Recently there appeared an important article in your newspaper written by Staff Writer Karen Roebuck (Times, April 1) about the dismissal of charges against me for displaying a political sign on my car. In the story, Hermosa Beach City Prosecutor John Barry allegedly said, "I had confidence the arrest was correct and he (Paul Herriott) got off scot-free because it's not worth the expense to pursue it."
It is outrageous and false for the prosecutor to claim the arrest was correct and that I got off 'scot-free,' for that implies that I had broken the law. I did not break the law; therefore, I could not get off 'scot-free.'
The article also stated that prosecutor Barry said, to quote in part, "He wouldn't waste the city's money on a case that 'wasn't a big deal.' "
That is all well, fine and dandy; Barry does not want to waste the city's money prosecuting me now . Why did Barry not see this fact back in December, 1987, when I had my first court appearance, or at any of the other subsequent four court appearances that I had to make?
During approximately the last five months, it has only been myself against the city prosecutor, city of Hermosa Beach and nearly 27 million residents of our state of California with all their courts and resources. I faced a maximum jail sentence of 90 days and a fine of up to $300 if convicted of the political sign offense.
Now, after I had expended all this time, energy and money--$1,200 in legal fees--the case was dismissed, without my having to stipulate that the officer acted with probable cause.
One may wonder, as I do, why after nearly five months, Barry, City Atty. James Lough, and our other city officials finally decided to drop the case.
At the present time, I can see two reasons. One was the fact that the city officials met their match, for they were not just fighting me anymore. I had requested the aid and help of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU was gracious and kind enough to stand by my side in this fight for one of our basic rights of being a citizen of these United States of America--that being our right of freedom of speech. The American Civil Liberties Union attorney Carol Sobel generously represented me in the last part of my defense without charging me any legal or attorney fees.
The second reason was that they knew they couldn't win because there was no case against me and that they could not find a jury to convict me.
I feel our city officials would be more appreciated by citizens if more of our tax dollars were spent in a more positive way; for example, by addressing our ever-increasing problem of motor vehicle traffic on our residential streets.
For the record, it is very important for all of us to remember that I did not post any political signs on "public property"--only on my own private property, and that being my automobile. The law does not mention anything about prohibiting the posting of political signs on one's own motor vehicle.
PAUL BARRETT HERRIOTT