Regarding the trespass charge, it was selectively enforced and seemed to be done as a political sop to anti-Occupy authoritarians as well as a form of SCPD face-saving. Plus it seemed a pretty convenient opportunity to go after activists long-publicly critical of police misconduct and alternative media whistleblowers. If there was a real concern about “trespass”, it should have been a timely bust, done within 24 hours of the occupation and uniformly applied to everyone there. Clearly this was a combination of tokenism, scapegoating, and intimidation against other direct action critics of Wells Fargo and large corporate criminals.
Free speech and free assembly considerations also play a significant role–not to mention the community reality that the building was long-vacant (and has remained so). Prosecutions in a dozen other cities have led to acquittals or been dropped for similar occupations. First Amendment protections are an explicit part of the 602 trespass statute which were ignored (by both prosecution and defense).
In terms of harm-reduction, the vacant bank could have provided shelter for a population that has a far higher death rate than the terrified mob that shows up at City Council ranting about needles, drug addicts, the homeless, and “crime”.
Regarding the “felony vandalism” charge, prosecution witnesses agreed there was zero evidence of explicit documented vandalism by any of the four (not to mention the eleven originally charged). Nor were any vandals identified.
The discredited assistant D.A. pursuing this case (Rebekah Young) was already sanctioned $500 for repeatedly violating court orders and keeping evidence from the defense.
To justify this prosecution, Young presented a tenuous torturous “aiding and abetting theory” which suggested “aiding and abetting the trespass” meant that the “natural and probable” vandalism consequences made the defendants responsible for $23,000 in vandalism and subject to 4 years in prison.
Previous occupations in Santa Cruz (such as that of the Heiner House in 1992, or the Campbell St. House in 1996, have never led to felony charges (there were originally two felonies and two misdemeanors charged). The current form of judicial terrorism against activists does further damage to a First Amendment already diced and shredded by the Obama/Bush demolition team.