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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Judge reopens red tag case

    Three UA students said police wrongly issued them a red tag for a party their neighbors had in January, and a judge will reevaluate their case this month.

    Pre-business sophomore Aaron O’Campo, electrical engineering sophomore Jesse Green, freshman Jeremy Pena and Joshua Schuler, who is not a UA student, were ordered to pay a $2,000 fine after their second red tag was issued Jan. 23, even though they contend the party wasn’t theirs.

    The four went to Tucson City Court Feb. 7 to fight the red tag, but the judge ruled against them and ordered them to pay the fine.

    Since then, their neighbor Ryan Shirley, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior, has admitted to having the party, writing a letter to the judge and providing dated pictures of the party at his house.

    The judge has reopened the case and set a new court date for March 20.

    O’Campo said he hopes the judge will realize that police made a mistake in believing the disturbance was made at their house the night of the party.

    After several complaints, police broke up the large party a little after midnight Jan. 15 on the 1300 block of East Eighth Street, according to a Tucson Police Department report.

    There were about 250 people standing in the street, and after telling people in the street to go home, police went to the home of O’Campo, Green, Schuler and Pena.

    According to the report, police could hear people inside, and after knocking on the door they heard someone say, “”everyone be quiet.”” No one answered the door.

    O’Campo said on Jan. 23, more than a week after the party, a TPD officer came to their door and told them she was issuing them a red tag for the party on Jan. 15.

    But O’Campo, Green, Pena and Schuler said they were not home that night and said the party was at their next-door neighbors’ house, not theirs.

    O’Campo said he was at his girlfriend’s house that night, Green and Pena said they were in Phoenix and Schuler said he was out at the bars.

    A red tag can be issued after someone files a complaint for a gathering of five or more people on private property causing a disturbance. Those issued a red tag must pay a fine and post the red tag in a highly visible location for 180 days. If five or more people are found at the residence within that time, another fine is issued.

    Because the roommates had been issued a red tag on Nov. 10, they were given a $2,000 fine for the second violation.

    Green said the roommates were all shocked.

    “”I couldn’t believe they said we had the party,”” he said. “”The cops never saw us or talked to any of us.””

    Green said the fact that the red tag was issued almost a week later made it hard to provide evidence that the party wasn’t theirs, because the trash that had been in the neighbor’s yard was gone by that time.

    Dallas Wilson, TPD spokesman, said he didn’t know if it was unusual for a red tag to be issued so long after the initial incident, but said it does happen.

    “”Often more information is collected later,”” he said. “”We don’t issue one if there’s not probable cause.””

    Wilson said the fact that the roommates didn’t come to the door doesn’t matter because police heard people inside.

    “”Just because you don’t come to the door doesn’t excuse you from being held responsible,”” he said.

    At court, a TPD officer said police had interviewed several partygoers in the street who told them the party had been at O’Campo’s house, but O’Campo said they were probably just trying to protect their friend.

    “”People don’t want to get their buddy in trouble,”” he said.

    O’Campo said it seemed strange that the comments of partygoers were valued over theirs, considering that he, Pena, Green and Schuler were all under oath.

    He said he didn’t ask Shirley to testify in court because he thought he didn’t need to.

    “”I thought it’d be black and white because it was the truth,”” O’Campo said. “”They had no conclusive evidence.””

    Several messages for Shirley were not returned in time for print.

    However, O’Campo provided a copy of the letter Shirley wrote to the judge and dated pictures of the party to the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    In the letter, Shirley wrote, “”I find it hard to believe that they would have had any problems proving their innocence considering I know the party occurred at my house and they had no involvement in the party whatsoever.””

    Shirley wrote that the party was thrown for his friend’s birthday and said the dated pictures provided were taken by a friend at the party.

    “”It would be completely unfair of me not to come clean when I know full well that they are in trouble because of my actions,”” he wrote.

    The pictures are dated Jan. 14 before midnight and show people standing in the driveway of Shirley’s home.

    O’Campo, Green, Pena and Schuler have already had to pay more than $300 of the fine, and O’Campo said as a result they had to shut their cable off.

    “”$2,000 for something we didn’t do? We’re students, we don’t have that kind of money,”” O’Campo said.

    O’Campo said it now looks like they have a better chance of fighting the fine with Shirley’s help.

    “”There’s no guarantees,”” he said. “”But we’re hopeful.””

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