By Susan Mann
A tourist parked in the space occupied by the VIPD vehicle, above, is what started events that eventually led to Rudolph’s arrest for interfering with an officer.
Coral Bay resident James Rudolph finally had his day in court last Monday, June 14, after nearly a year of delays on the part of prosecutor Charles Willoughby, and the V.I. Police Department.
Rudolph was detained in jail for nearly three days following his arrest in Cruz Bay last August 1. He appeared before V.I. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Mackay with his attorney Jessica Chung June 14.
The Coral Bay resident was originally arrested by VIPD Officer Derrick Callwood, who charged Rudolph with interfering with an officer discharging his duty, in violation of title 14 V.I. Code section 1508, and several other violations which were later dropped.
According to Rudolph, the arrest took place after he observed Callwood writing a traffic ticket for a rental vehicle driven by a tourist who was picking up a pizza at Cafe Roma.
The vehicle was parked along the street between the entrance to “Now and Zen” boutique, where Rudolph was closing the store for the night, and the large tree adjacent to the “Bayside Mini-Mart” parking lot.
According to both Rudolph and Callwood, other vehicles were also parked along the same side of the street.
“I said to the Officer, ‘Come on, give the guy a break, he just went to pick up a pizza’, then I was immediately handcuffed and arrested,” Rudolph testified in court.
When the arresting officer and his witness Detective Jessica Vincent testified in court, however, they told a completely different story.
Callwood testified that he was on patrol in Cruz Bay “doing traffic enforcement” when Vincent, who was standing in the area, brought to his attention that the white SUV was parked illegally.
Callwood stated that the vehicle was blocking the entrance to “Crazy Crackers.” He also testified that as he was writing the citation, Rudolph came out of the store, walked toward him in a “confrontative” manner, then started shouting at him and refused to step back.
The VIPD officer said that he gave Rudolph four verbal warnings, repeatedly told Rudolph to step back, and told him if he did not he [Callwood] would have to arrest him.
The officer said on the witness stand that Rudolph refused to do so, and that he twice told Callwood, “You are going to have to lock me up.”
Callwood told the court that he felt threatened by Rudolph and that due to Rudolph’s aggressive behavior he was unable to finish writing the citation, which Detective Vincent had to complete.
The VIPD Officer said he then placed Rudolph under arrest, took him to the VIPD’s Leander Jurgen Command in Cruz Bay and advised him of his rights. Callwood testified that he knew nothing further about Rudolph’s status that night, because he left the station and went back in the field.
Defense witness Kent Johnston later testified that he and a friend, Rick Tarr, went to the police station that night to find out how to help Rudolph, when Tarr became angry and verbally loud. Johnston said Callwood came from another location at the station and told Tarr he could be arrested as well.
Detective Vincent, who had been sequestered outside the courtroom with Rudolph’s witnesses, later testified that she had observed the entire incident, and backed up the facts of Callwood’s testimony.
“He was aggressive and kept moving toward us, just kept interfering,” said Vincent.
Chung showed Vincent a photograph of a police SUV parked directly across from “Joe’s Diner,” on the same side of the street where the SUV driven by the tourist had parked — with a civilian vehicle passing by on the street.
Chung asked Vincent if it appeared that the vehicle was able to pass the SUV in the picture. Vincent responded that it did. The arresting officer also stated that, “between six and nine minutes passed” from the time he started to write the ticket to when he placed Rudolph under arrest.
Attorney Chung was not permitted by the court to enter on record evidence of day-to-day parking, by local residents in the same location where the tourist briefly left his vehicle on the night Rudolph was arrested.
Chung cited the case of the Virgin Islands vs. Gillin wherein an individual’s right to question an officer was found to be guaranteed by the First Amendment.
When Chung asked Callwood if one of his job duties was to make arrests, he responded that it was not.
“One of my duties as a police officer is to make arrests — placing individuals under arrest is not my duty,” Callwood said under further questioning.
The officer then added that his duty was to work with the community and be of assistance.
Callwood stated that he had learned on-the-job that he was required to include in arrest reports the actual statements he had heard the individual make.
When Chung asked him why he had not mentioned in any reports — such as the arrest report and the probable cause fact sheet — the statements Rudolph had reportedly shouted at him, Callwood cited one instance when he had written that Rudolph asked to be locked up.
There was no mention of Rudolph shouting at the officer in either the advise of rights or probable cause documents.
“I had to stop writing the ticket because he was shouting and yelling,” testified Callwood, who said he had felt threatened by Rudolph.
Although Rudolph was arrested on August 1, he was not advised of his rights until August 3. When Callwood was asked by Chung if he arrested Rudolph again on August 3, following a Probable Cause Hearing, the officer denied the re-arrest.
He did admit, however, to placing Rudolph in handcuffs again when he left the court room “so he could be processed.”
Chung asked Rudolph how much time passed from the time he questioned Officer Callwood until he was placed in handcuffs.
“About 60 to 90 seconds passed,” said Rudolph.
The Love City resident got involved in the incident in the first place because tourism is his livelihood, Rudolph explained under questioning.
“Harassing tourists is not a good thing,” Rudolph said under oath. “My livelihood depends on it.”
After a 10 minute recess, Judge Mackay rendered her verdict. While she found both officer Callwood and Rudolph to be credible, Mackay said she found the contradiction in the time-lapse cited by the two to be a deciding factor in the case.
“There is grave, reasonable doubt that Rudolph would interfere with the officer writing the citation,” said Mackay. “Mr. Rudolph is not guilty.”