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MAN JAILED FOR REFUSING TO GIVE UP MELEE TAPE
By CONSTANCE L. HAYS
The New York Times on September 7, 1988
LEAD: Defying a court order and disdaining professional legal help, a Manhattan artist refused again yesterday to surrender his videotape of police officers and demonstrators clashing in Tompkins Square Park and was jailed for contempt.
Defying a court order and disdaining professional legal help, a Manhattan artist refused again yesterday to surrender his videotape of police officers and demonstrators clashing in Tompkins Square Park and was jailed for contempt.
The artist, Clayton Patterson, 39 years old, of 161 Essex Street on the Lower East Side, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after acting Justice Richard B. Lowe 3d of State Supreme Court pronounced him guilty of civil contempt and ordered him to jail for at least 90 days.
A dozen supporters of Mr. Patterson attending the hearing, at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, broke into applause and shouted, "Free Clayton Patterson!" and "This court is in contempt!"
Mr. Patterson's videotape of the Tompkins Square incident on the night of Aug. 6 was subpoenaed last month by a Manhattan grand jury investigating allegations of police brutality and misconduct. Maddox Was Dismissed.
Mr. Patterson was arrested last Thursday after his lawyer at the time, Alton H. Maddox, filed a letter telling the grand jury that the tape had been given to a Michigan Congressman, John Conyers, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice.
The four-hour tape, which was viewed last month by The New York Times, shows police officers striking demonstrators with nightsticks and some officers wearing badges with their numbers concealed.
Just before a hearing on the charge began Thursday afternoon, Mr. Patterson dismissed Mr. Maddox and said he wanted to represent himself. Judge Lowe adjourned the hearing until yesterday, released Mr. Patterson on his own recognizance and appointed a lawyer for him, saying he did not want to proceed otherwise.
Mr. Patterson told the judge yesterday, however, that he did not want his court-appointed lawyer, Gerry Rosen, to represent him. At one point, when Mr. Rosen whispered, "They're going to toss you in jail," Mr. Patterson interrupted him, saying, "Excuse me. You're not wanted here. And I'm not interested, for the 100th time, in what it is you have to say." Action 'Hampers' Investigation
After questioning the defendant, the judge said he was satisfied that Mr. Patterson understood what he was taking on in becoming his own lawyer. Mr. Patterson is a sculptor and painter and an embroiderer of hats. He and his wife, Elsa Rensaa, run a hat store, Clayton Hats, at 161 Essex Street.
The Manhattan District Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said in a statement yesterday that Mr. Patterson's action "hampers the grand jury's efforts to investigate allegations of illegal police conduct." At least one copy of the tape exists, Mr. Patterson has said, but it is not known where it is.
In an impassioned statement to the court, Mr. Patterson told the court that he was not going to turn over the videotape because of his concerns about conditions in New York City, ranging from crime to homelessness.
"It's my belief that in America, there's a certain time to stand up for your rights," he said, when asked by Judge Lowe why he would not produce the tape. "It's my belief that it is wrong for the police to beat up and maim and kill people. It's wrong for the drug dealers never to go to jail and for there to be large amounts of illegal activities. It's wrong for the Mayor to separate himself from his constituents. It's wrong for the District Attorney never to effectively prosecute the police, and it's wrong to have blocks of empty buildings and the streets filled with homeless people." A 'Statement' in Jail
He concluded, "This is not a racial issue, but an issue that involves everyone in this city. I think my going to jail works as a statement towards that."
When asked by Judge Lowe yesterday whether his refusal to turn over the videotape was a publicity stunt, Mr. Patterson denied it.
His arguments did not convince the judge. "I don't think the law is adequately served by making martyrs out of people who want to be martyrs," Judge Lowe said in delivering his verdict. "I also don't think the law is served when the law is flouted."
Mr. Patterson was sent to a special section of the Bronx House of Detention for Men for 90 days.