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In the Fray

The party’s over at the College of Santa Fe

December 10, 2008, 12:00 am

Kerner’s friends say the police simply walked inside without asking. At least, none of her invited guests will admit to showing them into her home.

Will Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore, says he was inside, walking toward the front door when he saw it get pushed open. “I saw the flashlights and I knew it was police,” Smith says. “I did not hear a knock.”
“Immediately, they asked if we had any drugs and, when everybody said no, they said, ‘Well, c’mon, you’re from the College of Santa Fe—you’re an art school. I know you have drugs,’” Smith recalls. “Everybody was like, ‘No, we don’t have any, blah blah blah.’”

It was well past midnight. By that point, Jesse Lester, a CSF sophomore who goes by “Jester,” had been passed out for a couple of hours. “I love Knob Creek—it’s so good—but I drank probably close to two-thirds of that bottle,” he says.

Lester, a skinny, animated 24-year-old, shared the bed with one of the hosts, Kerner. Kerner also was trying to sleep. She had to work the next day in the college cafeteria.
They woke to shouting; Lester was dazed, but Kerner quickly realized the police had arrived.

police cell phone video“I heard them terrorizing the guests—‘We know this is a CSF party; you’re all going to lose your scholarships; you’re all going to get kicked out of college. Everybody take out all your bongs, all your alcohol, all your drugs,’” Kerner recalls them saying.

As their friends in the living room produced their IDs, Lester and Kerner stayed put in her bedroom. Flashlights shone through the window. Guests saw seven or eight squad cars parked outside.
“I started sobering up pretty quick,” Lester says.

An officer pounded on the door, saying, “Open up!” Kerner shouted back, demanding a warrant. In her mind, the men with badges in her house were “domestic terrorists.”

Kerner’s dim view of authority was forged, in part, at CSF. “I’m a political science major,” she says, “so I always knew we lived in a fascist police state and that we’re living in a war zone, basically.” Still, she says, “I thought I had some basic, fundamental civil liberties.”

Kerner, barely over five feet tall and 115 pounds, held the door shut as long as she could.

“I was terrified,” she says. “I told them to get the fuck out of my house, because I thought that I had that right.”

Kerner, shoeless and wearing a tank top, was pushing against the door when it burst open with an officer on the other side.

“The guy jumped on top of her, tackled her,” Lester says. “She started screaming bloody murder.”

Kerner shrieked and flailed as the officer handcuffed her arms behind her back. “I was a victim of both assault and rape when I was younger—I was traumatized,” she says. “I was screaming to my friend Jess, ‘Help me!’”

In response, Lester reached out his hand. “All I did was say, ‘Please let her go.’ That’s essentially when I got dragged out into a cop car,” Lester says.

As the officer wrangled Kerner out of her bedroom, a party guest whipped out a cell phone and took some grainy video.

The clips show glum-faced students lined up along the walls, looking resigned, as Kerner lies face down in the doorway, handcuffed and screaming.

As the officer struggles to hoist her up, Kerner yells, “Get off of me you fucking racist! You fucking racist!”

police cell phone videoBy the night’s end, at least nine students, including Smith, were charged with underage drinking. Lester was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

And Kerner, in addition to charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, also was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and a fourth-degree felony: battery upon an officer of the peace.
“At the time, I supposedly assaulted him, I was pretty incapacitated,” Kerner says. “I didn’t grab anything.”

As word of her arrest spread, Kerner became a cause célèbre among student activists. Others, aware that CSF faced bigger problems, saw ambiguity.

Irina Zerkin, the student representative to CSF’s board of trustees, says Kerner is a “beloved” member of the community. “I know her intentions were good,” Zerkin says. “But the fact of the matter is, she manhandled a cop.”

She adds: “That doesn’t mean it’s OK that they manhandled her.”

The administration has stayed mum. (“The College is not in a position to comment on this incident. It was not a College-sponsored event nor [were] there College officials present,” Dean Fitzpatrick writes to SFR in response to questions about the party.)

But as dramatic as Kerner’s story was, an even more serious case was about to spread through CSF’s rumor mill—this one involving the alleged rape of a 22-year-old senior by another student.

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