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Jailing of The Reverend raises 1st amendment issues

Jailing The Reverend, a homeless, black tarot card reader raises serious issues of racial, social, and economic cleansing on Pacific Ave. by the use of drug war tactics. And this in a City which is known as sympathetic to medical marijuana users. The Sentinel spins us a story in which police state tactics are simply "mental health issues" faced by "law enforcment." Paschal facing up to 90 days in our County jail, $12,000 - $18,000 in transporting costs, and up to eight months in a New Hampshire prison are all paid for with shrinking public funds.


Cathy Redfern's Sentinel article on April 13, 2003 about the jailing of a homeless, black man misses the point by a mile. While Jason Paschal does suffer from a bi-polar condition, his mental state had nothing to do with his jailing. It has everything to do with Redfern's attempt to spin off the constant harassment and mistreatment of a homeless, black man on Pacific Ave. by the SCPD as "a mental health issue."

The real issue is the SCPD's attempt, at the behest of merchants, to cleanse Pacific Ave. of the "undesireables." Mr. Paschal is not considered part of the colorful scene of our community with his tarot card readings, but some sort of human blight which needs to be cleaned up. Jason Paschal aka Ismael aka The Reverend Doctor Electronic Galaxy Jay, aka ????, is a tarot card reader and quite knowledgable in his craft.

Recently Paschal was ticketed for "giving a tarot card reading without a license." His $162 ticket was not because he gave a tarot card reading, but because the person he gave the reading to donated a dollar afterwards that prompted Officer Willie Brandt to issue the citation.

Sgt.Loran Baker forbid the Rev from using the top of the water box for his tarot card readings, already spiked off, lest someone be tempted to sit on it. Rather than appreciating Paschal's rather inventive and completely harmless use of the surface, Baker forced him into bringing his own "display device" which was a milk crate, in order to conduct his readings. Baker then charged him with "criminal possession of a milk crate which, due to a special relationship the dairy corporations have with the California state legislators, is a misdemeanor. So Baker jailed Paschal for the second time. The Sentinel claims that Paschal has been arrested 7 times in the past year but the DA says there are no local charges against him? Smells like police harassment to me.

Redfern does not reveal that Paschal was initially arrested by Sgt. Baker for possession of hypodermic needles which Paschal needs for his insulin. In addition being a brittle diabetic (since 18 months old) , Paschal also suffers from epilepsy. He uses medical marijuana for all three conditions and finds relief with that.

But Sgt. Jack McPhillips only finds derision in discovering a homeless man with a legal, medical marijuana letter, smoking marijuana around a corner, and appearing to be attempting to be discreet about it. Redferns reports all police comments uncritically.

New Hampshire, has no provision for medical marijuana use. But California does. Why didn't Sgt. Baker find the outstanding warrant for Paschal when he jailed him for the insulin needles, or when he jailed him for giving a false name? Now when he jailed him for possession of a milk crate he "suddenly" finds this warrant from New Hampshire?

Sentinel reporter Redfern reports he was convicted of giving a false name. Paschal has already been punished with 10 days in jail and a years probation which is a decidedly harsh sentence--- especially when you consider that the reason he was arrested in the first place was for possession of insulin needles! He had his diabetic charm necklace on him at the time too.

As to the "felony charges" which Paschal is being held on, blame the drug war. Paschal was convicted in 1996 (not 1998) of selling a half ounce of marijuana to another party. He has already served 2 and a half years for this. The SCPD jailed Paschal and were delighted to find the outstanding warrant from New Hampshire.

Now Paschal is being held for 30 to 90 days in our county jail to "see" if New Hampshire is willing to extradite him. When considering the public expense for 90 days in jail. police time, court time, transportation of a prisoner from Santa Cruz to New Hampshire is estimated as costing between $12,000 and $18,000 alone, and then a possible 8 months in prison in New Hampshire, the costs to the public could be as high as $50,000. This in a time when all state and local budgets are severly impacted.

It is important to note that all of this is the doing of the SCPD in order to remove a black, homeless man from Pacific Ave. a place where he has every right to be. Mr. Paschal's arrest for his spiritual tarot card readings near the Cooperhouse is not treated by the Sentinel as the first amendment issue that it is. Rather Paschal is conveniently dismissed as a nut case.


April 13, 2003

ĎThe Reverendísí arrest sparks mental illness debate

to see this article online go to

A troubled homeless man has found himself in the middle of some thorny downtown issues, as has his mother, a former Clinton appointee to the federal Department of Education.

And while Jan Paschalís federal ties may be unusual, the problems surrounding her son ó who has been diagnosed as bipolar and who she says uses marijuana to quell epileptic seizures ó are not.

Jason Paschal, 30, is known as "The Reverend" to those who travel the downtown Pacific Avenue and Church Street area. Here, he would stand all day most days for the past year or so, pulling tarot cards for those who agreed to get some insight and hopefully had a little money to pay for it.

"If he could only channel that dedication ... " one shop owner mused.

But Paschal was arrested seven times by Santa Cruz police since last summer. All the charges were misdemeanors, for things such as using milk cartons as a fortune-telling table, disturbing the peace and narcotics charges.

His mom said while most Santa Cruz residents treated her son with compassion, she believes one officer repeatedly mistreated him, a charge police deny.

"He is a son of America," Paschal said. "Heís not a throwaway person. But someone like Jason faces more than a normal person would face, and when they arrest somebody for having a milk carton, you have to wonder what the issues really are.

"Santa Cruz seems to me to be the kind of place that could lead this country (in better responses to some of these issues) instead of letting things like this happen."

Jason is headed to prison this month after his April 1 arrest, his mother said. That arrest came when police realized he had a felony drug warrant out of New Hampshire and officials are willing to retrieve him.

He has eight months left on his original prison sentence in New Hampshire, but he was diverted to a drug rehab program, which he left with three weeks unfinished.

"He broke his parole, there is no question," said Paschal, whose father was a police officer in Detroit. "But with all his needs, there has to be a better way."

Jason left the drug program and "disappeared" after the death of his father, a contractor, she said. She says her son does not belong in prison; that his mental health problems are exacerbated there.

At least 25 percent of those in County Jail suffer from psychiatric illnesses, said David Polak, supervisor of the jailís Crisis Intervention Team.

"We do treat them, but resources in jail are limited due to budget constraints," he said.

Now retired from her Department of Education position heading programs in six New England states, Jan Paschal speaks eloquently about "begging" for help for her son for most of his life, most recently from Santa Cruz jailers and city leaders.

Jason earned a high school equivalency degree and attended college in Vermont for one semester, she said. That was before he got arrested in 1998 on a marijuana charge in New Hampshire.

"Jasonís story is kind of a major tragedy," she said. "Itís the last thing I ever thought, that one of my children would have this life. Weíve done everything we knew to do, maybe too much.

"I think one thing Jason has taught me is how helpless you feel as a parent of a child with special needs of any kind."

Since childhood, Jason has suffered from diabetes as well as epilepsy and mental health issues, she said. His first prescription drug for those problems came at age 5, she said. Most had nasty side effects.

Police perspectives
Eric Seiley, a homeless resource officer with the Santa Cruz police, understands well how police get caught in the middle between a person with untreated mental problems and those offended by the subsequent behavior.

"There are several issues," he said. "Are they diagnosed? Are they taking stable meds? We have a stressed system and often people donít always (fit the criteria for involuntary detainment)."

The Santa Cruz Police Department is one of five police agencies nationwide that has started training and programs to deal with what Seiley calls the gray issues surrounding people on the streets with untreated mental health issues.

"For a lot of police officers, itís a straight 5150 (a person with psychiatric issues deemed a danger) or a criminal offense," he said. "We are a criminal agency and there is only so much at our disposal, but the gray area is where I work."

Police say they got complaints about Paschal. The officer who Jan believes mistreated her son was not available to comment, but police say officers do not act on a vendetta.

"I donít know of any officer in the county who would do that," Seiley said.

Seiley is not familiar with Paschalís case, but downtown beat Sgt. Jack McPhillips is.

"He was a little mouthy and a little offensive to women, but heís an all-right guy," he said. "Heíd go behind OíNeillís into Abbott Square and smoke pot, and heíd get caught.

"But if he wasnít on meds, he could get real aggravated."

The District Attorneyís Office said no local charges are pending against Paschal. He pleaded guilty to giving false information to a peace officer last year and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and one year probation.

Helping parents
Seiley understands parentsí frustrations as well.

"The system doesnít meet their proper needs at times," he said.

There is little a parent can do if their child does not want treatment, given the law and peopleís rights, said Polak, the County Jail team supervisor.

What they can do is call police and ask for a welfare check. They can ask those who work on the front lines with homeless people to get a message to their child.

They can attend support programs such as those at the local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Polak and Seiley hope to start a program that teams psychiatric workers with police.

"Itís a hot topic now, and given the percentage of mentally ill people in this community, we feel it would be a very valuable service, despite the wonderful days of budget cuts," Polak said.

As far as involuntary treatment, for police to hold a person and request a so-called 5150 evaluation either at jail or at a Dominican Hospital unit, they must be deemed to be a danger to themselves or others or suffer from a grave disability, Seiley said.

The criteria for forced treatment is stricter, he said.

"Jason is a very visible example of untreated medical illness in our city," Seiley said. "There is a way we can navigate that system, but it takes time and focus on the issues."

Tough love
Treatment programs can be ordered by a judge after a run-in with law enforcement.

Sometimes, that is the best thing for those who wouldnít seek help otherwise, though it is "not a friendly option," said Paul Bellina, a counselor who runs the countyís acute and forensic psychiatric services.

"I get calls from parents all the time," he said. "And while itís not a situation without hope, I sometimes can give only the most Draconian advice, depending on the denial of the child and other details."

Bellina says he often ends up advocating for tough love.

"Parents will rescue and rescue and rescue their children from horrible circumstances because itís the thing to do, that a parent helps their child," he said.

He added that such rescuing keeps children from facing the consequences of "behavior that comes to the attention of law enforcement."

Another issue arises when those ordered for evaluation, even those who really need help, are able to be "crazy like a fox" and pull it together in the face of mental health evaluators, he said.

Mom stays in touch
Jan Paschal says her son was doing better in Santa Cruz, despite being homeless. She says she has tried every treatment program she could find and has tried to get him to come home to Arkansas.

"Heís my child, and he may not be perfect, but heís mine and we adore him," she said.

"I used to have a cookie-cutter approach for what I wanted for him ... and the part that sort of amazes me as someone who doesnít believe in the legalization of drugs, Iíve had to re-evaluate (use of medical marijuana and other issues)."

She lost touch with her son for about a year until he called the 800 number she has set up for him, saying he was in Santa Cruz.

Paul Brindel of the Community Action Board says shelter operators often pass along word to homeless people that their parents called looking for them, but have stopped confirming whether a person is there, as "people are not always who they say they are."

And, of course, because some people donít want to be found.

In jail, even when mom gets through to officials past a nationwide, expensive jail phone system, and gives them her sonís prescriptions, Jason is still often not able to do what jailers require, Jan Paschal said.

County jail officials say Paschal has been on an "on and off" hunger strike.

Jan Paschal said she just wants her son to find whatever peace he can, a daunting task in prison.

"If we have a national shame, it is that we give federal money to programs with mission statements about correcting behavior, but use punitive measures, pure and simple, to extract their pound of flesh. If thatís what it is, letís call it that."

She stressed that her sonís abuse has come largely from East Coast jailers and from a minority.

"I know the vast majority of people in Santa Cruz were kind to Jason, and we are most grateful," she said. "But I ask others to stop and think what they would feel if that was their son or daughter in that situation."

For information on mental health resources in Santa Cruz County, call the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at 458-1923. To seek treatment for an inmate, call the County Jail at 454-2444 and ask for the Crisis Intervention Team.

Contact Cathy Redfern at credfern (at)

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i was in santa cruz last summer as a traveler. and i knew the reverend. i knew of all the shit that was happening back then, and it disturbs be to know its happening now. i signed on to scindymedia to see what was going on with pacific ave rules, and found that everything is still in deep shit. thanks for reporting even though it breaks my heart.

Paschal Update

Redfern of the Sentinel has not responded to phone calls requesting she balance her story with some facts, interview Paschal himself, or take a statement from homeless activists. Her story completely ignores the 4 cops-and-hosts brigade moving through downtown regularly intimidating musicians, homeless people, and youth.

Redfern dismissed and "explained" Paschal as a mental case. He has not, however, been 5150-ed to the Dominican Hospital psych ward in all his time here (to my knowledge). This would have been the likely case had he been a danger to himself, others, or gravely disabled--given his high-profile status on the mall and Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker's hard-on for him. Redfern's claim is libelous to him, disinformative to the community, and protective cover for police misconduct.

Street Spirit writer Becky Johnson has prepared a letter to the Sentinel, which has not yet seen print. She is also preparing an article for the May issue of Street Spirit and plans to visit Paschal on Monday April 21st.

The jail has not been responding to calls on its main number for the last few days (454-2420: just wait through all the messages to get a live person, if they answer at all). Today an Officer Clower would not give any information about Paschal's supposed extradition to New Hampshire, and initially would not give a court date, but after some prompting (that it was public information) said it was May 5th (either 8:30 am or 10 am).

Paschal reports he has also been the victim of racist hate-crime assaults on the mall. More important, police refused to cite those he accused of the violence (which was illegal behavior on their part under the citizens arrest law, until it was changed by the state legislature).

Instead, Paschal himself was arrested by Jackson's Shoes "No hackeysacking on the mall" petitioner Candi Jackson, who took offense that a satisfied patron gave (she charged Paschal with "panhandling within 3' of a person--an actual crime even if there's a voluntary exchange between two people who know each other under the Reilly-Kennedy Downtown Ordinances).

That charge and other local charges have disappeared "to facilitate" Paschal's New Hampshire extradition--which, I suppose, is a backhanded improvement from the usual "cite 'em to force 'em out of town, then bring 'em back on warrants" cruel stupidity.

Santa Cruz Metro Sara Phelan's stories about Paschal have reduced him to the status of a bit of comic color on the mall. Phelan knows better but has chosen to downplay the fact that Paschal experience is just one example of many involving Baker's crackdown on the poor downtown (which is part of the broader City Council/SCPD/Downtown Association/Redevelopment Agency gentrification effort).

Phelan's March 19-26 Metro article does mention that Lt. Patti Sapone (reportedly the anointed heir to Chief Steve Belcher if he ever retires) suggested Baker's use of the "no tarot without a permit" law may have been a little out there. Looks like she and he (she's his immediate superior) may have put their heads together and come up with a better harassment tactic to punish Paschal for reappearing with such regularity and determination.

In late March, Paschal actually got two tickets for his tarot card spiritual readings. And was arrested and booked twice within forty-eight hours: first for "unauthorized possession of a milk crate" and then for the New Hampshire warrant. The last arrest, according to two witnesses who spoke to me, involved 6-8 cops and hosts (though Paschal was not charged with resisting arrest).

Back in August Paschal told me that Baker picked him up for this same N.H. warrant and at that time New Hampshire refused to extradite. I have not yet seen the police records on this arrest.

Baker's action followed the court's dismissal of the marijuana and needles charges that Baker originally busted Paschal for back in August. This was the notorious incident where Baker held up Paschal's (insulin) needles and said to an on-looking crowd, "Is this what we want downtown in Santa Cruz?" The marijuana and needles charges where dropped. Paschal apparently had a medical marijuana letter as well.

Paschal had given a bogus name in order to avoid the possible N.H. extradition in August. So Baker arrested him a second time back then and Paschal was convicted of misinformation. But N.H. clearly didn't want him at that time and there's been no evidence of a change in the warrant.

Since then, Paschal met the conditions imposed by the local court and doggedly returned to the same spot on the mall near ARtisians, where he delighted some and dismayed others, but clearly annoyed Sgt. Baker.

Paschal has now been in jail for two weeks "awaiting extradition" in isolation at the jail. To some of us this looks like an uppity African-American who refused to be intimidated by Baker's "get out of sight" stuff getting extra-legal punishment.

Also unmentioned by Redfern or Phelan is the religious angle. Paschal's spiritual readings should be first amendment protected. Paschal also says he's a Muslim and was getting fed pork in jail.

Folks interested in not seeing Paschal's case repeated should call Mayor Emily Reilly at 420-5022 and demand she schedule hearings on selective enforcement and the abusive use of the Downtown Ordinances (and any other ordinances the SCPD can find) to target and harass those who insist on their right to use public spaces peacefully.

Reilly needs to be pressured to follow up on her unfulfilled promises of last summer (when dozens complained of selective enforcmenet and police harassment). More important, write up reports of harassment when you see them for this website, contact HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) at 423-4833, and help the new Copwatch project (same #).

For those who have the stomach for it, it helps to stop and call others over to observe Baker's armed bufoonery downtown when he, his CSO's and the "helpful" Hosts go after a hippie for "sitting on the edge of a planter". Getting loud before a crowd can be helpful, to shame police and their merchant backers. Or such is my experience.

Paschal can be reached by mail at the city jail at 259 Water St., Santa Cruz CA. You can also call 454-2414 during business hours and ask for Sheriff Mark Tracy, demanding that Paschal be extradited or released.

I encourage Sgt. Baker or any of his superiors to clarify any misstatements or omissions that may have been made here. I believe I can secure Paschal's permission waiving any privacy concerns (the frequent excuse police use not to inform the public of what is going on).


Sgt. Baker Deports An Uppity Nigger & Removes A "Tarot Terrorist"

More details of the Paschal case and his final deportation.
Becky Johnson and I visited Jason Paschal on Monday, April 21st. We are completing a story for Street Spirit, the San Francisco homeless newspaper (available through Johnson at 429-8529, free for homeless people to sell for incidental income).

Paschal told us he was still on 23 hour lockdown in isolation as a "psychiatric" case. He was angry at the Redfern Sentinel and Phelan Metro Santa Cruz articles for dismissing him as a pitiable nutcase and/or amusing buffoon respectively (his claims, not mine).

He said he has never been held on a psychiatric hold in Santa Cruz or anywhere
else, except for a period in the mid-90's back in New Hampshire, in an incarceration specifically arranged by his mother to avoid a multi-year sentence for marijuana possession with intent to sell (of under an oz.). He acknowledges he is bi-polar, and says that the jail's denying him medical marijuana has been wearing on him. He says he has engaged in three brief hunger strikes of 30 hours each (brief, because his epileptic and diabetic condition make such things perilous).

Paschal, who is a Sufi Muslim, claims the jail served him pork which is prohibited by his religion. As a brittle diabetic since he was 18 months old, he needs to eat regular meals in order to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

Paschal said he hoped be released by April 24th, since New Hampshire authorities
had repeatedly refused to pick him up. On past warrant checks, other police services had
found the warrant was unservable. He was told by a jail official that it was expensive to hold him and they'd only hold him 20 days.

There seems to be come confusion here. Johnson heard Judge Danner claim at a hearing in early April that Paschal could be held 30-90 days. Paschal gave up his right to an extradition hearing in return for the right to serve "good time" here in Santa Cruz while
"awaiting extradition" that would be counted against his 7 month jail sentences in New

Paschal found it interesting that the New Hampshire warrant came up in other jurisdictions, but Santa Cruz was the first and only one to actually arrest and hold him. Paschal chalks this up to Sgt. Baker’s determination to clear him off the mall. He said he heard Baker comment back in August, that he'd "be willing to drive him back himself" to get Paschal back to prison on the East Coast. In March, he claims Baker get on the phone himself to try to get N.H. to take him--again.

Apparently Baker was successful. On April 25th, the jail reported Paschal was no
longer in custody and refused to say what had happened to him. The district attorney’s
office, however, acknowledged that Paschal had been transported back to a New Hampshire jail to finish a multi-year sentence for marijuana possession.

Concern about Paschal‚Äôs ‚Äúmental health‚Ä?, so solicitiously highlighted in Redfern‚Äôs
story, was no longer an issue. An African-American determined to return to Pacific and
Church to do spiritual tarot card readings no matter how often Baker ‚Äúencouraged‚Ä? him to
leave had finally been shipped east. Baker’s campaign to rid downtown santa cruz of a
shit-talking uppity nigger was finally a success.

On Friday afternoon Sgt. Baker was advised my critique of his behavior in the Paschal case would be posted on this website. He was invited to respond with comments. He had not returned any phone calls by 10 p.m. Friday night.

Cathy Redfern of the Sentinel did not return my call requesting she address police abuse issues, interview homeless activists, and talk to Paschal himself. Sara Phelan of the Metro never went in to visit Paschal, though she did speak to him by phone.

An article combining these posts with some additional information will appear in the May 2003 issue of Street Spirit, which should be available in early May.


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