Last week the Free Press reported that I was convicted of trespassing on the U of W campus in 2013. The Judge tore quite a strip off me in her written decision, finding the University to be fully justified in barring me for life from the campus in January of 2013. She also found they were justified in having barred me for 12 months exactly one year previously in 2012, when I was still a student. Oddly enough, she saw fit to make that pronouncement even though I hadn’t been accused of violating the earlier trespassing notice.
It’s funny that she made those findings because the University had originally taken the position that under the Petty Trespassing Act, they don’t need to give any reasons for barring someone. That’s certainly true for any private property owner. If I come into your yard, you can tell me to leave without giving me any reason. And if I don’t leave, you can have me charged with trespassing. You don’t need a reason.
But I argued that a quasi-public facility is different; that there was a common-law right to peaceful entry and use of those facilities which could not be arbitrarily denied without reason. And the judge agreed with me. So what were the University’s reasons for barring me?
That’s where it got interesting. In September of 2012 I filed a lawsuit against the U of W for kicking me out of the Education program. In January (of 2013) I went to the home of one of my former professors to serve papers on him. Professor Bush hung up the phone on me when I tried to tell him the purpose of my visit. When I rang the doorbell, his wife came to the door and told me her husband didn’t want to see me. Then she closed the door on my outstretched arm, which was holding the papers I had come to serve. None of this is in dispute.
What happened next is in dispute. Mrs. Bush told the court that a struggle then ensued, lasting around sixty seconds, in which she desperately fought to keep me from forcing my way into her home. She testified (without being asked) that during that time she was unable to cry out for help to her husband because she was so out of breath from the strain of holding me at bay.
I, on the other hand, testified that when Mrs. Bush started to close the door without warning, I instinctively put up my left hand against the door to protect my outstretched right arm; and that as soon as I realized what was happening, I paused momentarily to consider whether I could legally serve the papers by dropping them at Mrs. Bush’s feet; then, realizing that wouldn’t work, I glanced over her shoulder to see if her husband was within eyeshot; and since he wasn’t, I simply let go of the door and walked away. I testified that the physical confrontation might have lasted as long as one or two seconds.
The Judge found me to be an honest witness who was doing his best to provide a candid account of what happened in the door. But then she also found my version to be consistent with Mrs. Bush’s version! She called it a mere “difference of perception”, finding that although Mrs. Bush’s time estimate was “not accurate”, that the duration of the pushing was “not momentary”, but lasted long enough to engender “a legitimate and honest fear in Mrs. Bush”.
But how did this justify the U of W issuing a lifetime ban against me? Well, immediately after I left, Professor Bush called his colleague Professor Metz, who then emailed U of W VP Neil Besner to report that “George Bush just called me to report that Marty Green tried to break in his house.” (Yes, Professor Bush’s first name is George. Get over it.) Besner immediately took steps to have a permanent ban posted against me.
The Judge found that Professor Metz had been exaggerating, especially when he later characterised the incident as “an attempted home invasion.” And therefore she was apparently not prepared to find this single incident to be sufficient to justify the trespassing order. She wanted to review the entire context of my relationship with the University. And that, as I promised ealier, is where it gets interesting.
Despite observing that Professor Metz was overly sensitive, perhaps even “hyper-sensitive, she nevertheless found Metz to be credible when he went on to testify that I had directed a death threat at him a year previously, in the form of a throat-slashing gesture he claimed to have witnessed without being able to see my facial expression. But there was more. Neil Besner testified that after being banned for the first time in 2012, I proceeded to launch a campaign of harassment over the course of the next year, demanding such things as the return of personal property and marked assignments. The Judge, not surprisingly, found that this did not constitute harassment. Security chief Martin Grainger testified about a horrifying incident where I got right in the face of an invited guest and was virtually screaming at her. The Judge found that this incident never happened.
So what was the “context” which justified the University concluding, on the basis of the confrontation at the Bush residence, that I ought to be banned for life? The Judge found that although I was not a violent person, that I possessed “a single minded determinedness to demonstrate that (my) point of view is the superior one.” In support of this she cited two incidents where, after disagreeing with a Professor, I had used a written assignment as a platform to carry on the argument and prove that I was right.
And that’s why I’m going to win the appeal. If I had written an essay where I raged about my feelings of anger against those professors, that might be a cause for concern. But if the University can kick you out of school, ban you from the campus and even get you thrown in jail (yes, nine days in remand) based even in part on an essay you wrote where you disagreed with the professor, well…