When we get done with this, we’ll go out hunting some more.”
The above statement was made by Mono County Sheriff’s Dept. Sergeant Rick Hahn and captured via dashboard surveillance video.
Hahn made the statement following the arrest of Youssef Boulaalam last summer just south of Bridgeport on U.S. 395.
The statement is disturbing, coming from a person who is sworn to protect and serve his community, as opposed to “hunt” its members in a quest to make dubious traffic stops and arrests.
Boulaalam, who had been visiting Mono County on a camping trip, is being represented by Allen Berrey through Douglas Buchanan’s office. As Berrey said in a Mono County Superior Court hearing held Monday in Mammoth:
“I am convinced that from the beginning of the [surveillance] DVD there is an effort to create an illusion that things are not as they seem. And I think that goes throughout the DVD. I think it shows the officers engaging in improper, unlawful, and unconstitutional behavior. It is not merely negligence or forgetfulness of the officers. I believe that this matter is so infected with deceit and cover up that it does not deserve to be in this courtroom. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”
And when you watch the video, it’s difficult not to share Mr. Berrey’s outrage.
His client, Mr. Boulaalam, was stopped on suspicion of DUI. The supplemental report supplied by Deputy Art Torres, who made the traffic stop that day with Sgt. Hahn, is supposed to pass for “probable cause.”
“Just prior to the stop Sgt. Hahn and I were paired and on uniformed patrol. After leaving the Bridgeport Office, I decided to conduct a patrol check of the Travertine Hot Springs area just south of Bridgeport. From my experience, Travertine Hot Springs is a high crime area within the Bridgeport community where excessive alcohol consumption and drug use often takes place … about one-quarter mile before reaching the hot springs from Highway 395, I saw VW Jetta [sic] leaving the area of the hot springs. As the VW passed me, I saw the driver, later identified as Boulaalam, look toward my direction. Due to the narrow dirt road our vehicles came within a close distance. From a distance of about 5 to 8 feet I looked at Boulaalam’s eyes and they appeared red and watery …”
Really? You were passing each other at dusk on a dirt road heading in opposite directions and your eyes were able to zoom in and get a snapshot of the inebriated man’s face, which just happened to be of Middle Eastern descent – a clear terrorist.
So fast forward to the traffic stop. This is after Torres claims Boulaalam is driving erratically, weaving, et. al.
Do you think they put Boulaalam through sobriety tests? Do you think they made him blow a breathalyzer? Nope. That wasn’t on the video. As soon as they stopped him, the pretext for the stop was clearly erroneous.
But instead of letting him go, they basically intimidate him into letting them search his car.
Now, the story gets a bit convoluted here, and I’m gonna have to condense it, but essentially, it turns out Boulaalam had two guns in the car – one registered to him and one to a friend of his who had been on the camping trip and left early.
He had consented to a search of his vehicle so that the deputy could inspect his gun. He then remembers about the other gun and tells the Sergeant where it is stored in the vehicle.
Unfortunately for Hahn, Boulaalam hadn’t initially given them consent to search the entire vehicle – just for the first gun. So he’s gotta figure out a way to have Torres accidentally stumble upon the second gun during his routine search for the first.
So the Sergeant doesn’t tell Torres about what Boulaalam told him. Instead, he not-so-subtly “coaches” Torres into finding the second gun, and then Torres comes back on Boulaalam and admonishes him for not telling him the truth about the gun.
Boulaalam protests and says, “I told your friend [Hahn] as soon as it clicked into my head. I swear. It’s not that you found it. I told him [Hahn] about it.”
When Boulaalam pleads with Hahn to verify this claim, Hahn says nothing.
All this chicanery is manufactured so that the search for the second gun is considered legal and consensual. Having a loaded gun in your possession which is not registered to you is apparently a felony.
So as Berrey sums up in a complaint he filed against Mono County, the strategy appears to be as follows; place folks in custody without the benefit of a Miranda warning so that you might scare them into voluntarily telling you about things which might be incriminating.
A suppression motion filed by Berrey is set for a February 24 hearing, The suppression motion essentially asks the court to refuse to hear the case. Perhaps in the meantime, District Attorney Tim Kendall will do us all a favor and look into why, exactly, he is prosecuting this case. Meanwhile, Sheriff Ralph Obenberger may wish to review the case and the actions of his officers.