Fly Benzo sentenced to three years probation

A group of supporters outside the Hall of Justice with Benzo, center, holding up a court document

Debray Carpenter, aka Fly Benzo, was sentenced in court April 27. He received three years of probation with a long list of conditions.

Benzo, student at City College, was arrested at an Oct. 18 rally in Mendell Plaza. During that incident, police officers John Norment and Joshua Fry of the Bayview precinct apparently unplugged a boombox that they said was not authorized in a street outlet. Then, when officers began videotaping Benzo, he took out his camera phone and began videotaping them as well. He was convicted of misdemeanor assault of a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest by Judge Jerome Benson on Feb 22.

April 27, in a courtroom with dozens of supporters, the judge announced that Benzo would serve six months each in county jail for three counts of which we was convicted, but as the six-month sentences for counts one and three could be served concurrently, the jail time would add up to a year total.

However, these sentences were suspended, and barring a change, Benzo will not serve that jail time.

The conditions include a ban on the possession of weapons, a requirement to submit to any search and seizure by police officers with or without a warrant, an order to complete anger management classes, a stay-away order from Third St. between Oakdale and Quesada, a requirement that he be enrolled full time in school and/or work, a requirement to obey all lawful orders by a police officer as well as remain arms-length away from all police officers, and about $1,000 in fees for expenses like booking and court assessment.  

The judge also ordered 30 days in country jail, although 11 days already served brought the sentence to 19. However, Benzo will likely serve those days through the sheriff’s work alternative program (SWAP)—that means 19 days sweeping up the sidewalks in an orange vest. 

Benzo served the 11 days before he was released on $95,000 bail.

Judge Benson also ordered that Benzo apologize to SFPD officers Norment and Fry, although the apology is not a condition of probation.

“A true apology comes from within, and it would not be a true apology if I order it,” said the judge, who came out of retirement to preside over Benzo’s case.

Benzo’s lawyer Severa Keith stated objections to two of the conditions: the requirement to submit to searches and the stay-away order. Keith objected to the search requirement on the grounds that neither contraband nor weapons plays no part in his case, and Benzo was not in the possession of either at the time of his arrest.

The area of the stay-away order includes Mendell Plaza.  An important public square in Bayview, the plaza’s meaning was given new weight when it was the site of the killing of Kenneth Harding, Jr

Harding, 19, was killed in August 2011. Harding was leaving a T train when police asked to see his transfer. Harding presumably panicked and ran away from the police. Officers shot at him as he ran, then, in a video that has circulated widely, stood around him as he bled to death.

Mendell Plaza is directly across the street from the Joseph P. Lee recreation center and the Bayview Opera House, some of the main neighborhood venues for entertainment and community gatherings. This street that divides the plaza from the opera house and rec center- Oakdale- is the cut-off for the stay-away order, so both Keith and Benzo asked Judge Benson to specify whether these locations were included in the stay-away. 

After studying a map of the area, Judge Benson concluded that the opera house and rec center are outside the bounds of the stay-away order. 

“We just did an event a few weekends ago where we fed over 100 people at that location,” said Benzo to the judge. “This order will prevent me from serving the community in the way that I do, as well as providing entertainment and education for the community.”

According to Benson, there’s a chance that the stay-away condition will revoked or altered when it is brought up again at Benzo’s SWAP hearing, scheduled for June 8. 

Keith said of the sentence, “It’s not bad. I was working for probation, not jail time.”

However, she still plans to appeal, in large part due to what she sees as crucial evidence that was excluded from the trial surrounding Benzo’s history with the officers Fry and Norment. 

According to Keith, the jury didn’t hear evidence about “racist and unprofessional things” that the officers said to Benzo on occasions leading up to the incident.

“They deliberated for a long time- four days. And what I heard from the jury was that they though police were baiting him, and didn’t condone the police behavior, but they thought Debray’s reaction was too much under the circumstances,” said Keith.

But Keith said those circumstances include a long history of police harassing Benzo.

“It wasn’t a one-time thing," she said. "And we have witnesses ready to testify to that.”

As for Benzo, he’s relieved not to be serving jail time, but wary of many of the conditions. 

“They gave me a stay-away order, which they usually don’t give unless you’re caught dealing drugs,” Benzo told the Guardian.

“It will drastically affect my life. Now I can’t even organize in the community.”


There is no actual discription of what the defendant did other than video tape. Where is the rest of the story?

Posted by D. native on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

Harding shot first, the cities gunshot microphones document that. Harding ran because he had a warrant in Washington State, to not leave the state. He killed himself because owning a gun is considered bad ass, knowing how to use it I suppose not. The cops landed one shot into his leg, if untreated a nasty infection could result in death I suppose, the jail doctors would have attended to it likely.

I find the Guardians self described Journalistic standards to be interesting.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

The BG goes out of its way to slant the Harding story, completely ignoring the medical examiner's report that Harding actually fired the fatal shot that killed him, not SFPD. BG should be ashamed of themselves but then again, why am I surprised, the BG has zero standards and zero journalistic integrity.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 28, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

Harding did not shoot first nor did he shoot at the cops. That was the initial lie that the cops told the media. There was no gun found anywhere. The "gun" that people said was a "gun" on the cell video was actually a cell phone. The cops killed an unarmed man over a $2 fare.

And if that first poster had been paying attention, you would've read the numerous articles on this case.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

Bullets are different sizes and can be matched to guns they come from?

You do understand ballistics is a science, not like say some people think astrology is a science.

Shot trackers record the sounds of guns and then are used to cross reference locations, the sounds that a .38 will make is different than that 0f a .40.

Residue was found on Harding that came from the firing of his own gun, as the cops were to far away to leave any.


The Guardian and some people have the will to believe.

Guest are you a creationist or a flat Earther?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

1. You can say all you want that Harding didn't have a gun etc., but the medical examiner found gunshot residue on his hands (you only get that from shooting a gun), and the fatal shot was done with with a different caliber gun than what SFPD carries. Facts are Facts.

2. Sure I could have read the previous articles, but good journalists don't just assume that their reader has been following a particular story all along and knows all the facts, a good journalist assumes this is the first time a reader has heard about a story and provides the necessary facts.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

and defiantly too. Yael writes to serve his beliefs (which apparently including scoring with Occupy chicks while covering their demonstrations) vs. writing to tell the truth. Harding shot himself when he was running from the police - this is a verified fact. He was also a pimp who ho'd out 14-year old girls. A real poster boy that guy is.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

Maybe elsewhere he had more success in that career move?

If any relative of mine sunk to the level of this guy he would be on his own, anyone I knew who behaved as this guy did I would get up and leave when he showed up... And yet people are protesting on his behalf.

Any "reporter" who made out in print that Harding was a victim of anything but his own vileness should be reminded by his boss that he is presenting obvious falsehoods. Presenting falsehoods in a paper that supposedly is an antidote to the lies and misrepresentations of the mainstream media.

And yet the author has presented the same bogus story repeatedly here on the Guardian page.

Perhaps the Guardian may have a policy of not editing for factual content while editing for the proper agenda?

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

"Yael writes to serve his beliefs (Which apparently including scoring with Occupy chicks ...)"

Troll II, It's amusing that you titled your delusional little rant "willfully incorrect," because it precisely describes your statement.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

"Yael writes to serve his beliefs (which apparently including scoring with Occupy chicks while covering their demonstrations)"

What other reason would there possibly be for attending an Occupy demonstration?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

He brings his little comb to every "demonstration."

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 30, 2012 @ 10:18 am

That Yael writes to serve his own beliefs or that he scores with Occupy chicks while covering demonstrations? Because the first is patently obvious to anyone with an IQ above 65, something I realize the majority of Guardian readers score beneath, and the second I've witnessed with my own eyes.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 30, 2012 @ 11:55 am

Yael is a female name.

BTW does the Guardian have any editors? There is a blatant double negative in this.

Posted by Logan The Huge on Apr. 30, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

One does not even know where to begin…this “article” is nothing more then flim flam writing by an ally of Mr. Carpenter. The vast majority of the comments posted on the BG site itself shows that the masses understand the BG had absolutely zero journalistic credibility. What a joke…this is pretty much on the level of the National Enquirer…I know how about the bat boy and Benzo move in with one another and we can have a great reality TV show on our hands…the BG can cover that. We can dedicate the first episode to the murderer / child pimp Harding. Oh and the cops are the bad guys??? Why not come up with something original / real.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

This debris guy sounds like a real piece of work. From the article it sounds like he his a nuisance to society. Cant the bay guardian find any thing significant to report?? What a rubbish publication.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2012 @ 8:07 pm


Posted by Wurde bereits erläutert on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 6:34 am

Also from this author

  • Privatization of public housing

    Many residents feel they're moving from the frying pan of Housing Authority control into the fire of developer and nonprofit management

  • Homeless for the holidays

    Changing demographics in the Bayview complicate city efforts to open a shelter there

  • Betting on Graton

    Newest casino targeting Bay Area residents promises to share the wealth with workers and people of color