Commentary: An Unwarranted Arrest and Prosecution

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Last June someone in an SUV hit a parked car in the parking lot of a Davis supermarket and drove off.   Witnesses jotted down the license number of the SUV and the owner of the damaged car called police. She was directed to contact the owners of the SUV, which she did. The owners told her they doubted they’d hit her car, but paid the damages anyway - $870. Everyone concerned thought the case was resolved.

But three days later a police officer arrived at the home of the SUV owners. Even though the parents insisted it was the mother who drove the car on the day of the accident, the officer arrested their teenage daughter.  The 16-year-old was taken to the police department that night, in her pajamas, and booked.  And Yolo County District attorney Dave Henderson elected to prosecute the case. The outraged parents believe they were targeted because they are Muslims, immigrants from Libya.

This week a Yolo County judge dismissed the case. Because it was heard in juvenile court, proceedings were closed. So it’s impossible to know exactly why the judge ruled the way he did. Still, the decision to dismiss seems to validate complaints by the girl’s family – that both the arrest and the prosecution lacked merit.

So, here’s my question. Why would Davis police and Yolo county prosecutors expend so much time, money and effort on a minor fender bender that had already been settled between the parties?


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.