Town “Gets” Jeff

By: Bill Whaley
5 April, 2013

Rambling John

Before sentencing the Sign Man, Jeff Northrup to nine days in jail, suspended, six months unsupervised probation, and 8 hours of community service in each town department, Judge John Paternoster quoted Voltaire, “I disagree strongly with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The Good John seized the moment, abandoned by Roger Ebert (RIP), and reviewed the Swedish Constitution as it applied to the book and film series, loosely known as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. At issue, according to the Judge in that popular Swedish series was the importance of constitutional protections re: free speech and a free society. The Good John noted that Sweden has a National Department of Constitution Investigation, which involves itself in free speech and criminality.

Earlier Mr. Brian James, town attorney noted that Mr. Northrup  was accused and convicted of criminal trespass during a Mayor Cordova family gathering on July 4, 2010. He (Mr. James) was from Detroit and said a man there might be subject to violent retribution and noted the denizens of Taos were far more “genteel” in their response. The Good Judge Paternoster noted that he himself was of Italian ancestry in New York and was quick to say his family was not mobbed up but warned against approaching a family gathering of the Cosa Nostra or Mafia.

Though most of us have seen the “Godfather,” fewer citizens in Taos are familiar with say, a woman in Taos, who ran over her husband in front of the kids and killed him, during a drunken fiesta revelry, a number of years ago (on purpose?).  She wasn’t prosecuted due to the father-in-law’s concern for his grandchildren, the DA said. More spectacularly, if you’re from out of town and riding a motorcycle, you and your cycle mate can die and your passengers live as cripples but the perp who ran down said bikers won’t be prosecuted since, by definition, he is one of the “good people.” The perp will be punished, however,  if he steals Uncle Frank’s tools. Despite what the court or judges imply, we have a double or triple standard of justice in Taos. 

Jeff is lucky enough not to be shot on sight or run down like a biker. Though his protest signs are no longer subject to the Town’s cops or planning department, due to adverse court rulings, they can be appropriated by the Tow Truck gang’s beautify Taos campaign, which members need not fear prosecution.

Indeed, Judge Paternoster said, “I believe Mr. Northrup is an honest, committed, and wise man, who stepped over the line though he knew better.” The Judge found Mr. Northrup guilty of “criminal trespass” during the July Fourth incident in 2010, when the sign man saw children, outside the Mayor’s town residence, where a party was in progress. According to videotape, the children were shooting off fireworks, contrary to a town ordinance, signed by the Mayor himself.

As Mr. Northrup has testified and written, he stepped on to the Mayor’s property, though forbidden, on the night of July 4, 2010, video camera in hand, to warn adults of the kiddie scofflaws. According to a video-audio recording of the event, his misstep was ever so brief and several angry men, including one Councilor Rudy Abeyta, who called him a little “fag,” immediately confronted him. Later, the Mayor’s radio station shock jock termed the sign man a “pedophile,” who engaged in “animal cruelty” and other antisocial acts—stalking children, etc.

According to Northrup and court testimony, a town policeman testified that he had warned the Mayor—verbally–about the banned activity. Some eight witnesses, guests of the Mayor, testified that Northrup had interfered with the party at about 8:30 pm. In fact the cops had been called at 10:30 pm, according to the 911 tapes presented at the original prosecution in Judge Dickie Chavez’s court.

Though this reporter didn’t attend the Paternoster trial of Northrup, he did attend the Judge Chavez proceedings and it was as obvious as the nose on your face that witnesses perjured themselves. But lying in municipal or district or to the Supreme Court in New Mexico is hardly a serious offense. As Judge Paternoster has said, we must continue to listen and learn about this “amazing Taos story.”

Northrup says he has repeatedly challenged the Mayor to “bring forth evidence he has that I’m an animal abuser, a child pornographer, a pedophile” but that the Mayor “refuses to answer.”

According to the town’s budget, posted on its web site, the town has some 15 so-called “departments.” The Good John has delivered a rather elegant decision that might seem onerous to some—120 hours of community service. But, for Jeff, it’s like throwing Br’er Rabbit into the Briar Patch. As the Judge said, quoting Pogo, “We have seen the enemy and they are us.” The Judge has instructed Mr. Northrup to summarize his experiences at Town Hall at the end of the six-month internship period. And now the town will have to cope with Mr. Northrup’s presence. I can hardly wait to read about it.

The Judge also instructed Jeff to write a letter of apology to the Mayor, “saying what you said today, when you said you `stepped over the line.’” The Good Judge alluded to Thoreau (On Civil Disobedience) and suggested the town and Jeff back down from the “nuclear trigger” (North Korea was much on the Judge’s mind). In the end, the Good John said, he hoped that if “one person had an improved attitude toward the justice system, he had accomplished something today” (April 4, 2013).

That’s a challenge the Friction may seize on in future posts.


Letter to the Editor:

Paternoster’s “ruling” on Jeff is unbelievable.  The good “Judge” and the “Beautify” Taos committee should grab some paint brushes and paint and clean up all of the graffiti around our “Pure” Town.  All of the flowers and shrubs in the world can’t erase all of the ugliness.  While they are painting, they could also pick up all of the trash and broken bottles.  They could act as undercover agents to find all of the muggers and rapists.

I think Jeff’s signs distract us from all of the unsolved crime…REAL CRIME that we have to deal with here.  Our town “government” should be ashamed of themselves….they need to concentrate on all of the real problems that we have here.

Thanks for listening.

Jan Enright

PS: I was a witness to the July 4th crime that never was…Jeff was at my house until after 10pm.  Hopefully the witnesses for the Mayor showed up at Confession the following Saturday.  Shame on them.

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