The Jeremy Marks Defense Committee is happy to announce a major victory in Jeremy’s case. Under pressure from the growing people's movement to defend Jeremy, the Los Angeles County District Attorney was forced to offer Jeremy a plea deal that results in no jail time. The court accepted the plea this week. His case is now over.
|“When I saw the look of relief on Jeremy’s face as the case ended, that’s all that I needed. The word ‘expungement’ is a victory, even though I don’t like the word ‘probation.’”
-Rochelle Pittman, Jeremy's mother (pictured above)
|Jeremy and his brother at a fundraising event.|
Under the plea, every charge was dropped except one count of “resisting arrest.” This count will be dropped to a misdemeanor and expunged from Jeremy’s record once he completes three years of probation. Not only is there no jail time for Jeremy, he also will not have a felony “strike” on his record.
The conclusion of Jeremy’s case is not full justice. We know that Jeremy is innocent of all charges. He is not guilty of “resisting arrest” or anything else. Full justice would have required all charges to be dropped and no further legal obligations for Jeremy and his family. But given the extremely hostile attitude of the police and D.A.—who wanted to send another 18-year-old Black youth to jail for almost a decade—the outcome should be celebrated as a victory.
In a message thanking supporters, Jeremy’s mother Rochelle Pittman said, “The movement is the reason that Jeremy did not end up in jail for seven years with a ‘strike’ against him. I am proud to have been part of this campaign. Thank you to everyone who helped keep my son out of jail.”
‘We can fight back and win’
The only reason Jeremy is not in jail today is because of the actions of the movement to support and defend him. This is why he is no longer facing any jail time. If the D.A. had his way, Jeremy would be behind bars, wasting years of his young adult life. But, right now, Jeremy is exactly where he should be—at home with his family and finishing high school with his friends in Los Angeles.
It was only the actions of the people’s movement, with the full support of Jeremy’s family that forced the D.A. to back down and end the case with no jail time. Inside sources told the Jeremy Marks Defense Committee that the D.A.’s office “wanted the case to go away” because it was “getting to much media attention.”
The case of Jeremy Marks proves that justice movements are at the center of real change. People’s movements can fight back and score important victories for working and poor people, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.
How we got here
Jeremy was arrested in May 2010 on trumped up felony charges of “lynching,” resisting arrest and, later, phony gang “enhancement” charges were added.
What did he do wrong? Jeremy attempted to protect another young, Black high school student who was viciously beaten by L.A. School police. He simply videotaped the cop beating his classmate.
But the D.A. and the police were out to get Jeremy from the beginning. They wanted to “send a message” that youth, especially youth of color, have no right to videotape police misconduct. They wanted to intimidate others from taking action and asserting their constitutional rights. This is why the D.A. kept Jeremy in adult jail for nearly nine months without cause. This is why the D.A. raised Jeremy’s bail to an insurmountable sum and pursued the maximum possible sentence.
Because of these outrages, and his family’s tireless work, a people’s movement to defend Jeremy formed. Grass roots organizations and activists came together to form the Jeremy Marks Defense Committee, a coalition that was anchored by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). The main demand was, “Drop all charges now!” and the main slogan was “Videotaping police misconduct is not a crime, it’s self defense!”
In just a matter of months, thousands of people in all 50 states and more than 26 countries signed the petition to drop all charges against Jeremy. The JMDC also held protests, meetings, and media conferences, sold t-shirts, mobilized for every court hearing and sponsored a major statewide speaking tour for Rochelle Pittman, Jeremy’s heroic mother. The case gained media coverage in many newspapers, radio programs and major TV news channels.
Before the movement took action, D.A. Steve Cooley wanted Jeremy to accept a plea deal of three years in jail. Inside the courtroom, the D.A. and judge put up one legal roadblock after another. It was a lopsided legal battle where important evidence in the D.A.’s possession was not shared with the defense team. The prosecution presented lie after lie about the existence of an additional video recording of the incident that would have strengthened Jeremy’s case.
The cops and the D.A. took their aggressive campaign to Jeremy’s family home. In January, the police executed a Gestapo-style raid, drawing guns on Jeremy’s family and neighbors and illegally seizing attorney-client privileged documents.
In the face of so much foul play, there is no telling what direction the case would have taken in a courtroom. But one thing is clear: Jeremy was facing a frontal assault on his basic rights. The authorities wanted to lock him up and throw away the key.
The Jeremy Marks Defense Campaign pushed back hard against this assault on Jeremy and his family. Grassroots activism spread the word about the injustice to hundreds of thousands of people.
The victory in Jeremy’s case is an example to all people who fight for justice. If we unite and move together without fear, we can push back against the police, prisons and all institutions of inequality and racism.
This experience, along with the steadfast courage of Jeremy and his family, has shown us that if we fight back, we can win.
-From all of us with the Jeremy Marks Defense Committee
The Jeremy Marks Defense Committee is a campaign of the ANSWER Coalition in partnership with other social justice organizations.