Murtari believes otherwise. As a result, he kept on returning to Senator Clinton’s office seeking a meeting. Eventually her staff became concerned about his continual presence and asked that he be banned from the building. Upon being banned, Murtari then began writing in chalk on the sidewalk outside the federal building -- “Sen. Clinton, please help us.” He has subsequently been arrested numerous times; jailed and fined for various misdemeanor criminal charges. The fines have never been paid because Murtari is voluntarily living at or below the poverty rate.
Murtari has also been jailed twice for failure to pay child support. The last time he was jailed in late 2006, he decided that he would take “civil disobedience” to a new level by refusing to cooperate with his jailors. Part of his refusal to cooperate, is refusing to eat or drink. Murtari claims that this is not a “starvation strike” but instead just civil disobedience. His rationale is that if he is going to be jailed for what he considers to be an unjust law, the State should go to extraordinary lengths to keep him alive. As a result, during that six month jail term (less time for good behavior) Murtari spent his time on the hospital ward being fed with a nasal-gastric tube.
Due to Murtari’s willful and deliberate non-payment of child support, his drivers license has been suspended now for many years, as provided for by law. Murtari of course does not agree with this law, and has continued driving despite this suspension. He has now been ticketed three times for driving on a suspended license.
Murtari was ticketed in late 2005 for driving without a license. He was fined $300. He never paid the fine, claiming that it was unjust and unfair. This fine has come back to haunt him recently, and in a letter Murtari wrote to the presiding judge on September 20th, he stated:
Imagine a support level based on twice your actual income for the last 12 years. Imagine your child being moved to the other side of the country and a former spouse who wants to alienate you. Imagine all the travel expenses to see your child and realize they ARE NOT COUNTED as support. Imagine a very wealthy former spouse your child is not needy, but they want you very much and you love them.
It must be remembered that Murtari’s income level is something that he has control over. He could earn more money if he chose to. Ultimately, Murtari does not want to make any sacrifices for his son. It is all about him -- John Murtari, the Civil Rights Activist.
He closes his letter with this final statement:
As I told you the day of the trial, I will pay no fine and be a willing participant to my own punishment. If you wish to sentence me to some jail time as ‘payment’ to finally resolve this that decision is yours. The County can take care of me.
In a letter to another judge that is presiding over another suspended license charge on October 10th, Murtari writes:
If you jail me against my will, I’ll do very-hard time. They can carry me from Village court to the jail and anywhere else they want me. I will not be rude or resist, but just remain passive. I will not eat or drink voluntarily. I expect them to use medical means like a nasal-gastric tube to keep me hydrated and fed. This is NOT a hunger strike. I do not want to hurt myself. But my only fair response to such an unjust sentence is to maximize my sacrifice and the amount of effort you must use to hold me captive as a prisoner. I’m not unfamiliar with jail and how they may react it will be painful. (sic)
Principled or Delusional?
Murtari has been fighting his “civil rights battle” virtually single handed for the past 12 years and has not won a single thing. He protrays himself as being the “coordinator” for a national civil rights organization, but in reality, he is the only active member. His web site is primarily about his numerous legal issues. It is all about John Murtari.
There is little doubt that Murtari is a deadbeat trying to make a statement. There are much better and less self destructive ways to try to reform laws than what Murtari is doing, but he simply and flatly refuses to consider those options. He chooses instead to be a martyr for a cause that he has not made a single dent in. He sees himself as a modern day Gandhi and King, which is extremely delusional.
If Murtari were making realistic sacrifices, and at least attemptig to pay child support while at the same time pushing for reforms in family law, it would be easy to respect him. Despite his claims that if he could pay the child support that is owed, he would pay it, it is easy to see that he has absolutely no intention of paying child support to his ex wife. That -- and that alone -- makes John Murtari a true deadbeat.
The judges that Murtari appears before have difficult decisions to make. They know that he isn’t going to comply with their orders, and they also know that he will attempt self harm just to make a point. If they acquiesce to his threats, he has beat the justice system and others will be encouraged to make the same threats to avoid justice. The other alternative is to cost the taxpayers of New York a significant amount of money caring for Murtari.
In some ways, Murtari is like Ernest T. Bass from The Andy Griffith Show. He is obstreperous -- stubbornly resistant to control. Or, as Barney Fife would say: “He’s a nut!”