The criminal case against San Diego resident Youseff Boulaalam was dismissed at the California Superior Court in Mammoth on Monday, with Judge Magit presiding. Boulaalam was pulled over and later arrested on July 10, 2013 after Mono County Sherriff deputies found a loaded handgun in his car.
Judge Magit granted a request to suppress all evidence involving the case against Boulaalam on Feb. 24, citing that the Sherriff deputies had no probable cause to pull Boulaalam over. The Mono County District Attorney’s office confirmed on Monday that it will not try and appeal the motion to suppress evidence, and therefor cannot proceed with the case against Boulaalam.
The evidence included a DVD from a dashboard camera in the Sherriff Department vehicle, as well as the handgun. As Judge Magit ruled in February, the DVD shows no sign of erratic driving on the part of Boulaalam. Deputy Art Torres and Sergeant Rick Hahn, who pulled Boulaalam over, began following Boulaalam on Travertine Road as he was leaving the Travertine Hot Springs, and eventually pulled him over on US 395.
After the ruling Monday, Boulaalam’s attorney, Doug Buchanan of Bishop, said the Sherriff’s Department ought to take the surveillance DVD of the traffic stop and use it as a training video on how NOT to do a stop and search.
“I will say that it was very frightening and humiliating,” Boulaalam said about the way he was treated the night of his arrest. “The officers disrespected me and the law, and didn’t seem to care what they were doing or saying or what the truth was.”
“I am from Morocco, where people have many fewer rights than they do in the United States, and where the police can pretty much do what they please. But in Morocco the police never treated me the way the Mono County Sheriff’s officers did. That should say something, I think.”
Buchanan said it was a pleasure to litigate against the Mono County D.A.’s office. Prosecutors, he said, are tasked to not only prosecute zealously but to pursue justice. Often, they remember the first part but not the second. Buchanan believes Deputy D.A. David Anderson, the prosecutor in Boulaalam’s case, was excellent on both counts.
Buchanan and Boulaalam also praised Judge Magit and the California Superior Court. “I want to thank Judge Magit for his decision,” Boulaalam said about the ruling to grant the suppression of evidence. “Although this whole ordeal has been very difficult, discouraging, and expensive for me, I was greatly encouraged, as a new U.S. citizen, that the Superior Court ultimately upheld the Constitution. While the police may be somewhat the same from country to country, it is clear to me that the courts in the United States stand alone in protecting the rights of its citizens.”
Boulaalam is now considering bringing a civil lawsuit against Mono County for damages. “The County has really left me no choice,” Boulaalam said. “I presented a claim to the Board of Supervisors in good faith, trying to recover all my damages, restore justice, and help prevent what happened to me last July from happening to anyone else, without the need for a lawsuit.” Boulaalam’s claim was unanimously rejected at the Feb. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting in Bridgeport. The Supervisors could reconsider the claim and settle with Boulaalam, without civil litigation.
Buchanan said he will not represent Boulaalam in any civil litigation. Allen Berry, who works out of Buchanan’s office and is representing Boulaalam at the moment, said, “Mr. Boulaalam is weighing his options about representation should he pursue a civil action against the County. I may end up representing him in that litigation.”
Buchanan’s phone has been ringing off the hook since the publication of The Sheet’s stories about the Boulaalam case (Jan. 31 and Feb. 28, 2014). He has received an outpouring of unsolicited comments about the Sheriff’s Department. The comments are not positive.
“It’s like I’ve become the local office of the American Civil Liberties Union,” he said. “And I’m not. I’m just a country lawyer.”
“I don’t know what’s going on [inside the Mono County Sheriff’s Department], but when I drive through Mono County, my cruise is set at three miles per hour below the speed limit and I cut off at Sweetwater to minimize the time I spend in Mono County,” Buchanan said. “Why expose yourself?”
Boulaalam said he is still traumatized by the incident last July and doesn’t plan on coming back to vacation here anytime soon. However, he only had good things to say about the County itself: “Mono County is a beautiful, spectacular place, and I have had lots of great times hiking, fishing, and exploring it,” he said. “Most of the people I’ve met in Mono County have been kind and welcoming to me, and are glad I’ve come for a visit. But it’s like the Sheriff doesn’t like tourists, or outsiders, which is strange because that’s who comes to Mono County to vacation.”
“It’s ironic that the Mono County Tourism website tells people how cool Travertine Hot Springs is, and invites tourists of all kinds to go there.” Boulaalam said. Quoting the surveillance DVD and Deputy Torres’ testimony, he continued, “But the Sheriff considers it a ‘high crime area,’ where the Sheriff’s officers go to patrol and ‘hunt’ for someone like me to follow and stop. Which is it?”