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Interview With Joseph Teixeira, Who Took on Inglewood’s Mayor and Won

In August we reported on the case of the City of Inglewood vs. Joseph Teixeira, a local gadfly who documented alleged misdeeds of the Mayor's Office and the City Council. The city sued Teixeira to force him to remove his videos from YouTube, ultimately losing the case and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. We wanted to know more about the resolution of the case, Teixeira's motivations, and his plans for the future, and obtained this exclusive interview with the man who says he's on a crusade for transparency and accountability in the Mayor's office.

What motivated you to start making videos about the Inglewood City Council and Mayor?
I first went to a city Council meeting in 2011, to complain that the police department had repeatedly refused to investigate a shooting on my block that I had witnessed and where I could have been an injured innocent by-stander. The Mayor immediately tried to shoo me away and when I kept coming, he announced my address on TV (public access) when he knew that I had publicly said that I was trying to get the police to investigate a shooting. Then he made public statements denying that there was a shooting at all. Then he brought up the police chief and then a police captain to mislead the public in two council meetings. During all this time, I had made public records requests for the 911 tapes that proved that the police refused to investigate, but the Mayor helped the police violate State Law for about 9 months til the Police Chief resigned. The mayor and police were saying things that were so blatantly false, and which could be so easily disputed by the 911 tapes, that I decided to document the difference between what they were saying and what the evidence showed.

How were you first contacted by the Mayor's office?
I was never contacted by the mayor about the shooting. In fact, he repeatedly refused to respond to my letters and emails.

Have you had any anonymous or other threats made against you during this process?
Several of the Mayor's supporters have threatened me with physical violence, even on video during their public comments, but the Mayor never tried to dissuade them. I've had to file police complaints and call for police to restrain people outside of meetings. But the police never acted on my written complaints. My car has been vandalized. To try to get in good with the Mayor and the council, the owner of a free newspaper that depends on the city council's ads to survive, wrote a libelous story about me to destroy my credibility, so I had to sue him for libel and the Judge said he had to stand trial because the evidence showed that he would probably be convicted of libel.

How were you able to fight the city's lawsuit against you?
I initially tried to work the matter out with Inglewood's City Attorney and the city's hired outside attorney, but the City attorney deferred to the city's outside attorney and she, JoAnna Esty, was being very heavy handed, saying that the City would accept nothing less than me signing a paper saying that I would immediately stop using any parts of the City-made council meeting videos forever. I sent several letters and emails and phone messages, but they wouldn't budge. I knew the videos were public records, but hey wouldn't even agree to negotiate my use of portions of the videos or even to pay them money to use them. So, they sued me. I was lucky enough to get an attorney. I made many inquiries and got a good referral from "Californians Aware" an open public meeting/Civil Rights group.

The city lost, and owes you over $170k in legal fees. Does that mean this is over?
Actually, it's $117,000.00, and as far as I know, that case is over. However, the City, in my opinion, still has to do a lot to live up to what the Mayor said, that they would abide by the Court's decision. The City has to stop threatening people with lawsuits if they copy any parts of the city's videos, which they are still doing. They have to make available to the public 3 years of city council videos that they made private a few weeks before the city's 2014 election, and other things regarding copyright and public access to information.

Will you be making more videos?
I already have. "James Butts violated the Law, and says he'd do it again." I also intend on doing a video about the case.

What changes would you like to see come to the City of Inglewood?
More government transparency. More democracy. The Mayor removed as Chairman of the council because he blatantly abuses his power.

What's your favorite taco spot?
Now remember you said taco "spot." I like "Pacos" tacos on Manchester in Westchester. The staff is nice and it's a party atmosphere. They make the tortillas in the middle of the restaurant.

How has making these videos, and the ensuing lawsuit, changed your life?
I'm very proud of the videos I've made, though some of the earlier ones were not as well done as my latest. That lawsuit has changed my life a lot more than I can describe here, but it was very stressful, especially before I had legal representation. Even though I, as a layman, thought it was clear that I was within my rights, and I told the city that, you don't know what you don't know, and I could have potentially lost everything... like out on the street everything.

The suit has caused the Mayor's shills/supporters to rally against me, probably at the Mayor's request, because they know that the Mayor's wasting a total of about $70,000.00 for their attorney and $117,000.00 for my attorneys was a big mistake, so they've gotten very personal in their verbal and physical attacks. I know that having all the media attention about my getting sued, even when I won and the City was so badly chastised by the judge, will not be good for me professionally and in other areas. Only some of the media outlets that published that I was being sued, also published that I won.

I am also very concerned about Inglewood's City Government, which is dictatorially ran by Mayor Butts who has been repeatedly found by California's appeals courts, the LA County DA and now the federal Court to be more than willing to violate people's civil rights for his own benefit. Now he's in almost total control of a city's resources; and as we can see, he is willing to waste those resources to attack his critics. That's a real problem in a city of color.

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