Man, 3 mules take $35 citation to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Mar 23, 2016 9:06 PM by Cecile Juliette

John Sears is on a mission. He walks across the West, protesting what he calls a growing 'Megatropolis,' or urban sprawl. We spoke to Sears, 66, with his 3 three mules, Little Girl, Lady, and Who Dee Do, as they walked through the North State last summer. He told us he walked, camped, and raised awareness of the dwindling public lands. Said Sears, "It's an addiction. We're addicted to what money buys, and what it provides, but we're not thinking ahead to where it's going to take us."

Now Sears is fighting the federal government.

According to criminal defense attorney Dan Kapelovitz, in 2014, Sears had wandered into the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area without realizing it. Kapelovitz says Sears and his mules walked down a path through a fence that wasn't marked, and found a place to camp for the night. He was awoken by Park Rangers, who told him he had to leave. He refused, because he said it wasn't safe to walk with the mules down the darkened path. Says Kapelovitz, "At that point, it was so dark, it wouldn't have been safe for him and the mules to just go through the wilderness."

Sears was arrested, and cited with Illegal Camping and Disobeying a Government Employee, and the mules were impounded. Kapelovitz says he happened upon the mules as they were tied up outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, as Sears defended himself inside. He left his card with the mules, and heard from Sears a month later. Kapelovitz decided to represent Sears pro bono, because he says he liked Sears' mission, and thought he shouldn't be hassled.

They appealed Sears' guilty conviction to a District Court Judge and lost. Now Kapelovitz is representing Sears they prepare to take the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sears says people should be able to rest on government land if they need to. "It's totalitarianism is what it is. You can't stay in motion 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," says Sears. "Where you stop is where you stop. We're claiming the right to do so."

Sears' next court date is scheduled for May 2 in Pasedena. According to Kapelovitz, if they lose, they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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