Jury Finds Walt Dixon Innocent.
The Case of the Missing 911 Calls
By Jim Scanlon
After a one week trial before Judge James Ritchie in Marin Superior Court, a jury of 12 men and women deliberated two hours and found Walt Dixon of Woodacre not guilty of charges of battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and being drunk in public.
The charges arose out of an incident in January 2003 in downtown Forest Knolls. Dixon claimed that he was standing in the town park minding his own business talking to his ex girlfriend when a sheriff's deputy pulled up in his vehicle and began questioned him for no apparent reason. He claimed the officer got upset with the way he handed over his driver's license and subdued him.
The officer maintained Dixon and his girlfriend both showed signs of intoxication and Dixon was rude, insolent and uncooperative and struck his armored vest. Several other deputies, who were in Forest Knolls investigating an inconclusive report of a teen age party, responded to the scene. Their testimony supported the arresting officer.
Dixon's cries of pain, "Stop! You are breaking my arms," awakened three women, none of whom were acquainted with Dixon, who were staying in a home across from the park. They all testified, in one form or another, to seeing Dixon on the ground with a tall, heavily built deputy pressing his knee or his foot in Dixon's back while pulling up on his handcuffed arms.
Dixon's injuries were not permanent and no bones were broken. For reasons not explained Dixon was never given a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test either of which would have clarified the drunk in public charge.
The way the prosecuting District Attorney presented the case to the jury, it came down to who was lying, Dixon or the sheriff's deputies. If that was so, the jury believed Dixon, a popular, well liked, public spirited musician and a native of the San Geronimo Valley who had never been in trouble before.
Probably what influenced the jury most was that three of the Sheriff's Deputies reported and later testified that they had heard of a 911 call reported over radio dispatch of a man and a woman arguing in the park on the corner of Guadeloupe and Montezuma. Dixon said he knew it wasn't true since he and his ex girlfriend had not been arguing and there was no one else in the park.
Dixon said the District Attorney's Office made offers if he agreed to plead guilty: 60 days jail plus community service, 28 days jail plus community service and finally just community service. He said he went to the expense and aggravation of a jury trial because he knew he was innocent.
Dixon's attorney Patrick Heron subpoenaed the Sheriff's radio dispatch records which showed that there was no record of the 911 call or calls.
During the past two years there have been several instances in West Marin, in Point Reyes Station, Bolinas and in Novato in which Sheriff's Deputies were accused of using excessive force.
It has been rumored that deputies who drive long distances to West Marin to respond to calls do not like to return to the Civic Center empty, that is, without someone to book in jail and account for revenue for the county. So they look around for anyone who appears to have been drinking to return to the jail with passenger(s).