On Friday, June 24, 2016, the Mules arrived in Clovis, CA. We got onto a nice multi-use trail in the afternoon and were heading north. Upon walking for awhile, we met a TV news crew from KMPH and they asked if they could ask questions and take film for their FOX26 KMPH 10:00 news broadcast. We said sure.
We went to Trader Joe’s to buy some cranberry juice, then went back to the trail.
It was getting late so we decided to stop off to the side of the trail and rest for the night. A lady named Janeen brought the Mules some hay when we were at Trader Joe’s so they (the kids) were set. [Thank you Janeen for unexpectedly appearing out of nowhere and bringing the kids hay and carrots for their dinner.]
After fixing and eating my dinner, I was sitting on the water bucket on the Fresno-Clovis Trail, relaxing and enjoying being off my feet. At about 9:30pm, two officers with flashlights from the Clovis Police Department came upon us wanting to know what we were doing. We said that we have stopped here to rest for the night. The officer said the city council of Clovis says no camping in the city limits of Clovis. We said we were not camping, we have stopped here on this public right of way to rest for the night.
The officer said they were responding to calls from citizens about us being here. We said we were exercising our legal right to use a public thoroughfare and any attempt by the use of codes, regulations or laws to deny us that right shall be considered blatantly illegal.
The officer returned to his cruiser, came back in a reasonable amount of time, used discretion, in regards to the no camping law and said we could stay for the night if we would agree to leave in the morning. We said yes we would, which was stated intention.
So the kids and myself slept peacefully through the night, arose in the morning, ate breakfast, packed up and were on our way for another day living in balance with the Natural World all day, every day
Note: The Public thoroughfare in a free country must be open to all comers. The Mules are one of those comers. Our use of this thoroughfare is not the same as those who live, eat, play, and sleep inside houses then come out of those houses for some fresh air and exercise.
The Mules wander freely throughout the day then stop and use the public space to rest for the night. Any law that prevents the Mules from resting and sleeping, a most necessary function to sustain life, must be considered by any common sense mind, to be illegal.
With the above being said and understood, the Mules will not and cannot obey these no camping laws. For to do so will be the end of us. This place of any one human being wandering with his or her animal companions, has access to many dimensions. This dimension on this earth is the one we love the most. The Mules will not be removed from it. Long live human beings and their connection to Earth. There is no future without it.
Synopsis: On May 9, 2014, the Mules were arrested by the National Park Service and issued three citations for camping outside of designated area, violating order of a government agent, and conditions concerning use of pack animals in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
On July 16, 2014, the Mules attended an arraignment at the United States District Court in Los Angeles and pleaded not guilty and a trial date was set for November 6, 2014.
At the trial on November 6, 2014, the Mules were charged with 1) not obeying an order of a federal employee; and 2) camping in an undesignated area on national park land, while the third charge related to the pack animals was dropped. If found guilty on these charges, the maximum penalty for this petty offense was term of six months imprisonment, $5000 maximum fine, $10 special assessment for misdemeanor conviction, $25 processing fee payable to the Central Violations Bureau, and five year probation period. The Mules pleaded not guilty and were found guilty on both charges with no imposed penalties or fines, but were assessed a $35 court fee.
May 2, 2016: Oral Arguments. The Mules attended Oral Arguments before a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court of Appeals Ninth District in Pasadena. The defense for the Mules and the government prosecution each had 15 minutes to provide their argument in front of a three-panel judge. Click to watch U.S. Court of Appeal Ninth Circuit Oral Argument court video recording:9th Circuit Court of Appeals video recording United States of America v. John C Sears 5/2/2016.
On June 15, 2016, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the magistrate judge’s finding that the Mules were guilty of violating two National Park Service regulations.
Click to read ruling 9th District Decision 6/15/2016:
——————————————————————————————— Statement from the Mules in response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision: On May 2, 2016, the Mules appeared at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena to hear our appeal before three judges brought forth by the Megatropolis to decide whether the Mules or anybody else, hiker, bicycle or somebody traveling in a wheelchair, in this continental United States has the right to use public space to stop and rest for the night.
The National Parks are without question public space. They belong to all of us and they must be open to all who seek use of them in ways which conform to the mission of bringing people into the Natural World with reverence and respect.
The Mules and the way of life they live are a stellar example of that mission. When the Megatropolis uses its courts and judges to deny the Mules that most necessary function of life (rest) on a National Park, its subverts the mission of the Natural Parks – bringing people and the Natural World together in a natural way as opposed to the Megatropolis way (man-made world way) arriving in an air-conditioned bus with all the comforts of home.
The Mules on this day, September 13, 2016, have declared themselves to be the official mascots of the Natural Park system. One human being wandering in one of all four directions with his or her animal companions with reverence and respect for this totally unique sparkling jewel in the universe – our home EARTH.
Hence, the Mules, in the process of performing their duty as the official mascots of the Natural Parks, will bring clarity, direction and purpose to administering the mission of the National Parks. Rather then continuing down the slippery slope of the commercialism which is destroying the National Parks.
3/2/2015 Reply Brief. Mule’s legal representative Daniel Kapelovitz has submitted the Reply Brief to the Government’s Answering Brief Outcome: The Judge stood by the initial ruling and rejected the appeal.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance so said somebody…can’t remember who, it’s been quoted by many. The Mules are a venue of that vigilance providing a real live moving scene of eternal vigilance by which anybody at anytime can open the window and watch the Mules moving freely when they choose , how they choose across this country and across this earth.
You take a pause in your busy day, look through the window, you see the Mules there moving freely and unhindered. They’re strong, healthy and well. Now you know your personal freedom and your children’s future is still here.
You look through the window and you see the Mules limping then you know you must jump through that window and give your strength and support so the Mules can continue their journey which is to protect and preserve their freedom as well as yours.
In these complicated and troubled times, the Megatropolis is taking full advantage. Our case in Pasadena at the United States Court of Appeals is a perfect example. The National Park Service arrested the Mules for stopping to rest – one of the most necessary functions to sustain life.
The Megatropolis must come to understand it cannot meddle or tread on the Mules or anybody else’s basic functions of sleeping, eating, walking, etc. that are necessary to living. For allow it to do so will certainly be the end of freedom.
While our January 13th blog post told about our two separate police encounters in Simi Valley in Ventura County, this blog post will cover the varied greetings that we received from city, county and state employees and officers as we traveled through the Ventura County cities of Camarillo, Ventura and Ojai.
City of Camarillo On January 21, 2016, we arrived in Camarillo. The City of Camarillo’s city emblem on all the street signs throughout the city and on the sign in front of city hall is of a man on a horse –the city’s namesake, Adolfo Camarillo, on his Camarillo White Horse that his family bred from the 1920s through the 1980s.
We first stopped by the City of Camarillo Library to charge our phone. As we were sitting outside the library, the librarian came out, introduced herself and presented me with this t-shirt and book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter on inner city farming, which I find very interesting and appreciate the kindness of the librarian to give the Mules these gifts.
From the library, we proceeded to walk to Camarillo City Hall to deliver the Declaration of Emergency during which time we had two police contacts. During the first police contact, two plain clothes officers pulled up in an unmarked car, got out and wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and wanted to see our identification and wanted to know if we were offering services. We said no we don’t offer services nor do we ask for donations. They continued to ask us inquisitive type question. They were pleasant enough and went on their way.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that two police marked cars stopped us and basically wanted to know the same stuff and wanted to see our ID. It was a forced stop. We weren’t breaking any laws but the officer decided that we were illegally passing through the city of Camarillo.
We were not illegally passing through the city of Camarillo. We have the legal right the same as any automobile, the same as any bicyclist, and the same as any pedestrian to walk freely through the city of Camarillo. So, we weren’t breaking any laws but we were treated as we were. We were stopped forcibly by the police officer. He called it in and found out that we had the right and released us. He went his way and we went our way to Camarillo City Hall and were greeted kindly by Camarillo City Hall staff who came out to take pictures with the mules and ask questions to learn more about our ages old nomadic way of life.
After we left city hall, we found a big vacant area on that same road to rest for the night. In the middle of the night Camarillo Police car stopped to look at us but the officer continued driving. We got up in the morning and left the area clean as we always do and did not leave behind anything.
Ventura County Animal Services While we were passing through Simi Valley and Camarillo, we stopped by Ventura County Animal Services building in both these towns and asked permission to fill our bucket with water for the kids. The nice staff and volunteers at the shelter greeted the mules and let us have some water to drink.
San Buenaventura State Beach, Ventura On Sunday January 24 in the evening, we arrived in Ventura by San Buenaventura State Park just a little before dark. We had stopped here a couple times in the past to rest, so we decided that we would do so once again. We didn’t go inside the confines of the park. We were outside the fence in a large grassy area between the street and the fence. We stayed here. I picketed the mules out, fixed my dinner and went to sleep.
I got up in the morning and was packing up to leave. A park ranger drove up in his truck and informed me that I was illegally camping in a state park. He said I would have to leave immediately. I said I was in the process of packing up to leave. He said that if I didn’t leave immediately or if I ever showed up again, I would be subject to arrest and the animals would be impounded. I packed up and left.
Ventura River Trail, Ventura From San Buenaventura State park, we followed the Ventura Promenade to the Ventura River Trail going from Ventura to Ojai that parallels the Ojai River.
We walked for about 6 miles on the trail and found a good place to graze. It was a brushy vacant area that had no signs forbidding trespassing and had no fences or locked gates. It was a matter of stepping off the trail and walking back into the brush. We decided this place was also a good place to rest for the night.
Upon getting up in the morning the mules were happily grazing. I decided to do some shoeing. By the time I was through putting new horseshoes on the mules, it was around 11 to 11:30am. I took the mules out towards the freeway to let them graze in a grassy area. We were up there for about an hour grazing when we were approached by a gentleman in a white construction hat. He asked if he could take our picture, we said sure and we exchanged a few pleasantries and that was the end of it. The mules continued to graze and we were there for another half hour.
I decided to go back to camp and pack up and leave. As I was in the process of rolling up my horseshoe tools and putting them away in the pack boxes, two Ventura county sheriffs showed up with the gentleman in the white construction hat. The officers informed me that I was trespassing and I would have to leave. I was in the process of leaving so that was no problem.
I mentioned the fact that there were no signs or fencing so I could not be trespassing and I could not be arrested for that because there was no notification that I was trespassing. The sheriffs said, “We are giving you notification now and you have to leave.” I said fine. They hung around until I got all packed up. They were there for over an hour. When I finally got packed up and left, they left.
City of Ojai We proceeded following the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai and walked for about 6 miles when we found another good place off the trail to graze. We decided to stopped here for the night so that the kids could continue grazing. The next morning, we packed up and followed the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai City Hall and delivered the Declaration of Emergency. We have had no police contact in Ojai.
While we were in Ojai, we met Molly who later put up a Facebook posts that nicely describes who we are and what we are trying to accomplish as we walk and live outside all day every day.
“Mule has been living outside with his mules for 31 years. Just walking. He’s dedicated to trying to convince people that when we destroy nature, take up all the wilderness space with buildings and concrete and no room to roam freely, we’re destroying ourselves and our true nature. He’s trying to affect a change by encouraging the “People in Charge” to link the outdoor spaces, parklands, etc., so a horse, a mule, a bike, a walker – can pass through continuously without breaking a law. He’s also trying to have those same ones in charge consider making it possible for a traveler like him to spend one night legally in outdoor space.”
I was walking by the United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles, when I saw two mules standing on the courthouse steps.
I had to investigate what this was all about.
It turned out that the federal government was prosecuting a man for disobeying a “lawful order of a government employee” and for “camping outside designated areas” of a National Park. In other words, John Sears and these two mules had been walking all day and needed rest. Mr. Sears found a resting place with no one else around and fell asleep. He had no notice that doing so was against the law, or that he was even in a federal park. When the park rangers woke him and ordered him to leave, he refused because traveling through the darkness would have been unsafe.
I further learned that, at that very moment, this man was defending himself at trial against these federal charges. I desperately wanted to watch this trial, but I needed to be at a hearing in another courtroom across town.
Instead, I gave my business card to one of the kind people watching the mules, and explained that I would be happy to provide free legal services to Mr. Sears if he ever needed my assistance.
I had just recently had my own dealings with the “Environmental Crimes Unit.” I defended a man accused of the federal offense of walking a dog without a leash in a National Park. In that case, I was fighting against the same Assistant U.S. Attorney who was prosecuting Mr. Sears and against the same park rangers who had arrested him. So I had a pretty good idea what Mr. Sears was up against.
In the dog-leash case, my client was convicted and given a suspended sentence of two days in jail, a case I am currently appealing based on various violations of my client’s constitutional rights. I had a feeling that the government was similarly violating Mr. Sears’s fundamental rights
I figured that I would never hear from Mr. Sears, but a couple of months later, I received a call informing me that he had just been arrested again, this time by Ventura County law enforcement. I agreed to help, but, as it turned out, Mr. Sears didn’t need any help because the case was almost immediately dismissed.
Soon after, Mr. Sears himself called me. After we spoke about his federal case, I told him that if he wished to appeal his convictions, I would be happy to represent him pro bono.
Instead of treating the Mules as criminals, the federal government should be hailing them as modern day examples of how to use and relate to our national parks. I found the Mules and the way they must live on this earth to be the embodiment of the American Spirit moving freely with the natural flowing energy of this earth. All he wants is to be free – free to roam the great, yet ever-shrinking, American outdoors. In its response to our appellant brief, the government wrote, “Allowing individuals to camp wherever they wish would create a free-for-all on public land” as if this were a bad thing. But freedom for all is what we are fighting for, and freedom is what Mr. Sears’s journey represents.
Daniel I. Kapelovitz 7119 W. Sunset Boulevard #999 West Hollywood, CA 90046 mobile: (323) 839-6227 e-mail: Dan@LegalServicesDivision.com
On May 29, 2014, we were issued a citation by San Luis Obispo Police Department for illegal lodging 647(e) penal code. We were to appear in court for arraignment on August 14, 2014.
We requested a postponement to December 11, 2014. It was granted. On July 10th, the Mules received a notification from the District Attorney that charges would not be filed at this time. Therefore, it would not be necessary to appear in court on August 14, 2014.
Due to the confusion between the D.A. and court regarding court dates, we did not appear on December 11, 2014 for arraignment. A warrant for our arrest was issued. We contacted the court to clear the warrant. The warrant was reminded and a new court date February 19, 2015 was issued.
The Megatropolis concerted efforts to prevent the Mules from moving freely in this country using the 647(e) penal code and similar ordinances and codes is very much alive as this case demonstrates. The Megatropolis operates on controlled and contained energy be it human, animal, wind, sun. Any motion it must contain and control before it can satisfy its insatiable appetite for it.
The Mules operate on and are connected to an infinite source of free-flowing energy. For the Megatropolis to get access to this infinite source of energy of which the Mules have made on ages old alliance it must contain and control the Mules. Of course if this happens, it is a bullet to our heads. We know this so we will resist this all day every day one step at a time.