Oct 30, 2023
The Bullpen: USC Student Speaks Out After Wrongful Arrest and Suspension
- 19 minutes
[MUSIC] In the Bullpen today we have an update. Remember the story that we covered about a college student, Mr. Judah Atkins at the University of Southern California? [00:00:15] Well, Mr. Atkins was arrested for a crime he never committed, he was arrested for armed robbery. He never did any of this. He ends up going to jail, stays in jail way longer than he should have. They don't allow him to make a phone call initially, stays in jail, but guess what? [00:00:33] He gets adjudicated. It is obvious he's not the person, no problem. But see, in the midst of this, the school decided to expel him. He gets adjudicated, he didn't do it, school should update. [00:00:50] They never should have taken him off the roster anyway, but they did not provide that opportunity for him to come back to the institution, even though he was a victim of the criminal justice system, the institution decided to victimize him a second time. [00:01:07] We have Mr. Atkins on the show. Good day, Sir. Wish it was under better circumstances. Welcome to the show. >> Speaker 2: Thank you so much, Dr. Richie. It's a pleasure to be here. >> Sir I would like for you to tell us in your own words what happened that night you were arrested or that day you were arrested, [00:01:26] and the experience and then the response from your university. >> That night just is always gonna be a very vivid picture in my mind. It was the last day of my freshman year, class had just ended, and I went with my friend Tomas Banea, my other friend Arjun to [00:01:44] the SC Choreographic Showcase, which is just know, a ballet recital for some of the dancers in the Kaufman School of Dance here. We just saw one of our mutual friends saw him, as you saw in the store. I had my own receipt and [00:01:59] also witnesses to say I was there during the time that the alleged crime happened. And then after just when I was on, my friends saw some more friends later that night. And after that, while walking home, I was just stopped by or [00:02:14] actually I first noticed a helicopter light just over me while I'm walking home. And then officers just start just coming and piling up the street and I'm just walking by and they just a few officers come up to me and just stop and detain me with few words or like, stop. [00:02:33] And soon after that, I'm just, I'm walking back home, a USC student. And moments after they have me playing my hands in their car, asking for fingerprints, being handcuffed. And after that just goes into the whole live events that happened after. [00:02:50] >> Speaker 2: Wow. Okay, so you get arrested. They're not telling you all of the details at this point, right? You go to the precinct or you go to the jail. [00:03:05] >> Speaker 2: Yes. >> Speaker 1: Tell me about you not receiving your phone call immediately, and also them basically denying your opportunity to simply eat food to stay alive, tell us about that experience. [00:03:23] >> Speaker 2: Well, first before that, when you first enter into jail, you're held in a holding tank to be processed just throughout. And you're being just sifted through, just like hundreds of people going in out of this one cell that was in for about 24 hours just being held there no food, [00:03:39] no calls, no anything, just in complete shock. And then after that, I'm transferred to another cell with a few other cellmates, which is just probably four by four foot cell. And there's absolutely no one, no officers for at least a day. [00:03:56] And then when I finally do see one, I'm just asking, can I get a phone call, meals, anything? And they withhold phone calls for about four days, I ask why and there's absolutely no response. They just treat you a machine, another robot in their system, [00:04:12] another cog in the system. And the meals that they give, they give one for breakfast and one for dinner. It was absolutely just disgusting. Burnt, just like burnt everything, burnt peas, corn, like, absolutely an edible meal. So I was probably surviving off 200, 300 calories per day for [00:04:29] those first, like four or five days while also being transferred out and sifted between cells and holding tanks. >> Speaker 1: Wow. When you finally are able to make a phone call, because your friends don't know what has happened here, your parents, they don't know what's going on with you. [00:04:49] You just finished your semester and all of a sudden you disappear. On day four, you get a phone call, what happened. >> On day four I get a phone call, I call out to my mom, my dad, my friends are with me. [00:05:05] I reach out to Tomas and he was the only person who actually came well, aside from my parents, obviously, who actually came to see me. And at that point I was, this is gonna get dropped, hopefully. I know that I haven't done anything wrong and he's being really supportive. [00:05:22] Tomas is one of my best friends I've ever had in my entire life, he's there for me. He's saying, you're gonna get through this. This is before my arraignment, so I have a little bit more hope that, they just got the wrong person, nothing bad is going to happen, I'll be out of here. [00:05:37] I have a ten-minute call with Tomas and then I get a visit with him, a five minute in person visit, because he also is staying back for me because he's supposed to be going back home to Connecticut, but he stayed there for me just while I was in jail for this time. [00:05:54] And I finally get to the actual arraignment itself, and that's where I just hear the prosecutors just go off about what I allegedly did, saying I robbed this car, that I broke in with a gun, etc, etc. [00:06:09] And they raised the bail to $150,000, and that's when it fully sets in. That's like, wow, my life is actually over. >> Speaker 1: You've spent two weeks in the LA County jail. You have this enhanced bond. [00:06:25] There's virtually zero evidence saying you did this crime, here are the connectors. What did they say was the reason they targeted you and arrested you specifically for a crime you never committed? [00:06:43] >> Speaker 2: Well, there's a lot of factors that go into it, but at first they said that the victim themselves identified me in a lineup of people that had been allegedly around the crime scene, which, first of all, I'd never even been around the crime scene. Cuz the crime scene was in downtown LA, nearly 5 miles away, if not more, [00:07:03] while I'm back at USC's main campus or near USC's main campus. And then after the prosecutors just went off about how I'm the one who had a gun, a low shotgun, actually robbing a car itself, I had a bag with cell phones and a bunch of other stolen goods. [00:07:22] And one of the only reasons that I was even able to get indicted and have reconnaissance as fast as I did was because I had Life 360 on my phone, an app which tracks where you go place to place. I was, if I'm able to retain the evidence from my phone, then I'm gonna be able to exonerate myself. [00:07:39] But that in itself was a long, long process, post-release and also trying to convince the judge that, hey, I have the evidence on my phone. First of all, not even aside from the fact that I'm being innocent self, but I have concrete evidence, and I was finally able to obtain that. [00:07:56] >> Speaker 1: So at this point, you're talking to prosecutors, they're saying, we don't wanna hear you, we know you did A, B, and C, you did none of that. It's almost as if any black person would do kind of scenario, they just wanna put you in this situation and say you're guilty, we're going to prosecute you. [00:08:12] We have no evidence, but we're going to do it anyway. You get an enhanced bond. You don't have some arrest record, you're not a convicted felon. You don't have anything that typically a court would weigh and say this person is a flight risk we need to make sure that in lieu of the charges and their history, [00:08:29] we need to enhance the bond so that they come back to court. Bonds are not supposed to be prosecutorial by Constitution. So now you have evidence called Life 360. Life 360 tracks your every location. [00:08:46] You could provide this information. I'm sure you're telling everyone you meet trying to be thinking that they're decent cuz you're decent, hey, listen, there's been a big mix-up here. I actually have something, can I show it to you? What was their response to you in the judicial system when you said, [00:09:02] I have concrete evidence via technology that if you all have access to it or I have access to it, it can prove I was never around the area you say I was in. What was their response? >> Speaker 2: Well, it was just a lot of technical semantics. And this part of the issue was a lot that my mother and my father were dealing with [00:09:18] themselves because I had limited amount of phone calls just being in jail itself. So once I told them that they reached out to the prosecutors, the public defender, the judge trying to put in the whole motion to actually retain the evidence. [00:09:33] So, yeah, just a lot of paperwork, a lot of just hard work actually trying to get that put on for display at trial. But obviously the prosecutors had their own defense of just, this person is absolute the worst, actually committed these crimes. [00:09:51] And mixing me up with a long list of people who I've never even talked to cuz I eventually realized that the actual perpetrators were high school students. I'm like, I have never even met these people at all. And just the blame racism of just a lot of prosecutors and I don't wanna go up to the victim themselves, but identifying me in that lineup just because [00:10:11] the clothes I was wearing and the way that I look, I was like, wow. But no, recovering that evidence was a long ways to go. And we even tried to go for it after I was released on reconnaissance, which is another week-long process that took. Plus being on the ankle monitor itself. [00:10:29] >> Speaker 1: I find it ironic, and I said this in my initial coverage of the story, that a judge eventually lets you go on what we call a signature bond for armed robbery. [00:10:44] Armed robbery charge usually does not carry a signature bond as a way to get out, but you go from an enhanced bond to a recognizant bond over a period of time, which is pretty extreme inside of the judicial ranks. [00:11:01] But let's talk about the reality that you're innocent until proven guilty or innocent unless proven guilty. You're innocent the entire time, you're not guilty of anything, you have not been found guilty in the court of law anywhere. Let's go now to the reality of what happened while you're in jail. [00:11:17] Your school decided to arbitrarily take action against you, the University of Southern California. They took action against you. What did they do? >> Once they heard that I had been arrested, there had been so much pushback [00:11:33] once my parents called out and once my friends such as Tomas Manea reached out. Tomas himself even told me that they asked if I was an athlete or not. And once I said no, they immediately just turned just back down, put no effort into actually seeing if I was innocent or not. [00:11:52] And then after they issued the suspension, which is what they call their Aeron protective measures, in case a student actually does commit a crime. But for me, being an innocent person, I was just absolutely heartbroken because I didn't even know about this until I was released. [00:12:08] So imagine just, I was released, and then the first thing I see as I look at my phones, I'm just getting, you've been suspended from USC, I'm, wow, I've been released, and I can't even go back to my normal life. So that was a months-long battle, actually showing them evidence. [00:12:24] Being in talks with people such as Darren Moko, who was an amazing help to actually gain a suspension lift and being able to go back to school here. Which was just such a toll cuz I was just thinking that I was not able to go back to the place where I've been working for my entire life. [00:12:40] The past 13, 14 years of just being in school, working, doing all the things that I've done, just gone to absolute waste. So that was a shell shock to me. >> Speaker 1: The institution provided a statement, tis is when initially they were [00:12:58] saying, hey, he's suspended, we will look at all information, we make decisions based on information currently available. But clearly it was publicly available that you were innocent, right? [00:13:14] We could see that, but still, there was no update. Why did it take them so long? And thankfully, you had an advocate and your advocate what's the name of the advocate inside of the institution again? >> Speaker 2: Darren Moko. >> Speaker 1: Okay, big ups, I wanna bring attention to that because I think I'm [00:13:31] a college professor myself, big ups to people who advocate for students. >> Speaker 2: Absolutely. >> Speaker 1: So you get an advocate, the advocate, there we go. The advocate works on your behalf, listens to your story, advocates. What made this so difficult to just update it quickly and say, the man's innocent? [00:13:50] We probably should not have made this decision based on a police report anyway. >> Speaker 2: I believe that one of the biggest things for USC is just their image and not being held accountable for actions that are very bad on the USC reputation. [00:14:06] Because USC works in part with their Department of Public Services, DPS here and LAPD who are constantly in talks and having a mess up as extreme as this is one of their students being arrested because of an alert. Because USC also sends out crime reports just about things that happen in the area [00:14:23] in efforts to protect the students and people around the area. But a lot of these reports are really faulty and really dense, and a lot of them will just have the race of the person and no other facts. It's a black male or Hispanic male wearing this type of clothing [00:14:39] with a very generalized weight and height. And in reality creates more fear than it actually does finding a resolution to things that should be held just directly in the police's hands. And so for USC to not put comment out to shows forever that they're scared of the pushback and the impact the story could possibly have. [00:14:58] >> Speaker 1: Yeah, and that's why leadership should have called whoever they have as their liaison and say, I need to see this directly because I don't believe one of our students did this. So before we go on record doing something against the student, [00:15:14] we need to see the evidence that you have. And they would have produced none cuz they had none actually against you. They probably could have resolved this before it became a story as it is today. Give us the update as to what's happening now as it relates to your matriculation at the University of Southern California. [00:15:33] >> Speaker 2: Well, thanks to Darren Malcolm, I was able to get that suspension off. I am back in school I'm almost or past halfway through my first semester of junior year here, but there's been absolutely no compensation or even apology from the school itself. [00:15:48] I've still had to deal with a lot of bills, tuition also, just helping pay off my student loans and all the financial work that my mother and father and my friends have put into even trying to get me out. [00:16:04] Which was a big help of the GoFundMe that my friend Daphne Yaman, who first wrote this story, put out. And it's been an amazing just turn-off support so far. It means the entire world to me, just seeing how many people have reached out to me have done it to me. [00:16:22] Just taking a little bit of that pressure off, just trying to pay rent and maintain a lot of things in my life, but that's been a really big help for me. But yeah, just trying to move forward more, but make sure doesn't happen to another person is my main goal. [00:16:38] And also trying to get my life back on track and finish out what know, originally planned to do here at USC and graduate. >> Speaker 1: What's your major? What are your major name? >> Speaker 2: I'm a semi-media studies major. Hopefully one day I wanna be a director, highlighting just underrepresented voices. [00:16:55] I wrote stories about African American peoples and also queer communities themselves. So that means a lot to me. It's highlighting all the underrepresented people, especially since I have a lot of type of people in my life. >> Speaker 1: I think that's a beautiful thing, brother. [00:17:13] Sometimes life has a funny way of giving you a mess, and you did nothing to deserve and your message becomes the mess you got with age on it, M-E-S-S-A-G-E. [00:17:30] Over time, it becomes a great catalyst for how you transform the world. I believe you are a world transformer, I think you're a game changer at the highest level and I know you're going to finish that degree and go on to do great things. [00:17:46] Allow this to be a motivation to your continued success, understanding that there's an experience that you've had that you'll never forget, unfortunately, yes, but it can also be powerful when you transform that energy into something positive. [00:18:02] Where's that GoFundMe, I wanna make sure we do the best we can to contribute even more. We got that GoFundMe. >> Speaker 2: Thank you, Dr. Richie. >> Speaker 1: Absolutely. For those who are watching, I want you to do the very best you can to contribute to this GoFundMe, this young brother should not have [00:18:21] to spend another dime to pay for his higher education. We have to support people like him in the village because I know something that you know, Judah Atkins, when he gets into the arena of management, [00:18:38] in whatever capacity that may be, he's going to do the right thing by people, right thing by people around him. So this is what leadership looks like. For those who have been supportive, what would you like to say to them, Judah? [00:18:57] >> Speaker 2: I mean, it means the absolute world to me. I wanna say thank you, Ben Pap and Daphne Yaman, for putting this story on such a higher pedestal and having know reach how much it has so far and people donate support. Absolutely means the world to me. [00:19:12] Reach out to me absolutely anytime, I'd like to talk to them personally and thank them, and just hopefully the story can gain attraction and help a lot more people. >> Speaker 1: There you go. Very thankful for your time today. >> Speaker 2: Thank you.
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