Judge indicates he may dismiss charges in 75 River case due to procedural issues: Judge has strong words for prosecutor

Jessica M. Pasko – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted:   08/17/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A judge had strong words Friday for the prosecutor handling the case of the takeover of a vacant bank, telling her he was unhappy with the way the case has been handled, saying he could dismiss it.

Seven people still face charges in connection with the nearly three-day occupation of the former Wells Fargo building located at 75 River St. They’re charged with felony conspiracy, vandalism and misdemeanor trespass. The charges stem from an incident in which a group claiming to be acting “anonymously and autonomously but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz” entered the bank building in late November and remained there for nearly 72 hours.

Friday, defense attorneys told Judge Paul Burdick they haven’t received some of the documents and videos they have requested from the District Attorney’s Office despite numerous attempts.

Alexis Briggs, who represents Cameron Laurendeau, said she has not received specific video she requested from prosecutor Rebekah Young. The video in question refers to footage apparently used by police to confirm who was where and when during the occupation of 75 River St.

Defense attorneys for Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, Gabriella Ripleyphipps, Franklin Alcantara, Desiree Foster and Brent Adams expressed similar frustration.

“If there are videotapes depicting the crimes taken by police and they haven’t been provided (to the defense,) it’s inexcusable,” Burdick said, growing increasingly exasperated. “We’re now eight months into this case. I’m inclined to dismiss it.”

Young said she had duplicated as many of the DVDs as she could but some were unable to be copied due to technological issues. Her office set up a YouTube channel for the raw footage, but some of the defense attorneys argued that the Internet wasn’t an appropriate way to hand over discovery.

Burdick said that at this point, it’s unlikely the court will proceed with a preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for Monday. Instead, he ordered an order to show cause hearing for Monday, in which the prosecution will have to show why all charges shouldn’t be dismissed because of failure to provide discovery.

“I’m really unhappy about this Ms. Young,” Burdick said. “It’s inexcusable.”

He ordered Young to compile an inventory of what evidence – and when – has been provided to the defense attorneys as well as the methodology of doing so.

Late Friday afternoon Young said she was working to upload all of the footage onto external hard drives for the defense attorneys.

Charges against four of the 11 people originally charged in the case – Bradley Allen, Alex Darocy, Grant Wilson and Edward Rector – previously were dismissed by Burdick.