By David Greenwald
That’s right, on this fateful day July 30, 2006, I came up with the crazy hair-brained idea of starting a little blog where I would write on things like police misconduct and reform. At the time, that was a controversial notion. So controversial that they shut down the Human Relations Commission over it.
That is only one of the things that I marvel at. What was controversial in 2006 liberal Davis has become mainstream. The very civilian review board that was proposed by the HRC in 2006 was implemented in Davis in 2018. The idea that Black and Brown people were disproportionately impacted by the police has become accepted in this community.
We saw over 1000 people march on Father’s Day for Black Lives. Nearly 2000 people signed a petition for a school board election, upset over the board not selecting a woman of color.
The Vanguard has changed too. In 2006, I created the Vanguard on a free blogger app in the basement of the UC Davis Social Sciences and Humanities building.
Today the Vanguard has published 10 articles. Those articles were written by 13 different authors, only one of whom was outside our organization. We have several paid employees, six supervisors, over 60 interns, multiple regular volunteers, a ten-member board, and a growing revenue stream.
Frankly, I would not believe you if you told me this in 2006.
While the founding of the Vanguard was obviously a critical moment in our history, another moment also looms large. It was around this time of the year, three years later in 2009, that I received a call from a family to the east of Sacramento.
I went out and met with them. It was then that I met Peggy Dev and her sister Patty Pursell. They told me the story of Ajay Dev, Peggy’s husband, who a few weeks earlier had been convicted of 76 felony counts including 23 counts of forcible rape; 23 counts of forcible sexual assault; 27 counts of lewd acts with a minor; and 3 counts of attempting to dissuade a witness.
They believed Ajay Dev was wrongly convicted. At that time, I knew little about wrongful convictions and was somewhat skeptical of their claims of innocence.
Nevertheless, on August 9, 2009, I attended, along with intern Royston Sim, a court hearing for the sentencing of Ajay Dev. To my astonishment he received a massive 378 year sentence.
Little did I realize at the time, but this would become another defining moment in my life. Over the next 11 years, I would continue to work on and return to this case. It was this case that convinced me of the need to launch the Court Watch Project, which I did in January 2010. And that would become the basis for what the Vanguard is today.
Eleven years later, I am 100 percent convinced of the innocence of Ajay Dev. While his Habeas evidentiary hearing has stalled, in part due to the deceptive prosecutorial moves of Yolo County Deputy DA Ryan Couzens and in part due to the slowdown of the courts and international travel due to COVID, now is the time. With the push on to release incarcerated people, Ajay Dev with an amazing record in prison and a strong case for innocence is a perfect candidate for commutation.
His family along with his commutation attorney have launched a Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/
So far, as I write this, 192 people have signed the petition (it was just launched on Tuesday afternoon). We need 1000 to present to the governor. Please help.
Finally, in two weeks we will have our tenth annual fundraiser featuring Mark Godsey. I’m really excited to announce that we have now added Laurese Glover (story and video here), from the East Cleveland 3. He spent 20 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.
To put this into perspective, in 1995 when they were convicted, I was a senior at Cal Poly. In 2015, when they were released, we were planning the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Vanguard. I had a wife and three children.
This event will enable us to hire another reporter. That has been our goal all year.
And we have a special deal—while the cost of the event is $50, we have a variable rate ticket, where you can pay as little as $5 if that’s what you can afford, and watch it on Zoom.
Hit this link and then hit tickets to reserve your spot: http://vanguard-godsey.
We’re launching a major Twitter push so be sure to reserve your tickets today.
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