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Bench Warrants Issued for Canadian Band for Canoeing Down L.A. River

The legal trouble could possibly prevent band members from coming back into the U.S. to defend themselves.

Arrest warrants have been issued for members of a Canadian folk band who were stopped by police from  in Studio City during a storm in February.

The warrants could prevent the members of the band, called Twin, from coming back into the United States to defend themselves, according to Deputy City Attorney Kenneth Pso, who was assigned to prosecute the case.

The band members had entered the river near Sepulveda Boulevard. They were apprehended near where the Tujunga Wash meets the river at the Vineland Avenue bridge. (Click on the attached video to hear the Los Angeles Police Department radio communications during this incident.)

Attorney Steven White of Los Angeles, who represented three of the six band members, said he was surprised when Patch contacted him and said there were bench warrants for his clients.

Numerous police officers, firefighters and the LAPD helicopter responded to the report of the canoe in the river in February.

White said initially he couldn't believe the amount of manpower which was used to stop the band from canoeing down the river, and he estimated the cost to taxpayers at a minimum of $4,000.  He also said the band was a group of experienced boaters who had taken precautions by previously scouting the river.

"No actual crime was committed," White said. "No one was in danger of any harm."

White argued that the six men were utilizing the river which by the Environmental Protection Agency. It was the band's way to demonstrate the importance of Los Angeles citizens preserving and protecting their natural habitat for the benefit of all, while they also hoped to get promotional video or photographs out of the excursion down to Long Beach, White said.

While the river has been ruled "navigable," it to the general public.

“It was a foolish waste of our police and fire resources," White said. "These people were idealistic. They didn’t do anything wrong. If you don’t break the law, you shouldn’t be interacting with the police. It was the government being abusive.”

The band members were cited for misdemeanor charges of loitering and trespassing.

They appeared at a hearing April 8 at the Van Nuys courthouse pursuant to the tickets that had been issued. Three of them appeared on their own behalf and the other three—who returned to Canada—were represented by White.

The clerk told the six that no charges had been filed in the matter, and gave them each certificates of appearance. White said he remembers the court clerk saying, “Nothing is going to come of this.”

A city attorney’s office spokesperson said it’s possible that the case was filed after the band members' initial court appearance.

Pso, the deputy city attorney, said there might be an issue with the group returning to the United States if there are criminal warrants out for their arrest. Pso agreed that the situation sounded like a “Catch 22” and said, “Yes.  I’ve had cases where [foreigners] couldn’t come back" to defend themselves.

According to Pso, the clerk could have made a mistake and should have recommended that the defendants wait until the end of the day to see if the case would be filed. Pso said his office would most likely recall the warrants as soon as the defendants appeared and presented their appearance certificates. He said the defendants must show up in person with the actual certificates and couldn’t have an attorney appear for them.

Bob Kirk June 17, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Another examples of the City of L.A. & it's priorities.....if they had entered the US illegally no worries..they would be discouraged from reporting crime.....
Steve Kusch June 17, 2011 at 05:02 PM
The city and it's priorites. What a shame.
Lightnapper June 18, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Once again LA proves it is FUBAR

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