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1.4.04

Three years ago, Scott Harrison was arrested after his wife called the police and accused him of domestic violence. Since then, the account of his ongoing struggle to clear his name has appeared in the SF Call. The following letter is an update, written on the day that Harrison's probation ended:

If people were made of paper, this just might work

Textbook lessons (Part 1)

By Scott Harrison

Nov. 30th, 2004

Dear San Francisco Probation Officer Philip Hadley,

Mr. Hadley, I am writing you to make as clear as possible the views I have often expressed to you in person and to add a few more.

First of all I want to offer myself as a textbook example of how completely and totally the criminal justice system in San Francisco has broken down. Including the San Francisco Probation Department.

From day one, I was a completely innocent man who had been deliberately set up and falsely accused of domestic violence by my ex-wife, Khadija Wahab. Not only were her accusations purely fictional, but also this fake incident capped off a totally fraudulent marriage done by her to rob me and gain residency in the United States illegitimately. I will, however keep my focus on the bogus DV incident that she and her friends carried out against me and how the so-called criminal justice system here in San Francisco responded no better than a blind bat. Start to finish. Not only did the ďsystemĒ seem to learn nothing from my frequent and numerous complaints; in the end it made thousands of dollars for its errors and never looked back. That is the reason for this letter.

First of all it was the sheer incompetence and the lazy robot work of the responding officers and their failure to adequately conduct a competent investigation that started this mess. Had a decent investigation been done, the responding police would have brought up several inconsistent and troublesome details that should have cast doubt on the so-called ďvictimísĒ  (Khadija Wahabís) account. For one thing, that her injury was to her hand. Picture that. Think about that for a moment. Anyone with any kind of DV experience should know this is not typical. It is not proof she wasnít the true victim she claimed to be, but it should have raised an eyebrow. At least one of the responding officers should have thought this is a little bit funny. A little bit odd.

Second, a window was broken and she has a black belt in taekwando. She has a black belt in martial arts. A reinforced window was broken. She said she ďfellĒ into it. Hand first.

Meanwhile I told police at the time that she deliberately broke the window. Not only did they not investigate this further; they didnít even manage to put this into their report. It didnít interest them. It didnít conform to their already half-baked preconceptions. It didnít dovetail with their presumption that I was guilty.

If they had spoken to me, what would I have told them? What evidence existed at the scene that my ex-wife would have had a hard time explaining? Iíll tell you one. Not only did she break the window in the kitchen door that goes outside; she took a swing at a second window over the kitchen sink. Because her hand got cut, some droplets of her blood were showered on the blinds of this second window. If the officers had asked her, ďSo, Ms. Wahab, did you also fall backwards, fist first, into the other window above the kitchen sink?Ē what could have been her answer?

More troubling, I spoke with the officer detaining me at the scene about the fact that my wife was a fundamentalist Muslim with rather extreme views and not a trace of this got into the report or the investigation. The complete focus of the investigation was exclusively upon my ex-wifeís story and my denial of her story. Not my version. Not at all.

Does it matter? Well, Mr. Hadley, you know as I do that the police report is like something branded on a manís back and goes everywhere. When the San Francisco police didnít get even half the facts of my case and they got these so completely wrong, I was as good as tarred and feathered. Who pays for their mistakes? I do. I am the only one.

I was not merely innocent, but I was and have always been the victim ó in this case, the only victim. My ex-wife and her friends set up an incident to appear as the real thing and the responding police swallowed it completely without question. And from that day their position has been that the sloppy, incompetent, completely botched and mistaken investigation they made that night is not to be questioned. Their complete presumption has been of my guilt. They, and you, have decided at your pleasure that the matter is closed and resolved. I am here to tell you that this goes far beyond honest error or honest mistakes and is a symptom of cancerous and fatal flaws in the system itself. Iím going to take this further. Because I am convinced the police donít give a damn if I am innocent or not (this includes you), I think because of their state of mind they are in fact guilty of criminal negligence of their sworn duty. They are in fact guilty of falsely arresting me, taking me by force away from my home with the use of threatened deadly force (also known in the Penal Code as kidnapping), false imprisonment, extortion of my money (robbery), and a long three-year affliction upon me of mental abuse. Mr. Hadley, I am very serious. To me this matter is cut and dry, black and white. Either the police and system must take responsibility and accountability for their errors and the harm they have done to innocent parties or they join the criminal camp and are guilty of their criminal actions just like anyone else. Uniform or not.

Letís move on.

Whatever botched, aborted, bloody mistakes the responding officers made, it was the responsibility of specialists in the field, namely the special Office of Domestic Violence of the San Francisco Police devoted to investigating and handling domestic violence cases, which then had the responsibility to undo the mess and get the facts right. Or, rather, to get some facts into the case, period.

By the time that office got the case, I was in the San Francisco jail charged with two domestic violence felonies that I was told by another prisoner could get me a 25-year prison sentence. So after being kept awake 36 hours, falsely imprisoned, falsely accused, wrongly presumed guilty, enduring pure anguish at how the police seemed to be getting everything completely, totally backwards, when I was called into an interview room to speak to an officer from the Domestic Violence Unit, I did what any sane person would do who had already suffered so much from errors and misjudgments of the police. I asked for the help and advice of a lawyer before proceeding with questioning.

Despite the obviously adversarial relationship of such investigators and presumed suspects; despite all the talk of equal justice and equal protection under the law; and despite the scarecrow lip service to the concept of the presumption of innocence prior to conviction by a court or admission of guiltÖ all of these were discarded when I asked for the assistance of an attorney because at that point the Domestic Violence special detectives gave themselves permission to proceed with the case while totally excluding my side. It is as if a trial is allowed to proceed and conclude while the defendant is sitting locked in the holding cell.

But the cancer with the Domestic Violence Unit goes deeper. Even if I had spoken in full candor to them, I have learned in the past three years that they are not particularly interested in investigating fake incidents and false reports to the police. To my knowledge they have never investigated, prosecuted, and obtained a conviction against any woman who conducted domestic violence fraud. Not only that, a member actually told me that if my ex-wife did what I said she had done, she would be clearly guilty of domestic violence. And having said that, there was no intention whatsoever to look deeper and conduct an investigation of my ex-wife. I guess it would be politically incorrect. I guess when people hear they are being too hard on men accused of abuse, that gets some sort of public cheer of approval. They seem to take a weird pleasure in abusing and making men suffer. In the end nobody gave a damn because nobody was feeling anything but me. They were guilty of the very thing I was innocent of. Now think about that, Mr. Hadley. Think about that.

The police also donít have much interest in the harm fraudulent marriages cause innocent people. A criminal can break into your house, steal ten dollars and a television, and face three years in state prison for burglary. But a another criminal can fraudulently get into a marriage, steal thousands and thousands of dollars by pure deliberate fraud, humiliate and devastate a person, wreck his life for years, and do a hundred times the harm of a burglar, but when I complain about that kind of crime, the police shrug it off as a bad marriage. It wasnít a marriage at all! That is the point. Any more than a burglar is an invited guest. It was a criminal scam on an innocent person.

But letís get back to the bogus domestic violence incident. There was a reason given to me for not investigating any allegation against my ex-wife. The police said that I had pleaded guilty to a ďlesserĒ charge and had agreed to probation including a year of domestic violence counseling, and that ended the case.

Letís get into the particulars of that.

First of all, because I didnít have the $10,000 retainer fee quoted me to pay a lawyer, one was appointed to me. A so-called public defender. My experience with Jonah Shoe, the public defender assigned to me, was yet one more startling revelation. In the first place, as you know, the overwhelming number of cases that go through the system are settled with plea bargains, so Mr. Shoe and his colleagues tend to spend very little time investigating, developing, and preparing cases for trial. Very little time indeed. Furthermore, I learned to my shock that if a defendant is actually guilty of what they have been charged with (many are), then detailed and extensive interviewing of the suspect by his defense attorney actually harms the potential for defense because it clouds the opportunity for the quick-order defense attorney to invent, cook up, and contrive alibis and probable doubt for a judge and jury. In other words, if my attorney talks to me long enough, he might find I did what I am accused of; then it is harder for him to stir up reasonable doubt. So as a tactic (he even told me this as he was doing it) he forgets the actual facts and disregards innocence or guilt and concentrates on what the other side has and how to defeat it. Is this how criminal law is actually practiced? You bet, Mr. Hadley. You bet. We donít even need to go to a redneck small town in the Deep South. Itís right here in San Francisco. That is exactly what Mr. Shoe did to me. He took my case all the way to trial without going over the case with me even once. I later learned by papers I obtained from him for a later separate court action (where I strenuously attempted to bring my case back to a trial) that, according to his own notes, his intention was to take a completely irrelevant, off-the-shelf defense which had nothing to do with the true facts of my case. So, he made no case and planned to jump in front of a jury and improvise. Pulling tricks and treats out of his hat, so to speak. This is what Iím talking about when I say the entire system is riddled with cancer.

I waited six weeks to go to trial, and when I went, I was forced to walk in naked. That is, with no defense. With a so-called attorney who hadnít even interviewed me at length about my case. All he really heard from me was that my wife was Muslim and I claimed she had falsely accused me. He spoke with no potential witnesses. He never gathered evidence at the scene of the incident. I guess he was hoping to get lucky and go home early. Maybe Iíd be packed off to jail, maybe not. It didnít seem to be anything to him, just another day at the office. Then as the courtroom filled with prospective jurors for my trial, my defense attorney was exceeding pleased with himself that he had obtained an unusually good plea bargain from the D.A. for me. For a single count of domestic violence I could get probation and no jail time. In other words if I pleaded guilty to hurting my wife (something that was not true), I could save my bookstore and the complete ruin of my life because I could assure myself of no jail sentence.

I turned that offer down for the reason that in fact I was completely innocent and never hurt or threatened to hurt my ex-wife. I was the victim and nobody else was the victim.

Without consulting with the D.A. again, my defense attorney gave me a second offer of pleading guilty to one count of dissuading my wife from calling the police. This had some truth to it, because when she unleashed her outburst of violence and said she was going to call the police, I told her not to call the police but to call one of her friends (presumably the same ones who had conspired with her to do the whole thing). Significantly I did not prevent her from calling the police; I didnít threaten her in any way; I didnít take the phone from her; I didnít pull the phone cord from the wall (all of the elements that generally were needed for a conviction of 136 of the Penal Code). I told my attorney I would not plead guilty because I did not feel I was guilty of any crime, but to resolve the legal nightmare I would plead ďno contest.Ē So I did. And when I did, I knew justice had not been done. I knew the truth had not come out. I knew I shouldnít ever have been pressured to plea to anything. But, at least, I presumed all presumption that I had assaulted my ex-wife would be gone because I had not been convicted of that charge and I had not pleaded guilty or ďno contestĒ to that charge. Moreover I had not harmed her. Not ever! She had harmed me.

Mr. Hadley, we now get to you and your involvement in this travesty of justice. I will repeat what I have said many times, but I do so here in writing. In the first place, you are a probation officer assigned to Domestic Violence offenders. My understanding is that your daily task is to monitor men on probation and make sure they do not violate any of the terms of their probation and particularly that they do not come into contact with the victims if a restraining order is in place (as it almost always is). In one of our first interviews, you told me that you were well aware that many men on probation do, illegally, have contact with their partners, and you said to me that if that happens, you do not want to hear about it. You cautioned me that some women will report such contacts and some will not, but the safest thing was not to take a chance.

And, for my part, I took the opportunity to inform you in those first meetings that I was entirely innocent and was rather horrified at the splintery ride down the telephone pole Iíd just endured through the police and court system. The utterly incompetent and arrogant treatment Iíd just suffered from the so-called San Francisco criminal justice system. To which you more or less sharply and sternly advised me that so long as I sat in your office you would considered me guilty of domestic violence and in point of fact guilty of everything on the police report. Period. I was to behave accordingly. So, for the first of at least twenty times in the following three years, I informed you that I have never made any confessions or admissions of domestic violence. No court, no judge, no jury, and no paper had found me guilty of domestic violence, and there was no basis for you to presume me guilty. Your attitude then and ever since seemed to me to be: But I do consider you guilty, and so long as you report to me, you are guilty like every other probationer who comes before me.

To underscore your authority, the following are just some of the actions you took:

On my second visit you said I had violated my probation and had been harassing my ex-wife. You said that if I told you everything about what I had done before you spoke with her (the victim) to get the details, it would be much easier on me and there would be less chance Iíd be found guilty of violating my probation and sent to jail for one year. So with the threat of the complete destruction of my life and my business, I stressed to you that if such a claim had been made, it was entirely a false report intended to repeat and extend the damage already done to me, and it was critical that you start an investigation. I lived in dread for a few weeks, including making preparations to spend a lengthy time in jail while this was sorted out. I thought in my mind, ďItís happening again. Itís happening all over. She has made more false accusations.Ē But you, Mr. Hadley, had no interest at all in any investigation. You didnít lift a finger. At a meeting some weeks later you characterized the accusations as a false alarm; something about Khadija calling Victimís Services and that automatically appearing on your computer as an indication that a re-offence had occurred.

Second, we have the matter of my ex-wife moving completely out of the city but returning every day to work at a business half the distance from my bookstore that I was required to stay away from her (the bookstore that I own and operate and have a multi-year lease on) while the restraining order said I was required to stay away from her. As you know she did this again recently. The first time she took a job in a building that adjoins my bookstore. It was a restaurant that she didnít even want to go to when we were married. You informed me that she was free to live and work where she wanted and I was restrained and on probation and she wasnít. This despite the fact that her action shut down half the neighborhood I normally was able to eat, shop, and circulate in and put me in considerable fear.

Do you recall, Mr. Hadley, when I spoke to you about an angry man who came into my bookstore and asked if I was the man who beat up his wife because she was reading the Quran? Maybe it appears trivial but what it suggested was that not only had my ex-wife moved back right on my doorstep but she was also giving people dangerous and inflammatory false accounts calculated to incite religious hate and potential violence against me. The man who came in that day was one step away from striking me. My own safety didnít particularly concern you. Maybe you thought I was making it all up.

And there was the matter of the Domestic Violence counseling that I was compelled to attend for 52 weeks as a condition of my probation. Little did I know that rather than treatment, insight, and helpful counseling, I was in for repeated humiliation, abuse, threats, and counseling with utterly no interest in the particulars of my particular case. I sat in that chair each week as an innocent man, not just innocent but with no conviction of domestic violence. I sat in that chair as a victim who wasnít allowed to talk about what happened to me. I was perfectly willing to sit in my chair and keep my mouth shut and be treated as defective, criminal, and a semi-O.J. Simpson monster, but it came to the point where I was told I had to admit the violence I had done to my ex-wife or be expelled from the program, found in violation of the terms of my probation, and once again at risk of being given one year in jail. So we had a showdown, the counseling program and me. Youíll recall that your position was that you have nothing to do with these programs; you must simply enforce the conditions of probation which, in my case, required me to attend. So whatever abuse or threats they put on my head were none of your business, other than it being your job to compel me to attend. So I discovered the larger truth, Mr. Hadley. Officially, on paper, men were not found guilty but informally, unofficially, they were to be presumed guilty as hell and would end up in jail if they disagreed. The director of the counseling place stated it exactly and directly to me. He said: ďAdmit you were violent to your partner or go to jail. Itís that simple.Ē

I think itís quite interesting that places that are paid so handsomely to treat abusive men are so quick to be abusive themselves. And that the Probation Department and courts that set the terms of probation and funnel men into these programs (which the men themselves are compelled to pay for) have no authority to make counseling standards conform with probation specifics. It makes me wonder if bored bureaucrats are gleaming some kind of evil pleasure in sending man after man into these little train wrecks. And should a man lose his temper, he is ejected out of the program and must start again with week one. I never lost my temper, but I was amused at some of the other theatricals going on. For instance, the man who quickly went out the door when a mandatory drug test was required of all the men and how this man in later weeks poured compliments on the counselor and treated the whole group to dinner three times. As youíll recall, Mr. Hadley, this is a counselor whom you backed, defended, and supported many times. I will remind you how getting into another counseling program that didnít insist I to lie about events that never occurred added several months to the year I already had to attend  (all of which I had to pay for). And when the first place threatened to strip me of all the credit for weeks I had attended, you had no complaints.

You recall, Mr. Hadley, how this matter was becoming such a mess that Judge Harold Khan said I should go onto court-supervised probation after my counseling was done and my fines and court-ordered fees were all paid. Which you reluctantly granted. This, as you know, meant I didnít need to make monthly visits to the Probation Department. Yet, when Judge Kahn was transferred to Civil Court, you called me up and said I was required to report to you as usual. Why? Well, because you, like everyone in the system, could not stand the idea of having any suggestion you acted wrongly. Ever!

Mr. Hadley, the point Iím making is that my case and how botched it all became was not just one little error. It is not one guy on a bad day who botched something. After three years of this, I am here to tell you in no uncertain terms that the entire foundation is eaten away and rotted. People cover other people. Mistakes are shoved under the carpet. Menís lives are mangled. There is a cancerous code of silence whereby nobody in the entire system will criticize anyone elseís work. There is an arrogance top to bottom which mandates that if someone comes along and says something has been done wrong, if a person says the system has failed, that person will be ignored, then threatened, violated, mocked, and silenced. If not thrown in jail.

Does it really matter? Does it matter that the boat has holes? Lots and lots of holes? Does it matter, Mr. Hadley? Do you think I am the only one this is happening to?

To answer that question, Iíd like to return to my case. While years have been wasted dealing with what didnít happen and what I didnít do, maybe it would be enlightening to focus on what did happen. This is material Iíve spoken to you in person about in detail, which I am now putting into writing.

So, letís just start from the beginning, shall we?

First question: If I never hurt my wife, then what was that incident all about? What actually happened that night and why?

In three years a lot has come out, particularly in the divorce case and with the deposition I conducted with my wife (which cost $875 for me to question her for a couple hours with her attorney present. And to ask her questions nobody else asked her). Things have come out.

[To be continued.]