Pomona Gadfly Sent to Jail for Contempt

Times Staff Writer

A community activist was sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt of court last week after he “impugned the integrity of the court” during his pretrial hearing last week on charges of disrupting public meetings.

John Marshall Lawrence, 66, was twice found in contempt last Friday by Pomona Municipal Court Judge Thomas A. Peterson. Lawrence, acting as his own counsel, had accused the judge of perjury and conspiracy, said Deputy District Atty. Diane Gesner.

Peterson later disqualified himself at the request of Lawrence, who said the judge exhibited prejudice against him, Gesner said. The case was transferred to the courtroom of presiding Judge Robert Duke, whom Lawrence also asked to be disqualified because of prejudice. Lawrence will argue for Duke’s disqualification at his next appearance, Oct. 31, she said.

Lawrence is charged with four counts of disrupting a public meeting, and co-defendant Al Ramirez faces two counts of the same offense, Gesner said. The charges stem from a series of disruptions at Pomona City Council meetings over the past two months.


Lawrence was removed from council meetings by police on Aug. 29, Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 after he continued to speak despite being ruled out of order by Mayor Donna Smith. He was arrested after the last incident and jailed for two days. Ramirez, 62, was arrested at a Sept. 19 meeting after he loudly protested Lawrence’s removal by police.

After the two were arraigned Sept. 29, they disrupted another council meeting Oct. 3, prompting a second complaint to be filed against them, Gesner said. Although neither man was forcibly ejected from the Oct. 3 meeting, each was ruled out of order at least once by Mayor Smith.