[Hpn] Longer version of "Billy Won!" - Sacramento Eichorn case

paula farrell paula_95814@yahoo.com
Thu, 8 Aug 2002 16:03:09 -0700 (PDT)


This is article I wrote for Homeward Street Journal,
as unedited by our editor.  Just wished to get the
information out to you.
Paula Lomazzi

Billy McManus was cited for misdeamenor
illegal-camping in Sacramento near the American River
Parkway on February 25, March 6 and March 14, 2002. 
Billy pleaded not guilty to all three charges.  It
went to jury trial.  He won on the February 25th
charge--his attorney using the necessity defense.

Traditionally, the courts have dropped illegal camping
charges for anyone asking for a jury trial, reasoning
that it would cost too much money or that time had
been served.

McManus' defense attorney, Kelly Tanalepy, used a
"necessity defense", citing a 1998 appellate case that
overturned a similar charge against a homeless man,
James W. Eichorn of Santa Ana.  Santa Barbara, also,
upheld the "Eichorn decision", which it is now called.
 A necessity defense is allowable only when evidense
shows the defendant violated a law to prevent a
greater harm. Six criteria must be met, 1) to prevent
a significant evil [Tanalepy stated not sleeping would
be significantly evil and be eminently harmful],  2)
with no adequate alternative [John Foley of Self-Help
Housing, Joan Burke of Loaves and Fishes and others
testified about the lack of affordable housing and
shelter beds and lack of accomodations for his dogs],
3) without creating a greater danger [he camped in a
hidden spot by Camp Pollock where he would be safer
than if he stayed downtown.  Seeking alternatives
would put him more in danger, keeping him walking
around all night, not sleeping, vulnerable to attack],
4) with a good-faith belief in the necessity, [Billy
explained his reasoning.  He decided to go away from
tourist areas, away from town.  He did not knock on
everyone's doors, pan handle on freeways], 5) that the
belief was reasonable [Arrests and citations for
camping has drastically increased, letting him know
that shelter beds would most likely not be available],
and 6) that the defendant did not substantially
contribute to the emergency [Billy works as a social
worker, helping guests at Loaves & Fishes.  He has
actively tried to get housing (John Foley testified)]

Deputy City Attorney Lan Wang said it was a simple
case, Billy is guilty.  Wang said Billy chooses to be
homeless.  Tanalepy reminded the jury that no one
thinks its fun to sleep out in 35 degree weather or on
an evening when it rained an inch that day (conditions
of 2 of the days cited).  Wang told the jury that
Billy was playing on their sympathies.  Wang said that
Billy should save his money to get a place [of course
it was brought out in court that Billy made anywhere
from $200 to $400 maximum per month.]  A strong
emphasis for the prosecution was the environmental
damage homeless people have been causing on the
American River Parkway [testimony from Rangers and
police mentioned trash, VCR's hidabeds, shopping
carts, cans, liquor bottles, human waste, tampons and
syringes they had to clean up; fire pits and platforms
dug; eldeberry bushes hacked; abandoned animals;
robbery and rape occurring far from their patrol
areas].

There were arguments about Billy's 3 dogs.  Wang said
that if Billy gave up his dogs, he'd have a better
chance of finding shelter or housing.  Tanalepy
pointed out that one of the problems along the
Parkway, mentioned, were the abandoned animals, which
would not be a good move for Billy.  Billy considers
his dogs as his family.  To give up his dogs for a 2
week maximum stay in a shelter would not be much
benefit.

So the jury went off to decide the verdict after the
closing arguments on August 5 (Monday afternoon), and
did not arrive at the verdict until August 8 (Thursday
before noon).  Verdict came back unanimously that
Billy was not guilty on the February 25th charge.  The
March 6 and March 14 charges were hung juries, one
juror not agreeing with the others on the not guilty
verdict. Testimony from a staff member of the Winter
Overflow Shelter that said there were vacancies in
March.  Attorney Tanalepy had pointed out the fact
that though there may have been vacancies from time to
time in the shelters, it was unrealistic to expect
Billy to visit each one, each night in the hopes of a
vacancy, especially considering the fact that there
were so many homeless people on any one given night,
it would seem unlikely he'd get in one. 


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