SANTA CRUZ – Charges have been refiled against two of the defendants accused in the takeover of a vacant bank building last year.
After a preliminary hearing in April, Judge Paul Burdick dismissed the charges against Franklin Cruz Alcantara, Cameron Laurendeau, Grant Wilson and Edward Rector, citing a lack of evidence. At the time, prosecutor Rebekah Young announced her intentions to re-file against Alcantara and Laurendeau. She said she had more evidence that hadn’t come out in their first preliminary hearing.
The new charges are the same as the previous ones, two misdemeanor counts of trespassing, felony vandalism and felony conspiracy to commit vandalism and trespass, Young said.
The two were scheduled to appear in court Friday morning for arraignment on the new charges, though their supporters maintain the two defendants hadn’t been informed of the appearance. Young told the court she had mailed a notice to appear to both of them.
Cruz rushed into court late and entered a plea of not guilty, but a bench warrant will now be sought for Laurendeau, who lives in Oakland and did not show up Friday.
A preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday for five of the other defendants in the case was vacated because defense attorneys say the prosecution hasn’t turned over all the evidence to them. Defendants Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, Brent Adams, Gabriella Ripleyphipps and Desiree Foster are due back June 1 to set a new date for the hearing.
Judge Burdick also dismissed charges against Bradley Allen and Alex Darocy earlier this month. Their attorneys said the two were photojournalists who had been photographing the action as a news event.
A total of 11 people were arrested in connection with the takeover of the former Wells Fargo building at 75 River St. in late November and early December. Acting “anonymously and autonomously in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz,” an undetermined number of demonstrators entered the building with the announced intention of turning it into a community center. Demonstrators continued to occupy the building for almost three days amid numerous negotiations with police before eventually leaving peacefully.
A number of protests and demonstrations have been held in support of those charged, asking the District Attorney’s Office to drop all charges, and a website called www.santacruzeleven.org has been set up.