Setting the record straight on Occupy incident

September 20, 2013

I was hoping Scott going to Riker’s would stay out of the paper. I didn’t want to write this. But Lewes is my home and the Cape Gazette has yet to print a single completely factual account of this story. We have not agreed to comment because we do not trust the Gazette to report accurately. My parents retired to Lewes almost 30 years ago, our children were born here and we have owned a local business since 1993. I don’t understand this ongoing delight in publishing a local family’s ordeal. Perhaps it’s just the tabloid nature of small town newspapers.

Here are the facts:

My husband, Scott, was beaten unconscious and arrested at a NYC Occupy march we attended with one of our daughters in October, 2011. One court date and documented medical memory issues have resulted in a one year jail sentence.

Scott and I have known each other since we were 12, have been married 23 years and own a small business together. This will be hard. For instance, these are words I never thought I’d say to our daughters: “Papa will be fine at Riker’s.” Scott will worry if the girls and I are OK. We will worry about his safety. We have received one piece of hate mail, and I’ve lost one friend over this mess. More importantly, however, is that we have gained and reconnected with so many more. We are very grateful for the overwhelming kindness and understanding of family friends and most of the Cape community.

We are the poster family for Occupy: small business owners, with over two thousand dollar-a-month healthcare premiums, due to Scott’s cancer diagnosis eight years ago, predatory lending and, especially, with two kids in college, the fact that student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in this country. In addition, PNC Bank had sold our hotel mortgage to a private “investment” group in DC, who were trying to take the hotel by calling our loan. At the same time, they would not allow us to sell off any assets to pay off the note. We have never been late on or missed a payment. The only thing more unethical than what we experienced is a bank that underwrites pay day or auto loans for people who struggle pay check to pay check to make ends meet in this economy.

Anyway, October 15 was a beautiful day for a peaceful protest. But once the crowd of over 5,000 marchers was detoured near mid-town Manhattan, we were faced with riot cops on motorcycles and on horseback. We had discussed crowd safety strategy before we left for NYC. Our daughter and I were able to slip safely through the crowd up against a building. Scott was swept up to the front of the chaos and likely targeted as “the big guy with the camera." (To him, it felt like that scene in the movie “Stripes” in which Bill Murray doesn’t step forward, everyone else steps back.) After Scott was arrested we didn’t know exactly where he was for two days. The charges against him for resisting arrest and trying to grab the chief’s badge were completely false. “Yes, I resisted the police baton with my head.” With video evidence those charges were dropped ages ago.

Fast forward to January, 2012. During the winter months Scott and I cover most of the hotel hours. Scott worked late and left for his Occupy court date around 2 a.m. He knew I was a wreck. Along with the loan pressure, two kids in college and a husband with cancer, I was upset about Scott needing to stop and nap at a dicey rest stop off the turnpike on his way to a court date for a totally bogus arrest. Scott doesn’t remember doing this, but he must have thrown our legally registered, unloaded 2-shot snake gun into his backpack.

Scott napped in New Jersey and was running late. The Holland Tunnel was backed up. Anyone who knows Scott is aware that, since his radiation and chemotherapy, he tends to forget things. It got worse after the Occupy beating. Chemo-brain moment: Obviously, Scott had forgotten he had the gun in his backpack when he threw it on the metal detector at the courthouse. Like most people we were unaware of the extremity of NYC gun laws. Worst case scenario in most any other place on earth, having a technically unloaded, legally registered hand gun would have been a misdemeanor.

Long story short, Scott has no previous criminal record. Despite exhaustive medical evidence, character references and 26 years of service in a respected fellowship, with good behavior and time served, Scott will be at Riker’s for 244 days at the taxpayers' expense.

For a long time we thought a month was the very worst sentence we could expect. Friends joked that anyone married over 20 years could use a month apart! But there was a D.A. change during the case, which, by now, had dragged on for over 18 months. There is no probation required. This sentence is purely punitive and political.

Since Scott has been roaming around free all this time, it is clear that no one thinks he is a danger to society. But New York City has mandatory sentencing. The law reads that Scott could have been given 3.5-15 years, so we took this “deal." Sadly, legally speaking, he would have been better off shooting a kid in Florida.

To date the NYPD still has possession of our car - a 2005 Land Rover 3, Scott’s father’s Rolex, a professional quality digital camera, an I-pad and two I-phones. We will not get the car back. According to NYC law, we would not get the car back even if Scott went to court and was declared innocent of all charges. This would be a separate court case involving a “Comstock Ruling," costing tens of thousands more in legal fees.

At the time of Scott’s arrest in January 2012 we were getting the hotel out of the hands of the DC “investors," but then Applied Bank doubled the agreed- upon interest rate and points. We have since refinanced yet again at considerable expense, but with a friendly local bank. There are some honorable bankers.

Scott is looking at this time away as a kind of spiritual retreat. The girls and I are referring to it as “Papa’s year in boarding school.” Scott got sick and the economy tanked right about the time our daughters were in middle school. I am amazed at their resilience and compassion. I wouldn’t have wished any of this on them, but they will certainly be prepared for the ups and downs of real life. Thanks to a wonderful support system, we will all be OK. I extend my special appreciation to my St. Peter’s friends and my local theater community. Truly, there are no people like show people.

It will be business as usual at Hotel Blue. Stop by and say hello. We have great coffee in the lobby.

Donna de Kuyper


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