Should The Public Continue To Bail Ramsey Orta Out?
Feb. 29, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Two weeks ago, Ramsey Orta, the man who recorded the video of Eric Garner’s death, found himself in a very familiar situation. He was in handcuffs and on his way to court for a new criminal case. His new arrest brings his total of open cases to five.
For most people, having one open criminal case is something to be avoided. Having five is unthinkable. An innocent person can certainly be arrested. It happens all the time. But when someone gets arrested over and over again, it becomes increasingly difficult to see that person as having clean hands.
That is, unless there is a conspiracy. If the police have it out for someone, then multiple arrests might be an indication of criminal activity, but only by the police, not their target. And this brings us back Orta. Since his rise to prominence after Garner’s death, he has claimed that he is merely a pawn caught up in the NYPD’s machinery of retribution.
Orta has fought back, not only in court but on the streets as well. He joined forces with Copwatch, a police watchdog organization that teaches proper methods for filming the police. However, with all of the attention he has received, Orta has expressed reservations about becoming the most famous cop watcher in America.
Orta says he would at the very least rethink his decision to pull out his camera. In two separate interviews with TIME, Orta expressed ambivalence and even outright regret over getting involved.
Fame cannot be easy. Especially when the genesis of that fame is exposing to the world the brutality of the seemingly all-powerful NYPD. His ambivalence may not be commendable, but it is understandable.
But there is the issue of Orta’s more direct contact with the NYPD. His own arrests. The case that received the most attention was a gun charge, in that the arrest occurred only two weeks after and a few blocks away from where he filmed Eric Garner’s final moments. Orta and his supporters have always claimed that the NYPD falsified (or “flaked”) the gun charge to harass him. With the diminished credibility of the NYPD, this is not a claim that could be easily dismissed.
Orta’s family posted his bail and he was released from custody. Since that 2014 charge, though, he has picked up three other arrests. And this is where it gets interesting. Bail was set for each subsequent arrest at $100,000, $7,500, and $10,000. Orta and his supporters have gone to the public asking for donations to help bail him out each time.
Now, there are only a handful of people who actually know the truth behind his arrests. Is Orta the mark of a jackbooted police force, exacting retribution on a person who dared to not only cross them, but cross them publicly? Or is the real Ramsey Orta a repeat offender who just happened to have the presence of mind to pull out his cell phone and hit record at the right time on that July day in 2014?
People have every right to spend their money as they see fit. If they want to put that money towards someone’s bail, there are certainly less worthy ways to spend a few dollars. But many people who would fund the release of an innocent activist might think twice before spending that same money on a guy who legitimately got arrested because he sold drugs and carried guns.
Orta’s most recent arrest is perhaps the most illuminating within the apparent conspiracy. In February, Orta was arrested on domestic violence charges. Orta’s wife of two months and self-proclaimed activist, Jessica Orta, called 911 and reported that her husband had assaulted her. This is not a case where the police arrested Ramsey Orta on a dark street corner with no witnesses and the truth very much in dispute. The police came because his wife called them.
However, his wife has since claimed that her husband’s arrest is yet another example of NYPD harassment. She does not deny that she called the police because of an argument with her husband, an incident that was obviously serious enough that she felt she needed police intervention.
Orta is absolutely presumed innocent of these and all his other charges. But claiming that his latest arrest is part of an ongoing conspiracy is trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. His own wife called the police with the full understanding that an arrest was almost certain. But these very different circumstances have not changed the narrative.
Just Friday the NYPD did it again. This time they claimed he “assaulted his wife” – but his wife says this is an absolutely lie [sic].
Orta, 24, was in an argument with wife, Jessica Orta, 32, she explains. But the rest of the police story is a lie.
Jessica Orta and supporters of Ramsey Orta released a video today asking the public to support Ramsey as the NYPD has “escalated” a situation between the couple into an arrest.
As to the “argument” that she and her husband had, she explained in her video:
In any relationship like that, there are bound to be issues. So we had a couple.
None of this is to say that if Ms. Orta felt she needed to call the police that she was in any way wrong to do so. And there is no way to know at this point whether Mr. Orta committed any crimes at all. But the fact remains that the police didn’t appear for no reason, but because Jessica Orta called them, knowing full well that it would likely end with her husband’s arrest.
Perhaps the NYPD is taking advantage of the moment and continuing to hound the man that exposed them to the world. Or perhaps Orta committed crimes against his wife and this is yet another cry of “wolf.”
Wherever the truth may lie, one thing has become clear. The repeated use of Orta’s connection to Eric Garner to petition the public for thousands upon thousands of dollars to pay bail for someone who seems increasingly unworthy of those donations is an affront to the movement that supports him.