Motion to disqualify judge denied in Santa Cruz bank takeover case

By Jessica M. Pasko
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 07/05/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A judge has denied a prosecutor’s motion for a new judge in the case of the takeover of a former Wells Fargo bank last year.

Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young had sought to disqualify Judge Paul Burdick from presiding over the cases of the five defendants whose preliminary hearings have not yet taken place. Burdick previously dismissed the charges against six of the 11 people initially charged in connection with the nearly-three-day occupation of 75 River St., a vacant former bank in downtown Santa Cruz.

Defense attorneys for Gabriella Ripleyphipps, Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, Brent Adams and Desiree Foster had objected to the motion to disqualify Burdick, calling it “untimely.”

Burdick sided with the defense and will remain the presiding judge for the preliminary hearing, which is set for Aug. 20. All five face felony counts of conspiracy and vandalism, as well as misdemeanor trespassing.

Those charges were dismissed earlier this year against Bradley Allen, Alex Darocy, Edward Rector, Grant Wilson, Franklin Alcantara and Cameron Laurendeau. Young later re-filed the charges against Laurendeau and Alcantara, and their new preliminary hearing will be heard by Judge Ariadne Symons later this month.

A group declaring themselves to be “acting anonymously and autonomously but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz” took over the building late last year with the announced intentions of turning it into a community center in protest of the banks’ role in the national economic downfall. Amid numerous police negotiations, the group left the building peacefully after close to 72 hours.