By Darlene Donloe
LOS ANGELES — Local attorney Jaaye Person-Lynn, who is usually in a courtroom defending his clients, was sentenced himself Jan. 8, to a year of probation stemming from a confrontation with a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy Jan. 11, 2019, that led to his arrest.
Person-Lynn, who was convicted by a jury with no Black people, was found guilty on one count of willfully obstructing or delaying a peace officer. He faced a possible one-year jail sentence.
“The sentencing is overall a defeat,” Person-Lynn said. “It was actually a defeat when I was convicted. It’s not a win because I’m on probation. Victory would have been a dismissal.
“Deputy District Attorney Jason Anderson needs to be held accountable,” Person-Lynn added. “I want people to know what happened. I want them to know I’m innocent of a criminal act. I stand on what I did that day. Could I have done it differently? Yes. Did it amount to a crime? No.”
Person-Lynn was sentenced in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court, by Judge Mary E. Fuller.
“By sentencing me, the reasoning the judge gave — I never had a fair chance in her court, from her or the jury,” said Person-Lynn, who attended Hampton University and Hampton University School of Law. “One good ruling the judge made, that I appreciated, was her acknowledgment that this was not a crime of moral turpitude. She also said I should have been more aware of my surroundings at the time.
“I was in a courtroom and those are the rules,” he added. “I accept it because I agree, I should have known where I was. I was a Black man in San Bernardino County. I should have known standing up for myself was not going to result in anything good for me.
“I should have known that to them I was not a full person. As Black people, particularly Black men, we have to make ourselves small in some circumstances. The goal is to survive.”
Calls and emails sent to San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson were not returned before press time.
Person-Lynn, who admitted he couldn’t sleep the night before his sentencing, plans to appeal.
“The judge felt I was arrogant and wanted to teach me a lesson,” he said. “It was certainly in the back of my mind that I could go to jail. In my heart of hearts, I thought I was going to jail.
“I knew I shouldn’t be going, but with her feelings toward me, I felt I was,” Person-Lynn continued. “I’m so happy and thankful not to be going to jail. I did not want to go and be some kind of martyr. I did not commit a crime. I may have said some things that weren’t very nice, but that’s not a crime. It’s not punishable with jail time.”
Person-Lynn, 38, the attorney who represented the family of Wakiesha Wilson who died while in LAPD custody on Easter Sunday in 2016, has always maintained his innocence and insisted he was racially profiled for not wearing a suit in court on his day off and was treated differently because of his race. Supporters of Person-Lynn have dubbed his case, “Practicing law while Black.”
Person-Lynn’s saga began Jan. 11, 2019, when he showed up to a San Bernardino courtroom on his off day, dressed casually.
When he attempted to talk to the bailiff about one of his cases, Person-Lynn, who admits to usually wearing a suit in court, said he was stopped by sheriff’s Deputy Paul Barrie, who, allegedly, didn’t believe he was a lawyer. Words were exchanged and Person-Lynn, who never got the opportunity to show his bar card, was tackled, tased, arrested, and jailed.
Most of the incident was caught on camera, including when the deputy is seen pushing Person-Lynn back toward the gallery where the public sits during trials. Person-Lynn being tackled by several deputies and tased is not seen on video because the confrontation had spilled out into the hall, out of camera range. However, the incident can be heard.
More than a year later, Person-Lynn, who is known for representing Black clients against law enforcement, would be charged by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office with the crime of resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer in the performance of duty.
It carried a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine, one year in county jail, or both. The charge comes from Person-Lynn removing Sheriff Barrie’s hand from his chest.
“I understand what I did in this, but I did not commit a crime,” said Person-Lynn who has an aunt that is a sheriff deputy, and an uncle who is with the Los Angeles Police Department. “I did not do anything to justify the physical assaults I suffered that day. That’s the main thing I want to make clear.
“I could have walked in and stopped at the bailiff initially. I could have not told the deputy he ‘f—– up’ and I was going to come after him with everything I learned in law school. None of those things were unlawful or against any rule of court. I didn’t violate any law.”
Isidra Person-Lynn, Jaaye’s mother and a former journalist, admitted she, too, couldn’t sleep the night before the sentencing. She couldn’t fathom the thought of her son spending time in jail.
“The thought of my son sleeping in a cold cell was bothering me,” she said. “He thought the courtroom was the one safe place on earth for him because he had a bar card. This was not on our list of things to do as parents. I was shocked by the treatment he received.
“I was also shocked by his language, but that’s not a crime. What happened in that courtroom to my son, took the cover off of things that are happening in courtrooms.”
Person-Lynn, who has been involved in several high-profile, racially charged cases, said he was touched by all the support he received. More than 25 people showed up for his sentencing.
“All of this was quite humbling,” Person-Lynn said. “In the court’s eyes, I wasn’t somebody, but the supporters showed me I am somebody.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.