Davis Enterprise Coverage of Buzayan Lawsuit

Sunday morning, December 10, 2006, I awoke to a front page story in the Davis Enterprise with the headline–“Buzayan family sues city, police.”

My first thought was–well shoot, if I didn’t read the Vanguard everyday, that might have been news to me. That might seem a little bit glib to some, and for that I apologize, but let me just say, that the People’s Vanguard of Davis first wrote about the lawsuit going forward on November 20, 2006. We followed it up with an article on November 29, 2006 and finally an article on December 4, 2006. And we’ll have another one later this week.

The Davis Enterprise reads the Vanguard and knew about this story over three weeks ago, if not shortly after the lawsuit was publicly filed on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2006 in Federal Court in the Eastern District of California. The Davis Enterprise is, after all, a defendant in the lawsuit. In contrast, when the Enterprise received *some* of the police tapes from the District Attorney’s Office they ran a story on the front page within two days.

Moreover, much of this article focuses on a rehash of what had been public back in April and May. It focused heavily on the arrest itself. This is not to suggest that the arrest itself is not important; it is vital. However, the claims made by the Buzayans and their attorneys are very far-reaching. This blog has done three stories on the lawsuit already and we have barely scratched the surface of the depths of the complaint.

A few interesting points that surface in this article…

The basis of the racial discrimination charge: the “bloody” headscarf…

“[The lawsuit] alleges the defendants are guilty of racial discrimination, false imprisonment, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, slander, libel, defamation, battery and racial discrimination, among other conduct.”

If you read that closely you will notice that the first and last charge listed by Davis Enterprise reporter Claire St. John is “racial discrimination.” Very interesting that she mentions that twice.

I am about the last person in the world to be pointing out typos and oversights, but I find this very illustrative for substantive reasons. The lawsuit itself mentions 20 separate complaints and 19 causes of action. Only two of those even mention or contain the word “race.”

One is the Sixth Cause of Action–“Violation of Civil Code § 51.7–Freedom from violence. The above-described conduct violated Plaintiff Halema Buzayan’s right to be free from any violence or threat of violence or intimidation by threat of violence on the basis of race, color, ethnicity or religion as provided in Cal. Civ. Code § 51.7.”

The other is the Second Cause of Action–Violation of 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §1983–Racial Discrimination.”

In this case, the Buzayan Family alleges Halema Buzayan was intentionally singled out for false arrest based on her race, ethnicity, color and religious beliefs. Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly’s sole basis for arrest is his observation that Ms. Buzayan wore no headscarf and her mother did.

Officer Ly states: “The interesting thing I noticed about the mom is she wore a something over her head and the daughter doesn’t and the witnesses didn’t mention anything about that. I think they would have mentioned that to me. So, it’s probable the daughter was driving the car.”

However, more than 90% of this case has no direct connection to Buzayan’s race or ethnicity. And yet, while Officer Ly on his website vehemently defends himself against the charge of racism, the majority of the complaints against Ly have to do with violations of police procedure and the constitutional rights of Ms. Buzayan.

The importance of racial discrimination rests on one portion of the incident—Officer Ly’s conclusion that Ms. Buzayan was the one driving based on his observations about a headscarf. I certainly would not accuse him of racism for coming to those conclusions, I would however, question whether he conducted a thorough enough investigation.

The audio tapes are revealing…

A second issue of importance has to do with the publication of *some* of the audio tapes on the Davis Enterprise website. The first point relating to this is that personal and confidential information (unlisted phone numbers & home addresses, driver’s license numbers, names & birth dates) of all the involved parties were included in the recordings (as well as the names and birth dates of the other Buzayan Family children.) The Davis Enterprise was notified of this by the victim of the accident who had received phone calls from members of the general public who had gotten her private information from the website. Once notified, the Enterprise removed the tapes, and then uploaded a redacted version a few days later.

The second point relating to this is that the District Attorney’s Office released these tapes to the Davis Enterprise without authorization from Yolo County Judge Thomas Warriner who had specifically denied them permission to do so.

Whitney Leigh, attorney to the Buzayan Family, summarizes this point:

“I think the issue, from what I can tell, is The Davis Enterprise’s publication of the information may have resulted simply by the failure to closely review the tapes, and the district attorney’s wrongful disclosure of that to The Davis Enterprise… But the harm was already done once the information was released.”

More questions than answers still…

There are many unanswered questions about the Buzayan case for the public. One of them, is why has this case created such controversy? It is a minor arrest of a teenager for allegedly pulling too close to another vehicle in a parking lot, hitting it, and leaving the scene. Misdemeanor hit and run cases are usually handled either civilly through restitution or by a small fine. Why are we still talking about it a year and a half after the incident?

My answer is because if you understand what went wrong in this case, from the moment that Halema Buzayan was arrested until the moment the Buzayan Family filed their lawsuit, you will understand what is wrong with the legal system in the City of Davis and Yolo County from the arresting officer, to the internal affairs department, to the police chief, to the district attorney’s office, to the Davis Enterprise Newspaper, to the city manager and the city council itself.

Over the course of the next few months we will be exploring these issues in that context.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Civil Rights

12 comments

  1. Thank you for your keen observations, Doug… At first glance, I thought that Claire had done a reasonably fair description, albeit limited, of the issues. The most telling, as you pointed out so well, is the paragraph that lists the “allegations”. This list does not emphasize(or mention?) the serious civil rights issues here. The allegations list is designed to support the narrative that the victims in this case are being too “thin-skinned” and too ready to sue. It is not surprising that the Enterprise is attempting to influence the public perception of these charges prior to a trial where they are one of the defendants.

  2. Thank you for your keen observations, Doug… At first glance, I thought that Claire had done a reasonably fair description, albeit limited, of the issues. The most telling, as you pointed out so well, is the paragraph that lists the “allegations”. This list does not emphasize(or mention?) the serious civil rights issues here. The allegations list is designed to support the narrative that the victims in this case are being too “thin-skinned” and too ready to sue. It is not surprising that the Enterprise is attempting to influence the public perception of these charges prior to a trial where they are one of the defendants.

  3. Thank you for your keen observations, Doug… At first glance, I thought that Claire had done a reasonably fair description, albeit limited, of the issues. The most telling, as you pointed out so well, is the paragraph that lists the “allegations”. This list does not emphasize(or mention?) the serious civil rights issues here. The allegations list is designed to support the narrative that the victims in this case are being too “thin-skinned” and too ready to sue. It is not surprising that the Enterprise is attempting to influence the public perception of these charges prior to a trial where they are one of the defendants.

  4. Thank you for your keen observations, Doug… At first glance, I thought that Claire had done a reasonably fair description, albeit limited, of the issues. The most telling, as you pointed out so well, is the paragraph that lists the “allegations”. This list does not emphasize(or mention?) the serious civil rights issues here. The allegations list is designed to support the narrative that the victims in this case are being too “thin-skinned” and too ready to sue. It is not surprising that the Enterprise is attempting to influence the public perception of these charges prior to a trial where they are one of the defendants.

  5. As for problems with The System, focus on-

    How was the police officer supervised and how was his work reviewed? I think we will see very little review and almost no supervision.

    Were the Assistant DA’s actions supervised? What motivated her to support the officer the way she did?

    This case will show that both the DPD and the DA’s office both lack reasonable checks and balances to protect the innocent. Furthermore, they do not even care. I was once told “the more you get to know the Justice System the more disguted you will get”.
    I am already completely disgusted – I hope others will watch this case very closely and see for themselves.SAH

  6. As for problems with The System, focus on-

    How was the police officer supervised and how was his work reviewed? I think we will see very little review and almost no supervision.

    Were the Assistant DA’s actions supervised? What motivated her to support the officer the way she did?

    This case will show that both the DPD and the DA’s office both lack reasonable checks and balances to protect the innocent. Furthermore, they do not even care. I was once told “the more you get to know the Justice System the more disguted you will get”.
    I am already completely disgusted – I hope others will watch this case very closely and see for themselves.SAH

  7. As for problems with The System, focus on-

    How was the police officer supervised and how was his work reviewed? I think we will see very little review and almost no supervision.

    Were the Assistant DA’s actions supervised? What motivated her to support the officer the way she did?

    This case will show that both the DPD and the DA’s office both lack reasonable checks and balances to protect the innocent. Furthermore, they do not even care. I was once told “the more you get to know the Justice System the more disguted you will get”.
    I am already completely disgusted – I hope others will watch this case very closely and see for themselves.SAH

  8. As for problems with The System, focus on-

    How was the police officer supervised and how was his work reviewed? I think we will see very little review and almost no supervision.

    Were the Assistant DA’s actions supervised? What motivated her to support the officer the way she did?

    This case will show that both the DPD and the DA’s office both lack reasonable checks and balances to protect the innocent. Furthermore, they do not even care. I was once told “the more you get to know the Justice System the more disguted you will get”.
    I am already completely disgusted – I hope others will watch this case very closely and see for themselves.SAH

  9. Thank you Doug.

    Boy, when you take into account all of the “covering up” that Hyde, Henderson, some council members, Fong, etc. are doing with the Buzayan case…one can see why Hyde left town and Gina Anderson left town. And they keep saying that officers are leaving because of stress. I say it’s because either they are part of the problem or don’t want to work for a corrupt dept.

    You can also see why the DPD and the council majority were waging a war against the HRC. HRC was shedding too much light on some issues. They were trying to hold everyone accountable. They were pulling the curtain back on OZ.

    I remember the council meeting when Asmundson (then mayor) said, “you are making our town look bad.” She said this to the HRC members who were sitting in the audience. I found it ironic since Asmundson, Saylor, Souza (A.S.S.) is making our town look bad.

    Now, Interim Chief Pierce has Pearson in as the new Internal Affairs officer.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s time to “clean house” with the Davis City Council.
    When this is all said and done I’m sure there will be more
    “vacancies” in city/county government.

    Doug – You need to write a good book when this is all said and done.

    Michelle

  10. Thank you Doug.

    Boy, when you take into account all of the “covering up” that Hyde, Henderson, some council members, Fong, etc. are doing with the Buzayan case…one can see why Hyde left town and Gina Anderson left town. And they keep saying that officers are leaving because of stress. I say it’s because either they are part of the problem or don’t want to work for a corrupt dept.

    You can also see why the DPD and the council majority were waging a war against the HRC. HRC was shedding too much light on some issues. They were trying to hold everyone accountable. They were pulling the curtain back on OZ.

    I remember the council meeting when Asmundson (then mayor) said, “you are making our town look bad.” She said this to the HRC members who were sitting in the audience. I found it ironic since Asmundson, Saylor, Souza (A.S.S.) is making our town look bad.

    Now, Interim Chief Pierce has Pearson in as the new Internal Affairs officer.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s time to “clean house” with the Davis City Council.
    When this is all said and done I’m sure there will be more
    “vacancies” in city/county government.

    Doug – You need to write a good book when this is all said and done.

    Michelle

  11. Thank you Doug.

    Boy, when you take into account all of the “covering up” that Hyde, Henderson, some council members, Fong, etc. are doing with the Buzayan case…one can see why Hyde left town and Gina Anderson left town. And they keep saying that officers are leaving because of stress. I say it’s because either they are part of the problem or don’t want to work for a corrupt dept.

    You can also see why the DPD and the council majority were waging a war against the HRC. HRC was shedding too much light on some issues. They were trying to hold everyone accountable. They were pulling the curtain back on OZ.

    I remember the council meeting when Asmundson (then mayor) said, “you are making our town look bad.” She said this to the HRC members who were sitting in the audience. I found it ironic since Asmundson, Saylor, Souza (A.S.S.) is making our town look bad.

    Now, Interim Chief Pierce has Pearson in as the new Internal Affairs officer.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s time to “clean house” with the Davis City Council.
    When this is all said and done I’m sure there will be more
    “vacancies” in city/county government.

    Doug – You need to write a good book when this is all said and done.

    Michelle

  12. Thank you Doug.

    Boy, when you take into account all of the “covering up” that Hyde, Henderson, some council members, Fong, etc. are doing with the Buzayan case…one can see why Hyde left town and Gina Anderson left town. And they keep saying that officers are leaving because of stress. I say it’s because either they are part of the problem or don’t want to work for a corrupt dept.

    You can also see why the DPD and the council majority were waging a war against the HRC. HRC was shedding too much light on some issues. They were trying to hold everyone accountable. They were pulling the curtain back on OZ.

    I remember the council meeting when Asmundson (then mayor) said, “you are making our town look bad.” She said this to the HRC members who were sitting in the audience. I found it ironic since Asmundson, Saylor, Souza (A.S.S.) is making our town look bad.

    Now, Interim Chief Pierce has Pearson in as the new Internal Affairs officer.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s time to “clean house” with the Davis City Council.
    When this is all said and done I’m sure there will be more
    “vacancies” in city/county government.

    Doug – You need to write a good book when this is all said and done.

    Michelle

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