Varya Mikhaylova: Yulya’s Hearing

Varya Mikhaylova
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May 7, 2018

Now I want to write separately about Yulya’s hearing, which was the last.

Here is how it was.

At three in the morning, the judge said, “Let’s recess until morning, because, as it is, no one can think straight anymore.”

This was a good suggestion for the judge and me, whose warm beds awaited us at home, but not for Yulya, who would have been shipped backed till morning to a police station where she had not been issued any sleeping gear, and where there was a terrible stench and bedbugs.

So, we begged the judge, if she wanted to postpone the hearing, to do it lawfully and humanely: by releasing Yulya on her own recognizance and letting her go home. Because this was what should have happened to all the detainees, who despite all the regulations and common sense were tried on the weekend in emergency court hearings that were closed to the public.

It was such an emotional conversation, I cried as I appealed to the judge to give my defendant the chance at least to take a shower, get her wits about her, and prepare a normal defense.

But there was a snag, you see. If Yulya had gone home and later failed to appear in court, it would have been impossible to slap her with a jail sentence, which cannot be handed down in absentia. All the court could have given her in absentia was a 1,000-ruble fine. So, the judge told us almost in no uncertain terms that was why Yulya would not go home under any circumstances.

Then we pleaded with the judge to hear Yulya’s case right away. As it was, I could not make it to court in the morning, Yulya would not be able to find another social defender, and she would be shipped immediately back to the stinky police department. Whereas, after the judge made her decision, Yulya would be sent to the temporary detention facility on Zakharyevskaya Street, where she would at least have linens and blankets.

The judge could also have exonerated her and sent her home.

That whole conversation was also quite funny, because the judge did nothing at all to conceal the fact the verdict could only be guilty, although we had not even begun to hear the case, and the judge knew nothing about Yulya whatsoever.

The judge ultimately relented, and the hearing kicked off. Usually, people are initially tried for violating Article 20.2 of the Administrative Offenses Code (violating the regulations for holding public events), and only then for violating Article 19.3 (failure to obey a police officer’s lawful requests). During each previous hearing, I had argued to the judge that if the defendant had already been convicted under Article 20.2, and the aggravating circumstances were failure to obey a policeman’s orders, it would be wrong to try the individual separately for failure to obey a policeman’s orders, since this would violate the basic principle of double jeopardly, something the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office had addressed.

Apparently, the judge was heartily tired of my speech, so she decided first to try Yulya for violation of Article 19.3. She found Yulya guilty and sentenced her to three days in jail.

Then the second hearing, on the charge Yulya had violated Article 20.2, commenced. It was four in the morning.

The case file on this charge had been compiled worst of all. It was such a mess the report confirming Yulya had been delivered to a police station was not signed at all. There was no name and no policeman’s signature. It was just a piece of paper.

We pointed this out to the judge, of course, and that was our big mistake. Because the whole point of these hearings was for the defendants and defenders to take home the message that the more you showed off, the worse it would be for you. Having noted the mistakes in the case file, the judge postponed the hearing until 11:15 a.m. on Monday.

So, Yulya was tried at four in the morning and was sentenced to jail, but she was taken from the courthouse back to the stinky police station anyway.

The police station where Yulya was taken did not have even a chair for her to sit on, and so she was taken to another precinct, where she slept for an hour and a half sitting on a chair. By eleven o’clock, she had been taken back to the October District Court, where her hearing resumed.

She was found guilty of violating Article 20.2 and fined 10,000 rubles [approx. 130 euros]. The police officer whose signature had missing from the delivery report simply put his signature on the report, already bound and filed in the case file.

These photos of Yulya and me were taken at four in the morning when we were waiting for the judge to deliver her verdict in the first case.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Варя Михайлова, selfie and closeup

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, selfie and closeup

Translated by the Russian Reader

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