The trial of State Senator John Huppenthal took place today in the San Marcos Justice Court. The testimony is complete, but the decision has been postponed.
Background on the incident that precipitated the trial here.
The testimony was interesting, however, and is worthy of a post.
...While the charges, misdemeanor theft and political sign tampering, are not partisan in and of themselves, much of the defense's questioning of prosecution witnesses and almost all of Huppenthal's own testimony painted the whole matter with a "Democrats v. Republicans" brush.
This included the moment when the defense attorney announced that he was a Democrat and the Chandler PD officer who responded to the call announced that he was a Republican.
...Huppenthal *really* hates criticism. He said that the reason that he found the sign so objectionable was that it was "misleading and even fraudulent." The sign in question highlighted his vote against a move in the lege to help address the air quality issues in Corona del Sol High School. He claimed that the amendment was proposed to make him look bad because he voted against it in favor of a holistic package of remedies that he claimed credit for created.
However, there is nothing in the political sign ordinance that allows someone to take it down because they don't like or agree with what the sign says.
Minor detail, that.
...Huppenthal has trouble understanding the English language.
He asked the assistant property manager of the apartment complex that was serving as a polling place if he could take a sign. She testified today that she said "sure, I don't care" after trying to refer him to the poll workers overseeing election activities at the site.
He testified that he heard that as "yes, you have my permission."
Ummm...nothing that I can write can top this.
...The defense also tried to say that it's not "stealing" if you don't try to go home (or elsewhere) with someone else's property, and that the fact that Huppenthal just move the sign to a dumpster on the apartment complex property meant that he didn't deprive the owner of the property (aka - the sign) of the use of the property.
Yeah, right. Try using that defense against a shoplifting charge where the defendant dumped the goods in the trash before leaving the store premises.
...The whole thing proceeded in that vein. The highlight of the hearing was when Huppenthal claimed that he thought he "was being carjacked by an older woman" when the Democratic volunteer at the polling place told him that he couldn't take the sign and tried to prevent him from leaving with it.
The "Democratic volunteer" is Ruth Levin. She's 78. She's the epitome of the "little old lady." Donna at Democratic Diva has a pic of her in this post.
...No decision was handed down today. The cynic in me believes that the pro tem judge assigned to the case wants to take time to find a technicality upon which to hang a complete acquittal. The not-so-cynical part of me also realizes that he has a lot of BS to sort through, and even the likes of Huppenthal deserves a fair trial.
Of course, being the partisan hack that I am, I also think that he deserves a fair conviction, too. :)
I did spend most of my time in the courtroom wondering why Huppenthal has insisted on pushing this as far as he has. The bottom line is that the charges are extremely minor, and even a conviction on both counts would result in no more than two lashes with a wet noodle on his wrist.
aka - A small fine, a suspended sentence, a few hours of public service (of the non-legislative variety), and maybe some unsupervised probation.
Instead, this incident has stayed in the news, and the public eye, for months. Months during which Huppenthal has been working to set up a statewide campaign for State Superintendant of Public Instruction.
Anyway, the AZRep has coverage here.