Widespread ire over decision to arrest
ACLU says Emmer's loitering charge a dose
Jim Ratajczak, Folsom Telegraph, April 1,
A maelstrom of outrage over Folsom man Victor Emmer's arrest has
through the Folsom and El Dorado County communities.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union has weighed in on the issue.
The 49-year-old Emmer was arrested at his house March 13 on suspicion
loitering where children gather after a woman's citizen's arrest
alleged Emmer had spoken to her two children
at three different
Emmer has no prior offenses and is currently free on $100,000 bail.
Many community members see him being the true victim.
Emmer's story was posted on the Telegraph's Web site shortly after
arrest and has since received more than 22,000 visits from Web users.
User comments, by and large, say Emmer was wronged.
One comment reads,
"The notion that you can jail people
just for talking, even to children, seems very much in tension
with the First Amendment."
Another asks, "Since when is it a
crime to speak to children?"
One expletive-laden e-mail sent to the
"Just because some dumb
ignorant (woman) is creeped out by some guy talking to her kids
doesn't mean (Emmer) is guilty of committing any crime."
Even Web sites like the Los Angeles-based
reason.com and Seattle's
newsvine.com have picked up the story.
"I can understand the police talking
with the guy, or even asking him to stay away from the woman's
kids," wrote Radley Balko, the reason.com staff member who
originally posted the story. "But arresting him? Since when
is it a crime to talk to children? The guy isn't a sex
offender, has no criminal record and was under no order not to
speak to children."
Still, the El Dorado County Sheriff's
Department maintains everything
was done by the book.
"The fact is, the sheriff's office
responds for service," said sheriff's
Sgt. Bryan Golmitz. "(The victim) articulated a series of events
to us to make us believe a crime was committed. We believe there
was a crime and it was valid. We're taking all the steps to make
sure the community stays safe."
The ACLU, however, thinks those steps
included a dose of overkill.
"Assuming he was not doing any
harassing or anything sexual, this seems to be an enormous
overreaction and violation of (Emmer's)
constitutional rights," said Michael Risher, staff attorney
for ACLU of Northern California. "Simply hanging around,
twiddling your thumbs is not a crime."
Risher stressed he was only familiar with
the facts presented in the
original article, but questioned the validity of the arrest and
at a double standard.
"The problem with these loitering
statutes is they are often used to
pick on unpopular groups and people," he said. "And it
wouldn't surprise me if it were his sex or age or appearance
(that led to his arrest). If this were an elderly, very
conservatively dressed woman talking to those children, I don't
think she would have been tossed in jail with a $100,000
Golmitz, though, believes the judge agreed
to increase Emmer's bail
because of "the deputies' understanding of the victim's complaint
the possibility of (Emmer's) behavior continuing and endangering
children in the area."
One thing is certain, though - Golmitz, Risher and many Web users
Emmer's actions were out of the ordinary.
"For the purposes of a children's
time event, (Emmer's actions) don't fit with his age
bracket," said Golmitz.
"Certainly, if I were in that
situation with a child, I might leave or
ask (Emmer) to stop talking to my child," Risher said. "I
don't know if I can fault the parent for being
Victor Emmer could not be reached for