LANCASTER – David Grajeda will be representing himself going forward in the case against him for interfering with or disturbing a public meeting.
“I don’t need a mediator to represent why I was saying the things I said in City Council, Criminal Justice or Architectural Design Commission meetings,” Grajeda said. “I feel like people need to stand up for themselves and speak, at City Council or in the courtroom.”
Grajeda made known his decision to represent himself during his court hearing Tuesday before Judge Akemi Arakaki to challenge a restraining order prohibiting him from being within 100 yards of Lancaster City Hall, and further prohibiting him from making any type of contact with City Hall staff.
The restraining order, issued by Judge Arakaki on Nov. 16, was an expanded version of a previous restraining order, which barred Grajeda from being within 100 yards of Lancaster City Hall.
The original restraining order was issued by Judge Carol Koppel after Grajeda’s arrest on Oct. 25.
Grajeda, a frequent speaker and critic at Lancaster City Council meetings, was arrested on Oct. 25 as he attempted to enter a City Council meeting. He was charged with interfering with a public meeting based on his actions at an Oct. 12 Criminal Justice Commission meeting. View video of those actions here.
Grajeda’s bail was initially set at $5,000 for the misdemeanor charge of interfering with a public meeting, but was later raised to $25,000 by Judge Koppel. Grajeda was jailed for 16 days before bailing out on Nov. 9.
On Nov. 16, Grajeda’s case was continued to Jan. 12 for pretrial. At the Nov. 16 hearing Judge Arakaki also renewed the restraining order by Judge Koppel, but with new restrictions prohibiting Grajeda from making any contact with City Hall staff. (Read that story here.)
Grajeda appeared before Judge Arakaki again Tuesday to challenge the most recent restraining order. But first, his attorney, Amy Konstantelos, announced that she was removing herself from the case. She said the decision was not based on any disagreements between the two, but a personal choice by Grajeda. Konstantelos said she would continue to monitor the case and make herself available, should she be needed in the future.
When asked, Grajeda told the judge he had up to an eighth grade level education, but was certain that he wanted to represent himself.
Deputy district attorney, Adan Montalban, expressed concerns that Grajeda could be disruptive to court proceedings similar to how he was disruptive at City meetings.
Judge Arakaki said Grajeda had done nothing to indicate that he would be disruptive to the court proceedings and she saw no need to admonish him. She did advise Grajeda that, even though he was representing himself, he would still be held to the same standards as any other attorney.
Grajeda scored a small victory regarding the restraining order. Judge Arakaki agreed to remove the newest restrictions imposed Nov. 16, prohibiting Grajeda from making any contact with City Hall staff.
“I believe the order that was signed by Judge Koppel should suffice,” said Arakaki.
Arakaki instructed Montalban to prepare a new order barring Grajeda from coming within 100 yards of City Hall, but placing no restrictions on his contact with City Hall staff.
Following the hearing, an energized Grajeda said he was looking forward to exercising his reinstated right to communicate with City Hall. He said he would ask the Sheriff’s Department to contact the City and set up a way for him to be teleconferenced into future City meetings.
“I’m going to try to set up some way for me to be able to communicate with the people, not City Hall, but talking to the people,” said Grajeda. He said if this method fails, he would communicate through a third-party at City meetings using a family member or a close friend.
Grajeda also said he would see to it that many City officials were subpoenaed to testify at his trial, come January.
“First the Mayor, second the City Manager, then Jason Caudle [Deputy City manager], then all the way down the line to the last person who is on the payroll of the City,” said Grajeda. “I want them to validate the accusations that I am a dangerous person… I believe that the accusations are unfounded, other than me being a little loud at times in defense of my position.”
Grajeda said he was prepared to accept the worst case scenario, if he lost his case – up to a year in the county jail.
“I am not afraid of the outcome,” said Grajeda. “The message is more important, that people need to speak up and defend themselves… and if it starts with me, then so be it.”