Assault Charges Against Edwin Johnston Dismissed!

On March 26, 2001, Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash and Pacifica National Board Chair David Acosta (who has since resigned) interrupted Democracy Now! and other programming in order to make allegations of violence against their critics. The critics denied any violence on thier part, but one of those singled out in the broadcast, Mr. Edwin Johnston, still faced charges of both Class C misdemeanor “simple assault” and Class A misdemeanor “assault with bodily injury” in Texas. These charges were brought by KPFT General Manager Garland Ganter and his wife Molly O'Brien, who is on the KPFT payroll, after Ms. O'Brien allegedly shoved a female picketer outside KPFT and stole her leaflets.

In July 16, 2001, the “simple assault” charges were dismissed. On August 23, 2001, the “assault with bodily injury” charges were also dismissed after the District Attorney decided not to bring the case to trial. Trial had been set for August 27.

Mr. Johnston has issued a statement, part of which is below.

Fri, 24 Aug 2001

We Won!!! KPFT legal cases redux

“The best martial arts are those that provide your opponent the opportunity to fall down.”


Now that you all have had a chance to pat yourselves on the back and drink from the intoxicating well of confidence, I'm sure you want all the dirty details, which I am now free to explain.

As most of you know, it all began 5 months ago yesterday, outside KPFT at a backyard concert for the largest donors to the station. Sheila Harris had called an impromptu demonstration for that event. Sheila, her boyfriend, Shannon Smith, Wendy Breunig, Hep Ingham and his S/O, Mary Beckman, Clay Smith and myself all played a part in holding this protest. Our plan was to encourage donors at the event to stop giving to KPFT and to support the lawsuits against Pacifica instead.

Molly (O'Brien) Ganter, the former KPFT development director and wife of station manager, Garland Ganter, was so incensed at our success that night, IMO, that she forcefully snatched several score Pacifica Campaign and Pacifica Listeners Union flyers from Sheila's arms. I was so angry at this assault and the obvious attempts to shut our protest down that I demanded the flyers back, as did the rest of the group. When Molly refused to return them I attempted to retrieve the stolen property from her in the most nonviolent way possible. This led her to scream “Rape!” and led Garland and other KPFT types to begin assaulting me. Once free from being entangled in the forceful holds and battering blows of people associated with KPFT, I realized that they had called the cops which I had a funny feeling was going to be trouble for me and our group.

Sure enough when the cops showed up, our side of the story counted for very little and within several minutes a member of the gang in blue grabbed my arms and handcuffed me, sending me off to the homicide tank for the evening. While this was occurring, Rick Heysquierdo of KPFT was passing out station premium and promo items to the other cops hanging around. I was charged with two counts of simple assault, a Class C misdemeanor in Municipal Court. These charges are essentially “offenses,” like traffic tickets. They didn't have to take me to jail, they could have simply wrote me an appearance ticket. And the normal bail for this would be around $150, according to my first attorney. My bail was $750.

Now, this was all bad enough, but I was dealing with it with my usual aplomb. Then about three weeks later, I find out that there was now a warrant for my arrest from the County Sheriff's department. Molly had met with the police sometime after the original incident and bumped the charge up to assault/bodily injury, a much more serious Class A misdemeanor with potential jail time if convicted. New bail was set at an additional $1,000. This is when I decided to switch attorneys, since I had a standing offer to be represented pro bono by an important local firm.

I hope you have been reading along patiently, because here now is the dirt. The other day my attorney provided me his handwritten copy of the prosecutor's file. In it were the statements to police from the various KPFT related people. I refer to this as The Texas BS Report.

In her statement, Molly claimed I came onto the parking lot of KPFT, yelled at her and then pushed and hit her. Garland said he witnessed me physically assault his wife. He also stated that he then approached me and then I hit him as well. Three days later Garland recontacted the cops and tried to get the charges increased against me. He claimed that although they had originally reported no injuries as a result of the incident, Molly had since complained of bruising, pain and discomfort. The cops discussed this amongst themselves and decided to visit with the Ganters to determine if the charges were at the proper level, which they did five days after the incident. Six days after the incident, the Ganters went to the homicide division office and completed sworn written statements, including copies of photos of alleged bruises, I believe. KPFT employee, Mary Ramirez (recently promoted to program director and ex officio LAB member) also gave a statement that day, as did KPFT volunteer Abel Solis. Mary stated that she saw me on Molly's back and grabbing her. She claimed I was very violent and aggressive. According to Mary, Molly was struggling to get away from me, but I wouldn't let her go. Mary said she then told Garland to go help his wife and then she went inside to call the police. Abel stated that he saw me shaking and holding Molly very aggressively. He also reiterated that Molly was trying to get away but that I wouldn't let her go. Able went on to state that someone had pulled me off of Molly, but I kept going after her. Then according to Abel, I was cussing up a storm and was up in Garland's face. Then, Abel states, he came up to me and asked me to leave and also claimed that as a result I was about to spit on him. This was enough for the DA to direct the police to dismiss the Class C charge filed by Molly and increase it to a Class A.

Molly gave a very lengthy sworn written statement that day in the homicide division. She stated that since the protests in the summer of 1999 (n.b., when her husband pulled the plug on KPFA in Berkeley), it was the policy of KPFT to have absolutely no confrontation with demonstrators. She stated that we had come onto KPFT property so she politely asked us to leave, which caused me to be confrontational with her and then to yell in her ear. She continued by saying she started walking away until Sheila offered her a flyer and then took them, denying she did anything hostile. As a result, according to Molly, I went nuts, grabbed her arms and verbally taunted her. She tried to break free, she claimed, but I wouldn't let her go. She panicked and yelled rape. Then, Molly states, I had most of my weight on her back. Eventually, according to her, a volunteer, whom she couldn't identify, grabbed her hand and tried to pull her away and she then got free of my grasp. Then she noticed others were still entangled with me and I was swinging wildly at them and her husband, trying to hit them. She states that later that evening she realized her arms were sore and bruised and that I had left bruises on her upper arms that caused her to feel pain for three or four days after the incident. As a result, Garland had called up a cop who had previously worked at KPFT events to ask if the proper charges were filed. The cop said, according to Molly, that the charges should be upgraded due to pain and suffering.

Garland gave a lengthy sworn written statement as well that same day in homicide. He stated that when he arrived our group was performing our little chants, “Garland the loser.” and that when he approached, we blocked his way. He then claims we came on the property by the sign-in table and began interrupting his conversations. He told an unidentified protestor to leave the property, then went about his other duties. He was coming back to the front of the building about five minutes later when someone called out to him, “Come quick, Eddie has jumped on Molly.” Garland states that he saw that I had his wife kind of in a bear hug from behind. Then a guest took Molly by the hand and tried to pull her away. Once Molly had freed herself, according to Garland, I lunged at her. Then he got in front of me to stop me from getting at her and I got right up in his face with my “arms out kind of trying to grab” him, in Garland's words. He ends his statement by claiming that later that evening and over the next couple of days, he saw that Molly had developed bruising where I had been grabbing her and holding her and that she complained of pain in her upper arms. So he had called the cops again and was advised that the charges should be upgraded because of injuries.

The descriptions above are solely from the statements of KPFT related people concerning this incident (The Texas BS Report) which have nothing to do with my own opinion or my own personal statements of facts. From this information, and the fact that all criminal charges against me were dismissed, it should be very clear what should happen next in regards to how KPFT is run.

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