Ray Washington --- CAMPUS CURRENTS


(Article in the 11/28/96 Gainesville, Florida, Sun by Ray Washington)

Comment: This article was written by a graduate of the University of Florida Law School turned journalist, and, as confirmed in a subsequent article by him, his intention became increasingly to ridicule and discredit legal reform and to turn faculty and students against my (Bob Allston's) reform effort. The reporter's statement that faculty weren't interested in these matters is not the case. Quite the contrary, I have had very enlightening and helpful discussions with faculty in many areas to whom I am very greatful; and it is clear that the legal system with its problems is a subject of universal concern. Since my mission at the time was basically to obtain their perspectives and see if there was something in the nature of a consensus on the problems of the legal system, I wasn't asking anyone to join any particular cause.

Also, it might be mentioned that the purpose of my alleged bomb threat against faculty members that he mentions was to set up in essence a legal case study and framework wherein these faculty members as alleged victims would have the opportunity to go through the legal process thus having the opportunity to examine and question the morally and ideologically bankrupt nature of the legal process, thus hopefully contributing to legal reform. And government wouldn't be able to induce them to lie to get a conviction; a far cry from my alleged victims in Lee County whose only interest was helping their corrupt government and employer get a conviction. At the time, I had no idea whether I would be convicted for a long stay in prison on the Lee County charges and this alleged threat was drafted in a manner to be triggered only if I was arrested at that particular time on the Lee County bomb threat charges, which I wasn't; so it didn't constitute a threat. It was thus a back-up position where I could hope to continue with reform in the event I was stuck in prison.

Further, it met the criteria of peaceful civil disobedience, for if I was arrested, I couldn't possibly carry it out; and if not, a priori it was not deemed that I would carry it out. Thus it was a threat that in essence wasn't a threat.

As it turns out, legal authority wasn't interested in getting involved in a case where they couldn't stack the deck with phony charges and crooked witnesses or which might lead to criticism or reform, or which would in any event make the legal system look absurd; so I wasn't arrested nor has anybody from any legal authority said anything to me about it.

Of course the legal profession doesn't like anyone experimenting with "their" legal system because they view it as something created by God for only them to operate. (Whereas I take the view that it is a mess created by lawyers that could only be successfully operated by God; with the evidence strongly suggesting He's long since abandoned it.)

As a last note, characteristic of the press in general, the writer doesn't address the myriad of crooked dealings by government and the legal system in this article.

Meet Robert Francis Allston, University of Florida class of '61, a homeless criminal who after Thanksgiving is likely bound for jail.

At the start of this semester, Allston, 59, came to Gainesville hoping his alma mater could help him set right a world gone terribly wrong. So far that hasn't happened --- and time is fast running out for Allston.

But that's getting ahead of the story.

Back in 1955, Florida native Allston arrived at UF intent on learning what he needed to know to get on in life. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration, finished his course work for a master's degree in mathematics and statistics, and landed a job with IBM in New York.

In the ensuing years, life treated Allston pretty well. First, he was hired away from IBM to work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then he came back to Florida, where he ran his own map making business. He also bought a choice 60 acre parcel of Lee County real estate he hoped to turn into a nest egg for his retirement.

The retirement part didn't quite work out. In March 1994 the bookish, soft spoken Allston --- frustrated by what he considered to be favoritism in Lee County land-development decisions --- set in motion a series of events that in fewer than three years has transformed him from a law abiding middle-class citizen with his name on a plaque outside of the Lee County Alliance of the Arts to a penniless St. Francis House resident with a growing criminal record.

His problems began when he gave Lee County officials a philosophical tract titled "Notes on Institutional Corruption in the Lee County Attorney's Office." Quoting thinkers ranging from Aristotle to John Locke, Allston laid out an argument for honesty in government, maintaining that failure of officials to maintain ethical standards is in large part responsible for "many if not most social, political and economic" problems.

"Education is losing ground," he wrote. "Fewer people vote. Crime is increasing. We have a growing underclass of people who do not respect life or our democratic institutions."

A key to solving those problems, Allston explained, is "that laws be predictable and evenly applied."

Unfortunately for Allston, he chose the recent office shooting death of a Lee County official as a rhetorical device to draw attention to the potential consequences of what he believed to be Lee County officials' willingness to apply laws "selectively or unethically."

"...When an attorney in the County Attorney's office knowingly commits an unethical act seriously damaging the interests of a citizen, he is assuming that the citizens morals and regard for his fellow man are higher than the attorney's...Let me relate how easily I could apply my talents to blow up the Lee County Attorney's Office."

Lee County responded by throwing Allston in jail for threatening the lives of public officials.

Allston has yet to be convicted on the bomb-threat charges --- a trial earlier this year resulted in a hung jury, and another trial is set for next week --- but in the 32 months since his original arrest, he has been in and out of jails and mental institutions and has lost everything he once owned.

The jailings and mental evaluations have been the results of a campaign of "civil disobedience" that has led Allston to stage sit-ins and hunger strikes in a variety of government institutions to bring attention to his situation and to what he sees as the need to reform the U.S. legal and criminal justice systems.

Recalling his ideals he learned in his days as a UF student, Allston hitched a ride to Gainesville in September, on a mission to enlist the help of UF faculty.

He's spent weeks buttonholing faculty in criminology, psychology, sociology, political science, philosophy, computer science and law, but with little luck. A sit-in at College of Law Dean Richard Matasar's office just got him arrested and sent back to Lee County.

Now he's back, with a new plan. When UF reopens after the thanksgiving holiday, he said, he's going to threaten to blow up certain faculty members in the year 2,000."

Then he'll sit down and wait to be thrown in jail again.

I'm not violent," he said. "Until I was 57 years old, I had never been arrested, never had a problem with liquor or drugs, never seen a mental health person of any kind. Now I'm willing to do a felony to try to get the legal system to look at my problems."