Activist Kim Trueheart today turned down an offer to have her case moved to the stet (or “inactive”) docket and succeeded in getting a District Court judge to suspend her police “banning” and permit her to return to City Hall pending trial.
Asked why she chose to move forward with her case, the frequent mayoral critic and City Hall habitué said she came into the Eastside District Court building determined to accept nothing less than “complete exoneration.”
(A case moved to the stet docket could ultimately result in its expungement, but it could also be revived. The maneuver means the defendant has waived their right to speedy trial.)
“I didn’t want this hanging over me indefinitely,” Trueheart said afterwards outside the #7 basement courtroom, where more than a dozen supporters gathered to find out what would happen to her.
After reading papers submitted by Trueheart’s attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, District Court Judge Gregory Sampson lifted the release conditions imposed upon her after she was arrested on Wednesday Jan. 23. But in granting Trueheart permission to return to the building (from which she had been banned for allegedly disrupting a Jan. 16 news conference) Sampson issued her some stern advice.
“Common sense dictates that your client act appropriately any time she goes to public places,” Sampson said.
“As she always does, Your Honor,” Gordon replied.
“She Speaks for Many”
Trueheart’s hearing was set for March 14 at 8:30 a.m. in the 700 E. Patapsco Avenue District Court building. She faces misdemeanor charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a law enforcement officer.
The supporters who came to court ranged from her mother and other family members to people who had never met the 55-year-old Trueheart and knew her only from news stories and online discussion.
“I refuse to have my daughter – her name and reputation – be damaged in any way,” said a livid Mary Trueheart. “She has her own principles and beliefs and I expect her to exercise her rights and stand by her beliefs. I would be disappointed if she didn’t do that.”
“She is supporting our children and our future. You can’t stop her,” Mary Trueheart continued. “She will not be stopped.”
Jay Gillen, of the Baltimore Algebra Project, was also at the courthouse today. He said Trueheart had been a supporter of the project, which advocates for city youth. He also said he was concerned that her arrest was part of a larger problem of police overreaction at public protests and meetings in city buildings.
“I and other members of the Algebra Project, young people, have been threatened with arrest at events in Baltimore and Annapolis,” Gillen said. “I was arrested outside the Maryland Board of Education headquarters in 2008. I was doing nothing but standing there waiting to go in the building.”
Another supporter today was Jessica Kohnen, who said she believes Trueheart “speaks for many” and said she is “disturbed by the idea that her voice is being silenced.”
“She was improperly arrested. It’s a public place. Why was she banned out of it?” said Leon Purnell, vice chairman of the city chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “She has been one of our vanguards on spending and better government.” Tessa Hill Aston, president of the Baltimore NAACP, was also there to support Trueheart.
“When she is singled out for asking the tough and legitimate questions,” said another supporter, Aaron Meisner, “then it’s time for the people of Baltimore to stand up.”
City Hall Door Swings Open
Back at City Hall, six people were representing Trueheart at the Board of Estimates meeting, which the Northwest Baltimore resident customarily attends. Wearing placards with Trueheart’s face on them, they stood in the front of the room to make a statement about the banned activist.
By the time Trueheart got back to City Hall, the spending board’s meeting was over. Outside the building, she was greeted with a smile and a “Hello Ms. Trueheart!” by City Councilman Robert Curran, who was sitting on a bench. And then she entered, without problem.
The head of the mayor’s security detail, Derrick Mayfield, called her over for a private chat and ended it by handing her his business card.
“He told me to call him if I ever have a problem,” Trueheart said. “I guess he is my personal police officer.”
Under the watchful eye of City Hall security officers, Trueheart stood by a back wall and listened as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Comptroller Joan Pratt and Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot held a press event to kick off American Heart Awareness Month.
She took a few pictures and made no comment.