Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jury finds Janet Delmore not-guilty

George Fairbanks
news editor

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A little more than a year after she was first accused by the Roseville Police Department of failing to obey the order of a police officer, a violation of a city ordinance, Janet Delmore was found not guilty last week in Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul.

The dispute
On July 24, 2007, Delmore, the chair of Roseville's Human Rights Commission, stood and watched as Officer Brady Martin conducted a traffic stop near Hamline Avenue North and Oakcrest.

In a report Martin wrote shortly after the incident he said he pulled the vehicle over because he believed its windows might be illegally tinted.

To this point, accounts are conflicting as to whether or not the vehicle's windows were up or down.

While talking to the driver and passenger, Martin wrote he smelled marijuana, adding the driver admitted to Martin he occasionally smoked marijuana in the vehicle.

Martin's report went on to state he saw Delmore watching his interaction with the vehicle's occupants. According to the report, Martin asked Delmore if she needed help and she replied that she didn't. She then approached Martin and the vehicle's occupants and identified herself as the chair of the Human Rights Commission.

The report also said Delmore told Martin she received an anonymous tip about the stop.

Martin wrote he asked Delmore to step back and he would speak to her when he was through with the traffic stop.

Martin's report noted Delmore agreed to step back but approached two more times and was warned again to step back.

The reported said Martin found only marijuana residue in the vehicle and a package of fireworks, which Martin took from the vehicle.

The report also said at one point one of the vehicle's occupants told Delmore to leave the scene.

The other side
Delmore said the exchange between she and Martin was not heated, as had been previously reported in the Review.

She also said she didn't smell any marijuana at the scene.

"I didn't smell any pot," she said. "But I did smell a rat."

She also vigorously disputed the accusation in Martin's report that one of the vehicle's occupants asked her to leave the scene.

"I was never told to leave the scene!" Delmore said.

Delmore also said she received hate mail after the incident became public.

However, she added, she was committed to fighting the charge.

"We just hung in there," she added. "And I'm really glad I did."

During the trial, Bruce Rivers, Delmore's attorney, asked Martin if he had what he thought was marijuana residue tested and the officer replied he didn't. Martin, a K9 officer, also didn't use his dog to sniff the car.

Not guilty
Rivers said he was immediately struck by Delmore's story and believed in her innocence.

"Janet Delmore is a fantastic person," Rivers said, adding the more she told him the more he came to believe strongly in her case.

Rivers also noted Delmore was offered a $50 fine and a chance to keep the charge off her record.

He said he was surprised Delmore turned the deal down in order to keep fighting because he would normally encourage a client to take such a deal.

"The police offered a new deal and I said, 'No deal,'" Delmore explained.

Ultimately, Rivers explained, he didn't need to do much to convince the jury of Delmore's innocence because she was ready to do it herself.

"I didn't convince the jury, Janet did," he added. "She was very credible."

Roseville Police Chief Carol Sletner was also in attendance at the trial, something Rivers said he hadn't seen before.

"I think it's a poor use of public funds," he added.

Delmore told the Review she was disappointed the trial didn't happen earlier. According to Delmore, the trial was slated for February but was pushed back when Martin went on vacation.

Sitting in the courtroom, Delmore said she had no second thoughts about her decision to fight the charge all the way to a jury.

"There was no doubt about it," she explained. "It's standing up for the people who can't stand up for themselves."

Delmore added she didn't find testifying at all intimidating.

"You just show up and tell the truth," she said. "I wasn't afraid at all."

Delmore, who over the weekend e-mailed the Review suggesting the headline, "Rosa Parks of Roseville Stands up for the Common Man," said in the midst of all the legal wrangling her spirits were lifted when she was re-elected as the chair of the Human Rights Commission.

"My colleagues had faith in me," she said.

What's next?
As for what she thought when she heard the jury's verdict, Delmore said, "First thing is 'All right, I did it, I stood up!'"

When asked if she's considering legal action against the city, Delmore said, "We have a lot of fires going right now."

Delmore said she's also hoping to hear from some of her critics.

"Quite honestly, I am expecting some apologies," Delmore said.

Though her fight took a year and earned her some critics, Delmore doesn't regret her battle.

"It was really difficult," Delmore noted. "But I'd do it again."

Sletner said she and her department will simply move forward.

"We certainly respect the opinion of the jury," Sletner noted.

She also explained she sat down with Martin to reiterate to him the department's support.

"He took it well," she said. "He's a professional."

George Fairbanks can be reached at gfairbanks@lillienews.com or 651-633-2777.