Independent Gazette freelance photographer Mark Robbins was ticketed for trespassing by Wilkes-Barre Police Officer Brian Gist on the evening of Sunday, March 31st at 11:03 pm. Robbins had driven behind the Police Department headquarters while following up on a lead that city Police Officer John F. Majikes had been driving a Dodge Ram owned by city towing contractor LAG Towing.
The Ram pickup was being driven by Officer Majikes while still registered to LAG, according to public records, and while still bearing an RT (Repair Towing) license plate. Majikes’ use does not appear to be included among the list of permissible uses of specialty plates found in the relevant portion of Pennsylvania law, 67 Pa. Code § 53.4 (relating to use of plates).
Robbins appeared before District Justice Martin “Marty” Kane, spouse of City Controller Kathryn “Kathy” Kane, on April 30th, pleading not guilty. Officer Gist made opening statements, often changing his story as the case progressed, first stating that he watched from his police cruiser as Robbins got out of his car, took a photo of the license plate, and then re-entered his vehicle while taking more photos with his cell phone. Robbins, who only provided the Gazette with photos taken from inside his car, argued that he never left his vehicle. Gist later stated that he first noticed Robbins as he, Gist, was retrieving something from his personal vehicle. Gist also claimed, “Robbins initially told me he only stopped there to respond to a text message from his daughter.” It should be noted that Mr. Robbins has only two children, a set of twin boys.
Robbins defended himself by appealing to the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, and contending that other members of the press, including Joe Holden of WBRE-TV and Terrie Morgan-Besecker, formerly of the Times Leader, had also set foot behind the police station, yet neither was cited. Robbins also presented the court with a statement from City Police Chief Gerard Dessoye and City Attorney Timothy Henry stating that neither wished to impede the press.
District Justice Kane, however, didn’t appear interested in hearing Robbins’ argument, and responded with “If you’re going to cite the 14th Amendment, you’ll need to consult an attorney.” Robbins answered, “You cannot selectively enforce the law by ticketing only me, when everyone goes back there,” to which Officer Gist responded, “I’ve cited several people for that.” The Independent Gazette has submitted a formal Right-to-Know request seeking any and all citations issued by city police for similar offences within the last year.
Robbins argued that Gist was attempting to “obstruct justice” when Gist cited him, and further claimed that the officer used his position to intimidate Robbins and to “cover for Majikes who was driving an illegal truck.” Robbins also explained that Gist had a history with him and referred to an email from Gist sent using his city-provided email address, in which Gist wrote, “I do not know you sir, but frankly you are a jacka**.[sic]” Robbins alleged an animosity toward him on the part of Gist that became a factor in his being cited, especially when nobody else ignoring the posted signs was being ticketed, according to Robbins. He continued by questioning Gist about the acceptance of the champagne provided to all city officers by LAG last New Year’s, describing the gift as yet another bribe, to which Gist appealed, “Your Honor, I’m not comfortable answering that question in court.”
Robbins also presented a sketch of the police station complex displaying “DO NOT ENTER” signs at all four entry points, asserting that anyone who enters the complex from any direction is in violation of trespassing. Nevertheless, in the end, Robbins folded, saying, “I knew this would be a kangaroo court,” to which Kane responded, “Okay, then. Guilty.”
Robbins immediately filed an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County. His court date is scheduled for 9:00 am on May 29th.
Officer Brian Gist
While leaving the courtroom, Gist responded to reporters’ questions regarding his claims while under oath of “cit[ing] several people for that,” referring to trespass behind the police station, by stating, “I have no comment,” and, “We’re not permitted to talk to the press.”
Gist, however, evidently was able to speak to the public, when, while exiting the courtroom, the off-duty officer loudly scolded a private citizen, Bob Kadluboski, ordering him to remove his sunglasses while in court. Kadluboski responded to the officer’s demands by screaming, “I have a medical condition,” referring to his recent eye surgery, as the reason he couldn’t remove the prescription glasses. Gist then became irate, yelling back at Kadluboski, “You don’t wear sunglasses in court. Show some respect.”
Drew McLaughlin, affairs manager for the city, responded to our original inquiry to Gist with, “I would have to check with the records clerk, and get back to you.” As of the time of printing, McLaughlin has not responded with any clarification.