Metrolink Blogger Faces Jail Time, Featured in the Daily Journal
By Peter B. Matuszak
Daily Journal Staff Writer
Los Angeles -- A blogger who rides the Metrolink train to work and moderates an online forum to vent criticism of the rail service may face jail time for touching a conductor during a dispute.
Attorneys from City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo's office on Wednesday asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge to sentence Robert Arkow -- who runs the Web site http://www.metrolinkrider.com/ -- to at least one day in jail for misdemeanor battery. Arkow was convicted last month of touching conductor Edward Galvin during an otherwise verbal confrontation last spring.
The maximum penalty for the charge is one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. However, without an injury alleged to victim, no prior criminal record, Los Angeles-based defense attorney, David D. Diamond said it was wrong to call for a mandatory jail sentence for his client.
"Jail time for this sort of thing is only for multiple offenses. They need to read the whole code. This is a joke," Diamond said after the hearing. "If this is the case, then I am going to be worried about going to jail every time I try to order a ginger ale from a flight attendant on a plane."
Villar denied a motion by Diamond to dismiss the charges. Diamond claimed the city attorney had no jurisdiction because the quarrel happened outside Los Angeles. The judge also denied a motion claiming misconduct on the part of Delgadillo's office for pursuing the case despite allegedly knowing where it occurred.
Arkow has been at odds with Metrolink. In 2006, the agency attempted to shut down his Web site through the international court in Geneva. Arkow represented himself and won. He has also been cited on the trains for refusing to sign his monthly train pass, which set off the latest run-in with Galvin. Arkow's two prior citations for not signing were dismissed.
Diamond filed post-trial motions for dismissal after Galvin testified that the confrontation began after the train left the Glendale station en route to Burbank. Villar dismissed the motion, but delayed sentencing until Dec. 5. The judge agreed to give Diamond the extension while the 2nd Court of Appeals considers an emergency writ on the jurisdictional claim, which he filed on Nov 7.
The district attorney has jurisdiction over all criminal prosecutions in Los Angeles county, Diamond argues, and grants authority to city attorneys to prosecute misdemeanors only within their city limits.
Deputy City Attorney Felince Kalpakian argued the post-trial matters alongside Acting Deputy City Attorney Jessica Coffin, who handled the original trial. The prosecutors argued that the train originated in Los Angeles and the tracks run along the city's border.
Diamond claimed the train's origin is only relevant in determining the court's jurisdiction -- not who can prosecute the case. Originally Arkow was cited on April 4 by Gavin for not signing his monthly train pass. The blogger, who has commuted downtown for 10 years on the train, allegedly touched conductor Galvin from his seat to get the conductor's attention and dispute the citation.
Galvin filed a police report the next day, which led to a disturbing peace charge against Arkow. When Coffin took over the case, she dismissed the charge and filed charges for misdemeanor battery.