advise you of MC 6.36.040, the “Penalty-Single Offense? section of the same Camping Ordinance.

It reads:
“Any person who violates any section in this chapter is guilty of an infraction and shall be subject to a fine of not more than twenty dollars. Alternatively any person who violates any section in this chapter, in lieu of a fine may, if that person so requests, be required to provide no more than eight hours of community service.?

Your sentence of 15 hours violated the clear wording of MC 6.36.040. We request you revisit this sentence and correct it (i.e. at the very least replacing it with a new one of no more than 8 hours—but, under the circumstances, considering the lack of shelter, suspending it entirely).

Mr. Bole represented Ms. Paight at very little cost. She felt awkward at approaching him with this matter—which would be the usual and appropriate way to bring this sentencing error to your attention.. Hence, she asked HUFF to bring up the issue..

We understand she is writing you separately seeking a modification of sentence—actually a correction of an error you made. Though the time for a formal appeal of her sentence has probably run out, we hope you will consider the plain wording of MC 6.36.040 as well as the surrounding circumstances of Ms. Paight's situation.

We also regret that Ms. Paight was not provided the option of using the defense of necessity—which the California Supreme Court ruled in the Eichorn case must be allowed to each homeless defendant charged with “camping? (in this case, “sleeping? under the “camping? ordinance). Clearly this is partially the responsibility of the attorney involved, but in future cases we would ask you to advise defendants charged with this offense that they can use the necessity defense.

You might also be interested to know that the Sleeping Ban fines were lowered in 1999 by the Santa Cruz City Council under Mayor Katherine Beiers to $20, which then translated into a $54 fine (with the additional state fees). Since then, added the add-on costs have increased the total fine (expressed as a bail on the citation notice) to $90.

$90 is beyond the reach of a homeless person who has been “caught? sleeping. It is also nearly double what City Council decided in 1999 would be reasonable. We have approached Mayor Rotkin, and he has agreed to look into the matter. That may take some time. In the meantime, we ask you to take these considerations into account, in Sharon Paight's case and in all other cases involving people cited under the Sleeping Ban.

The act of sleeping at night cannot be considered a crime in a civilized community.

Thanks and we hope to hear from you soon.

Robert Norse
Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom

NOTE TO THE READER: Becky Johnson prepared the original drafts of these letters.

New Comments are disabled, please visit


Re: Two Letters to a Santa Cruz Judge Who Has Ruled Sleeping For the Homeles a Crime

Please keep us advised on the results of this letter. Thank you.

Becky Johnson: Agent For Racist Groups

Becky Johnson: Agent For Racist Groups

by La Lucha


Becky Johnson is part of and/or affiliates with groups which are actively compiling and distributing lists and databases designed to target, disrupt and discredit our movements.

Do not trust Becky Johnson with anything.

Do not give her ANY information.

Tell your friends. If you don't, they might unwittingly disclose information to Becky Johnson that could lead to harm to them, to you, to your friends and loved ones, and to the movement, in general.

Is Becky Johnson a knowing, active informant for dangerous right-wing groups? Or is she, instead, just their willing dupe?

It doesn't really matter, does it? Our response should be the same, either way: EXPOSE and OSTRACIZE.

Make sure that other folks know what Becky Johnson is really up to, and who she's involved with. Let them know the risk they take by having *anything* to do with her.

Stay away from Becky Johnson. Avoid her. Don't let her into your meetings, groups, or events. If you can help it, don't let her know your name, address, or any other information.


Letters Delivered to Akao; Madrigal in Public on Saturday

I filed these two letters with the court clerks this morning after the weekly HUFF meeting. If I hear from Akao (or any other court officials), I'll post their replies.

Councilmember Tony Madrigal has a public meeting on Saturday morning August 7th 9:30 AM to 11 AM at the Lava Rock Internet Cafe at 541 Seabright on topics of "Measure X and the Community's Economic Prosperity Summit".

He has been advised, as has Rotkin, of the surge in fines under the Sleeping Ban. His response, when his public meeting with the Human Rights Organization was played on my Free Radio Show, was to break his commitments to meet with them on the Sleeping Ban issue. (He was embarrassed at the exposure of his flipflopping around on an issue that he promised to address in his election campaign a year ago)

For Madrigal and his middle-class backers, it's "prosperity", for the homeless, it's survival. I encourage people to confront Madrigal and other Council members regularly on the Sleeping Ban whenever and whereever they appear in public--this is the only way things will change.

As the attack on Becky Johnson, people can form their own opinions, but in fact HH's particular post is repetitive, personal, and irrelevant to this thread.

While there is a principled issue involved between activists of good will, I think that controversy is a separate subject.

Please roast Johnson on other threads unless you have something pertinent to the particular issue under discussion.

Doing so here obscures issues important to those who live outside and on which Johnson is doing important work. It also unnecessarily divides us on issues we need to unite around.

Re: Two Letters to a Santa Cruz Judge Who Has Ruled Sleeping For the Homeless a Crime

This post was about Sharon Paight and the right of the homeless to sleep at night. It was not about Becky Johnson. The local injustice against the poor that Robert Norse focuses on should not be ignored simply because of his association with the racist informant Johnson who Norse sees as a rare and precious active ally on local issues.

Sleep is not a crime!

Drop the sentence against Sharon Paight!

End the sleeping ban!

Oppose the Santa Cruz City Council; the entire lot are anti-homeless Democrat and Green Party politicians! Protest! Vote and run socialist!

Paight Update

At the last HUFF meeting, Sharon Paight arrived with a letter from Judge Akao apologizing for the mistaken sentence and acknowledging that Paight's "proper" sentence was 8 hours of community service.

Paight turned in 15 hours worth of Community Service work so as not to be penalized. Akao didn't attempt to refund or provide credit or give restitution for the extra 7 hours falsely requiried of Paight.

HUFF as of yet has received no reply from her.

Reports from the street indicate sleeping ban tickets continue to be issued capriciously at the whim of the officer without warning, without prior complaint, and in the absence of any legal place to sleep for more than 4% of Santa Cruz's nightly homeless population.

For more info, go to and listen to the various interviews on the Bathrobespierre's Broadsides radio show, or tune in Sundays 9:30 AM to 1 PM, Thursdays 6 PM to 8 PM at 101.1 FM or .

If you want to help but haven't got the time to attend meetings, leave a message at 423-HUFF (4833).


No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event


Media Centers

Syndication feeds

Account Login

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software