Navajo Woman Fires Deputy Public Defender Who Called Her “Jaws”

by Ruth Musser-Lopez
One week ago, in a Victorville courtroom, a row of orange suited male inmates waiting their turn for justice were grinning and choking back delight while Kristen Raquel Arthur, in a dramatic display of apparent competency, confidently stood before a judge, and “fired” the deputy public defender who was assigned to her case. By all outward indications, the defendant, who is being forced to submit to a mental competency examination and hearing, appears to be quite lucid.
“I want to fire my public defender” Kristen said. “He don’t communicate. He made fun of me. I want to get my lawyer in (to help me get back on track) for the career I want to pursue.”
Judge Charles Umeda, presiding over the court, turned to the deputy public defender sitting beside her, and asked for an explanation.
Deputy public defender Eric McBurney iterated that earlier in the morning the defendant had informed him that she had new representation, Jerry Steering, who had a previous court engagement and could not be at the hearing that day. Umeda, after looking at his calendar, set a new court date, after which Kristen responded: “He,” looking at McBurney, “was the one who thought I was incompetent.”
Umeda replied, “Well, we are going to set the hearing for next week now, Friday at 8:30, do you understand?”
Kristen replied with a smile, “Yes.”
Arthur, had previously been characterized by McBurney, as “the Shark” for having bitten a cop. Calling her “Jaws” prior to the judge entering, McBurney’s insult evinced laughter from a crowded court room when an earlier preliminary hearing was about to get underway. Today, again before Judge Umeda in Victorville Superior Court, she was represented by John Ponce, a Victorville criminal lawyer. It is anticipated that the new representation will be granted time to familiarize himself with the case in which Kristen is accused of battery upon a law enforcement officer.
Kristen Arthur, however, alleges, and there appears to be evidence to indicate, that she was falsely arrested and incarcerated on May 11 when she was offered “a lift” home by a female deputy after she left the Circle K in Needles, transported in a patrol unit to a crime scene at another location where a second deputy was waiting, pulled by her hair to force her out of the car, tazed and handcuffed, slung to the ground, prodded in the anus and then beaten by the two deputies who are now saying she attacked them. Kristen asserts that after she had been mauled by them, one reached toward her mouth, at which point she reacted by biting.
At an August hearing, a psychiatric examination was ordered by the court, and supervising deputy public defender Mark Shoup argued that there were extenuating circumstances during the arrest that caused Kristen to behave in a manner that is unlikely to ever happen again. “Kristen has been in custody for three months, which is more time served than if she would have actually been convicted of the offense of vandalism,” Shoup said.
The initial arrest and detainment in the patrol vehicle appears to be without cause since the “suspect,” according to the police report, was actually a male wearing a ball cap. It is now acknowledged that Kristen Arthur did not fit the description of the suspect. Though the initial charge of Vandalism PC 594(A) – the breaking of a window – used as justification for detaining and holding Arthur was dismissed two days later, on May 13, 2016, new charges of two counts of assault against a police officer PC 243 (b) were filed at that time and the bail was increased from $100,000 to $250,000.
Jerry Steering, who is known as the “police misconduct” attorney, stated “a cop who violates your constitutional rights will almost always try to frame you for a resistance arrest. The police are often successful in their attempt to shift the blame for their use of unreasonable force upon their false arrest of innocents by procuring the bogus criminal prosecution of their innocent victims for a ‘resistance offense.’”
Assault on a peace officer, is considered a “resistance offense.” Steering said that a tactic frequently used by prosecutors to keep law enforcement officers from being sued for the use of excessive force is to “stomp their victims into submission by overcharging innocents to keep them in jail on high bail. That often results in a guilty plea to a ‘resistance offense’ to just get out of jail. That precludes an innocent defendant from successfully suing the police.”
After being booked, Kristen was not allowed to have visitors for 60 days. Booking photos are not available and she asserts no photos were allowed to be taken of her. She claims that her face was bruised and beaten and that booking photos were not taken for that reason. She was incarcerated and was not allowed to make contact with her family in Needles, who at first had no idea what happened to her.
The district attorney’s office is now arguing that Kristen is “incompetent” to stand trial under California Penal Code Section 1368 and is dangerous. It has been suggested that the officers might prevent her from testifying against and about what happened by sending her to Patton Hospital, which is reserved for the criminally insane.
The case prognosis has significantly shifted in her favor with the retaining of a private attorney who can potentially build a civil case during the criminal trial.

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