It’s letter writing time!

prisonbirdletter

It’s a rainy Memorial Day here in Calvert County, where Dominion is building its fracked gas export terminal amidst heavy resistance — and where Heather Doyle is being held in the county jail. Perfect letter writing weather!

Heather would love to hear from you. She’s reading a mystery novel right now, and while that can take her mind outside of her confinement, she’d rather read letters from actual people.

Write Heather at:

Heather G. Doyle
#294461
Calvert County Detention Center
PO Box 9
Barstow, MD 20610

MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS FIRST!: http://www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?NID=289
THE JAIL IS VERY STRICT ABOUT WHAT THEY WILL AND WON’T ALLOW IN.

Update! If you had letters that you sent to the jail returned, or if you had been meaning to write Heather but hadn’t gotten around to it, you can send mail that she’ll still receive to:

Heather Doyle
PO Box 101
Lusby, MD 20657

While you’re already writing letters, why not write some letters to the editor? Click on the links to send letters to regional publications near Calvert County:

The Calvert Recorder (Make sure to select “The Calvert Recorder” as the newspaper you’re submitting to)
The Bay Weekly
The Washington Post
The Baltimore Sun

It’s really important to Heather that the focus stays on why she took the action that lead to her incarceration. Dominion’s export terminal at Cove Point, Maryland, must be stopped. Click here for some reasons why. To get involved in, learn more about or donate to this fight, check out calvertcitizens.org, wearecovepoint.org and seedcoalition.wordpress.com.

For more info on why Heather’s in jail, read this article.

Lastly, while it’s important to support Heather through all of this, many other people have stood up in strong ways and are now in prison for long periods of time because of it — or could just really use a friendly word from the outside. We encourage you to pick a prisoner (or a few) to write with. Just like for Heather, getting letters can mean the world to people when they’re caged and separated from what their lives were like on the outside. Click here for writing LGBTQ people in prison, here for writing political prisoners of many different backgrounds and here for writing radical ecological political prisoners.

Go ahead and put some pen to paper!

While you’re at it, if you’re looking for some hot letter writing jamz, check out “Inmate Correspondence,” by Not Sorry!. A member of SEED plays on this.

Heather Doyle found guilty, jailed in Calvert County

Heather Solomons

Heather Doyle was found guilty today of supposedly filing a false statement after she was assaulted by Calvert County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Vladimir Bortchevsky during a February 3, 2015, action on a Dominion Cove Point construction site.

On that date, Heather and another activist with Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED) climbed a crane on a site being used for the construction of a massive fracked gas export terminal in the community of Cove Point, Maryland. They hung a banner from the top of the crane that read “Dominion, go home. No gas exports. Don’t frack Maryland. Save Cove Point.” The climbers’ lives were jeopardized when law enforcement officers tried to remove them from the crane in an unsafe way — an allegation that the state’s attorney didn’t challenge in court. The complaint Heather filed that is central to this case stems from her being assaulted during the extraction by a 6’4”, 285 lb. cop while surrounded by numerous officers, Dominion employees, and contractors.

A statement about the assault and endangerment was released after the court process from that action ended, in order to not incriminate the defendants when they had open legal cases. Soon after, elected Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans, a local journalist, and others encouraged Heather and the other activist to file official complaints with the Sheriff’s Office about their experience. The other activist filed a complaint about the police endagerment, received a false statement charge, and pled out to a plea agreement in November, putting her charge on an inactive docket.

Heather rejected a plea in early May that would have required her to apologize to Sgt. Vladimir Bortchevsky (the cop who assaulted her) and Dfc. Robert “Bubba” Brady (the first officer to climb onto the crane). Brady’s actions created an unsafe environment for the climbers, and he was complicit in the assault. In exchange for the twisted request that she apologize to her assaulters, Heather’s case would have been placed on an inactive docket, from which it could be made active again whenever the state wanted. Heather chose to go to trial instead.

Approximately 20 supporters gathered in the courtroom each day, including both of Heather’s parents, friends from as far away as Oakland, and numerous Calvert residents who would be impacted by Dominion’s export terminal if it’s allowed to become operational.

Most of May 24 was taken up by jury selection at the Calvert County Circuit Court in Prince Frederick, Maryland. A court official remarked they had only seen jury selection go as long once or twice in their entire career at that court house. There were numerous questions to prospective jurors about their relationships to Dominion, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, and other entities that would give them a hard time rendering an unbiased verdict. Many jurors with obvious conflicts were excused, but those making it onto the final jury included a juror who grew up with and took martial arts classes with the captain of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Special Operations Team, as well as others who had police or Dominion contractors in their household or families.

Following jury selection, opening statements were made, and the prosecution began its case toward the end of the day. The prosecution continued its case all day May 25. The defense finally started its case early on May 26, after four witnesses were no longer going to be called because of a time crunch based on a scheduled police raid. However, one of those witnesses, Captain Ricky Thomas of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Team, who supposedly couldn’t testify because he needed to leave for that raid at 11:30 was seen in the court house at noon, and was in the court room soon after and for much of the afternoon. Toward the end of the defense’s case, the judge sided with the state that the defense’s expert ropes witness couldn’t take the stand, since the state no longer argued that allegations of endangerment at the hands of the police were unfounded.

The last defense witness was Heather. She spoke eloquently and emotionally about her experiences on February 3 and afterward, and about why she did what when. During the state’s cross examination, the lead prosecutor kept trying to put words in Heather’s mouth, saying Heather wanted publicity by any means necessary and asserting that Heather didn’t get the media attention she wanted after the February 3 action — that her statements about the assault and endangerment were merely to get extra attention. Following closing arguments, the jury deliberated for around two hours before going home for the night. This morning, after two more hours of deliberation and a handful of questions to the judge, the jury finally reached a unanimous verdict at 11:12 a.m.

Before sentencing, Heather’s dad spoke to the court about how proud he was of her, and numerous Cove Point residents submitted letters to the judge to comment on her character and how much they value what she’s done for them and their community. Heather also gave her own statement to the court.

“I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m just glad this is over,” Heather said in a statement written in anticipation of her possible incarceration. “I feel deeply concerned about people who are living here under constant threat of harassment and intimidation for publicly opposing this project that threatens the health of their community and their lives.”

The judge sentenced Heather to three months in jail, all but 15 days suspended; 240 hours of community service; court costs; and two years of supervised probation. She was taken into custody in the court room.

“It’s only been a couple of years since we learned the real meaning behind Dominion’s misleading word: ‘expansion,’” said Cove Point resident Leslie Garcia. “My peaceful bayside community is disappearing. Residents have been pulled over by police for ‘harassing’ suspicious-looking Dominion employees hanging out in the neighborhood. The real charges? We object to the unexamined health and safety risks that the LNG refinery and export plant exposes us all to. Police protection has been bought by Dominion. Even this trial was referred to as ‘the Dominion trial’ by the beefed-up security at the entrance to this court house. It is a hollow and bitter consolation to know that these cops are promoting the same irreparable harm to their own families.”

“As a 58-year old woman, I feel an anxiety and tension that I’ve never felt before, all attributed to the construction of the Dominion Cove Point facility and the role that Dominion has come to play in this community,” added Lili Sheeline, of Port Republic, Maryland. “The company’s influence is palpable everywhere, from schools to libraries to county government — and especially to county law enforcement. Specifically, the role that the Special Operations Team plays in ‘policing’ our society is, frankly, scary to me. Twice, I’ve been treated in what I considered to be a surprisingly threatening way by Special Operations, who do the bidding of both the county and Dominion. I grew up believing, perhaps naively, that most members of law enforcement, by and large, are respectful of citizens and of our rights. In general, I have returned that respect. What I find now in southern Calvert County is very different. My biggest fear is that we, the public, have lost any right to ask questions.”

Heather’s been clear for the duration of this ordeal that her experiences with the legal system would look very different if she was a person of color or had other attributes that would cause bias to a predominantly white, middle class judge and jury. Even though the last year of Heather’s life has been a difficult one — and she’s currently behind bars — it’s still important to her to make the point that police, the judicial system and society at large treats her better than it would many others who are caught up in similar situations.

To support Heather while she’s locked up, donate jail funds at https://seedcoalition.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/74/.

Please write to her at:

Heather G. Doyle
#294461
Calvert County Detention Center
PO Box 9
Barstow, MD 20610

More guidelines for sending mail are at http://www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?NID=289. Note: The jail is very strict about what mail it will or won’t admit.

To support the struggle to stop this export terminal, please visit and donate to calvertcitizens.org, wearecovepoint.org and seedcoalition.wordpress.com.

Heather’s trial starts tomorrow!

 

Solomons 313 boardwalk pic

It’s said that the action isn’t over until the court process is finished.

In that sense, the banner hang SEED did on a Dominion construction site for its liquefied natural gas export terminal it’s building at Cove Point in February 2015 is not yet done.

The two SEED activists who were arrested went to court and were convicted of trespass last year. After their convictions, they both filed complaints against the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office for putting their lives in danger, and Heather Doyle (one of the activists) filed an additional brutality complaint after being assaulted by Deputy Sergeant Vladimir Bortchevsky.

The Calvert Sheriffs didn’t take kindly to having these complaints filed against them, so they launched a massive investigation, charging Heather and the other activist with making a “false statement” to an officer. This new criminal charge is actually more serious than doing the action in the first place. Heather is facing up to six months in jail.

This trial will be a jury trial, held in the Calvert County Circuit Court. It will start Tuesday, May 24, and is expected to end on Thursday, May 26 — though it could go longer.

If people would like more information, want to know how they can help, or want to know more details any of this, feel free to write SEED at contactseed@riseup.net.

More information is at https://seedcoalition.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/cove-point-defender-fighting-charge-for-filing-complaint-against-police-abuse/.

If you’d like to donate any money to help with legal costs for this trial, go to our donate page here. Thanks!