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Thursday Jan 10th, 2013 5:50 AM
At a preliminary hearing on January 8, holds were removed on three community members who were charged in association with the 75 River bank occupation in Santa Cruz. All of the charges against Desiree Foster, Robert Norse, and Becky Johnson have been effectively dismissed by Santa Cruz Judge Paul P. Burdick. Charges still remain in effect for four defendants, Brent Adams, Franklin “Angel” Alcantara, Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, and Cameron Laurendeau, and Burdick removed conspiracy from the counts they face. Their arraignment date was set for January 22 in Santa Cruz. Additionally, the judge sanctioned District Attorney Rebekah Young with a $500 fine for the violation of a discovery order, saying that he had never imposed a sanction like this on the District Attorney’s office before. [Photo: After the hearing concluded.]
The judge began by stating that he had found that the evidence showed that the authority to remove demonstrators from the building wasn’t given by Wells Fargo until 6 or 6:30 pm on November 1, and the warnings and “no trespassing” fliers weren’t posted on the building by the police until December 1.The judge stated that the evidence further showed that Foster, Johnson, and Norse were not observed on the premises after 6:30 pm, meaning they were not “given notice” that they were trespassing, which is a requirement of the section of the code they were being charged with, 602(o). 602(o) also requires a refusal to leave after having been given notice.
In the absence of these requirements, the judge asked what evidence the prosecution had for conspiracy.”Conspiracy can be shown by conduct,” Young said, and she gave an example of police testimony that stated Desiree Foster was seen in front of the bank, “waving people in.”The judge responded by citing a 1990 ruling which found that for crimes which have been alleged to have occurred during free speech assemblies, “something more than circumstantial evidence” is required to prove conspiracy.
Judge Burdick stated that the occupation of the bank at 75 River appeared to be a “spontaneous occupation” after the doorway was opened with a key, and that it wasn’t shown that there was an agreement made to commit a crime. He then stated that he wasn’t going to hold any of the defendants on the conspiracy count.
Community members first entered the vacant bank building located at 75 River Street in Santa Cruz after a march to it and other banks on November 30, 2011, which was during the height of the national occupy movement. The march to 75 River Street was promoted as a march to a “foreclosed property” and initially the address of the location was not given out by the organizers. Some of those involved said they wanted to turn the large building, which had been vacant for more than two years at the time, into a community center.
The space, which is leased by Wells Fargo from the owner Barry Swenson, was eventually abandoned by the demonstrators on December 2, but some damage was left as a result of the occupation, and the estimated costs to repair it justified felony charges in the eyes of the District Attorney’s office.
In February of 2012, Eleven people were charged in association with the occupation, and charges against them included felony conspiracy to commit vandalism and/or trespass, felony vandalism, misdemeanor trespass by entering and occupying, and misdemeanor trespass by refusing to leave private property.
Preliminary hearings began in February for all eleven individuals, and charges were dismissed against Ed Rector and Grant Wilson by Judge Burdick in April of 2012, and Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy, both Indybay journalists, had the charges against them dismissed also by Burdick in May of 2012.
The remaining four defendants now have two weeks until their arraignment on counts which have been reduced to misdemeanor trespass (602(o)), and felony vandalism, which the judge found was a “natural and probable outcome” of the trespass (the so-called aiding and abetting legal theory).
“I do not want this case to linger,” Judge Burdick stated.
The final matter dealt with at the preliminary hearing was the sanction against DA Young.
“I do not believe DA Young was acting in bad faith,” Judge Burdick stated, but he added that there was no “substantial justification,” for her non-compliance with discovery orders given in 2012.
The judge found that her actions had caused a six month delay in the preliminary hearings, and defense attorneys pointed out that the “consequences to defendants were great.”
Two defendants had to sleep in their cars as a result of the delays, one defendant missed a family member’s funeral, and a variety of other serious life-impacts were described.
Defense attorneys wanted the fine increased to $1500, but Judge Burdick left it at $500 to cover “clerk’s expenses,” and the defense attorneys weren’t compensated in any way for the extra time they put in.
The arraignment for defendants Brent Adams, Franklin “Angel” Alcantara, Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, and Cameron Laurendeau is set for January 22 at 8:15.
For more information about those charged, see:
Thursday Jan 10th, 2013 1:07 PM
Burdick’s theory was a strange one. He held that evidence that the four remaining defendants were guilty of misdemeanor”trespass after being warned to leave” (PC 602o) justified holding them for “felony vandalism”.
This, even though no evidence was presented by the D.A. after 11 months that any of them vandalized.
Burdick claimed that it was a “natural and probable outcome” of four people who had allegedly been told to leave and then refused to do so. How so?
The argument, if you credit it at all, in this kind of peaceful First Amendment protest, goes better with the charge that Burdick dropped for all the defendants–602M, trespass to occupy. If proved, I suppose, it might by this tortured “aiding and abetting” argument link someone “occupying” with the damage done by someone else at some other time–since it was an “occupation”. Burdick, however, dropped these charges.
But failure to leave at one point is clearly unrelated to vandalism committed by parties unknown sometime in the three day period.
As a spontaneous First Amendment demonstration, there might have been dozens of people willing to openly acknowledge and face “trespass” charges in court for a peaceful brief occupation of a 3 1/2 year vacant bank building as a matter of principle–however Bob Lee, burnishing his “law ‘n order” image came back with these absurd felony conspiracy and vandalism charges. But the charges were unnecessary to begin with, because everyone left the building–peacefully.
The action, as I understood it, was taken to expose Wells Fargo and challenge the waste of vacant building space and need for a community center and homeless shelter here in Santa Cruz. These are simply facts which few dispute.
INFLATED CHARGES MARCH ON
But D.A. Lee inflated the charges with felony conspiracy and felony vandalism, presenting no evidence of either conspiracy or vandalism (by the people specifically charged). Some might suggest this shows shoddy police and D.A. work since police had the option to enter the bank and ID/detain/cite/arrest the people inside at any time during the three days. Particularly after the large crowd of people outside the bank on November 30th had dispersed. Or send in undercover cops to document the real perpetrators of vandalism.
Instead police chose to selectively target and then forward some of their least-favorite activists for prosecution to the D.A., ignoring numerous others, claiming they “couldn’t identify” anyone else. And the D.A. chose to prosecute some of those least-favorite activists, ignoring some (including former Mayor Beiers whom the police had recommended for prosecution).
The whining and abusive accusations of Deputy-Chief Steve Clark denouncing Burdick seem an additional pit of clueless cacophony in this ongoing circus. Or a self-serving commotion to distract from his own department’s bad decisions. See http://www.kionrightnow.com/story/20548286/police-das-office-respond-to-charges-dropped-for-3-bank-protesters.
Once set in motion, the prosecutorial juggernaut was supposed to roll on, I guess- regardless of how crappy Clark’s SCPD work was. The whole scene gives the impression of a political prosecution arranged to save the face of the SCPD, assist in intimidating the (already dispersed) Occupy Santa Cruz movement, and provide a kind of “show trial” for political activists in the to show how “tough” on direct action First Amendment activity the SCPD and their pals in Bob Lee’s office could be. Allcosting far far more than the supposed damages in the building.
SCPD LOOKS FOR SCAPEGOATS FOR ITS OWN BAD CHOICES
At the time, I thought that Chief Vogel made a good decision not to continue the violent assault of the SCPD in front of the building which they began (and were ready to reinforce with chemical weaponry, according to court testimony). However those who cooperated with the SCPD to help a “peaceful exit”, were ultimately punished for their good deeds and face prison time now. Even though the actual evidence presented by police and prosecution do not add up to the elements of the two crimes–something that will hopefully be shown at trial if these charges survive a Motion to Dismiss, coming up after the Arraignments later this month.
Finally, Bob Lee assigns one inexperienced relatively clueless assistant D.A. to face eleven defense lawyers. Given that she got endless support from judges along the way, who ok-ed time and time again on her failure to provide requested evidence, perhaps D.A. Bob Lee felt she didn’t need additional help. But if he were really serious, I’d have thought he’d provided her with additional back-up once her cases were dismissed one after another.
The fact that he did not further indicates this is some kind of token effort, perhaps undertaken out of concern for impoverished banksters in town? Or done to appease rising right-wing forces before the November election? Who knows?
THE REAL ISSUES
All charges needed to be dropped. Real sanctions not just token ones need to be pressed against Rebekah Young, even if that means formal complaints to the Bar Association with real consequences. Civil lawsuits need to be filed against the authorities who masterminded this life-consuming ordeal of the last year. New standards for police and prosecutorial behavior need to be established to restore the First Amendment here in Santa Cruz and lift the fear that has hovered over the activist community.
Empty buildings are the crime. Freezing weather is the reality. Foreclosure is the continuing threat. And the real criminals are at large and in power.
Thursday Jan 10th, 2013 2:14 PM
So goes the Empire in the hologram of Usury.
Compassionate Judge Burdick? Or perhaps attempting even-handedness? At any rate, Burdick went on to note how rarely a judge actually invokes Ssnction orders. Culminating with, “In fact I have never done this before.” Then Judge Burdick seemed to reassert the authority of his own Black Robes and the real moment we all shared in his courtroom, and promised the trial would be fast and on track.
I believe that the sanctions are even more significant as part of the Santa Cruz Eleven story BECAUSE the judge was bent on keeping his “punishment” or fine with the confines of the pretrial. I lately consider what we’ve learned of impacts between Homeland Security, the FBI and Wall Street money crooks amplifying some sort of Shadow Government running amok. So it is refreshing to see this judge reassert his authority. I wish him the luck of Solomon.
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 6:28 AM
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 7:47 AM
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 9:28 AM
A police officer testified to expectations of hostility, aggression, a superbowl-like atmosphere, that vandalism was inevitable. I wonder locally what events he based that on, what crowds, what rallies, what demonstrations at the Town Clock that turned negative. Even trained observers can see what they expect to see. Disorder was expected; police arrived in riot gear and had tear gas on call. Local activists were expected; police identified and charged one person who was only on the grass. The judge believes vandalism is a ‘natural and inevitable consequence’ of trespass.
Social change is about changing the historic consequences, setting new expectations and results. The police looked at the bandanna masks and saw attempts to evade identification. I saw the bandannas as symbols of cohesion and support, like the pink ribbons, yellow ribbons, other cause identifiers. Law enforcement seems to be looking for leaders, individuals to blame and punish — a leaderless group doesn’t fit the structure: the success or blame goes to the project.
There had been federally orchestrated enforcement and suppression – this lens created the view. Santa Cruz Police Department was compliant. – they found what it expected and helped create it.
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 5:58 PM
The D.A., SCPD, and media swooped down on a peaceful protest designed to bring attention to the officially-tolerated (indeed government-funded) bankster frauds of Wells Fargo. Rather than developing a strategy for reining in the Wells Fargo criminals whose crimes created damages exponentially greater than any vandalism that happened at the vacant bank.
There was no evidence presented any time during the last eleven months (at endless court appearances) that any of the defendants (including the for still being held for trial) had anything to do with the vandalism. Additionally, based on my understanding of the events, I would say that these defendants had nothing to do with the graffiti and damage that occurred. Ironically the evidence presented by the D.A. shows that several of those charged went to some lenghs at personal risk to encourage a peaceful outcome to the whole situation–successfully. No good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes.
The legalistic noose by which assistant D.A. Young now tries to hang the remaining four of the Santa Cruz Eleven is an absurd legal theory that defines common sense. It runs like this. If they “trespassed” in the bank at any time, then the “necessary and probably consequence” of that “trespass” was to “aid and abet” anonymous identified vandals–even if the defendants never knew them or their actions, entered and left before they arrived, etc.
Further, Young by no means presented any persuasive evidence that the four even trespassed. The definition of 602o requires not just that you be seen in the building by a police officer, but that you be told by the owner’s agent to leave and then refuse to do so. If that’s not proven, Young’s crazy “aiding and abetting”felony vandalism charges (punishable by three years in prison) get flushed away. Her only “evidence of vandalism” is the claimt hat the remaining defendants were illegally there and that their mere presence magically “aided and abetted”.
Why would Burdick buy such a farfetched theory? He said at an earlier Preliminary Hearing he was very upset at the vandalism apparently wanted someone to pay for the damage. Apparently anyone present will do. He may also have felt sufficient political pressure that required him to scapegoat someone responsible for the exorbitant charges that Wells Fargo claimed they paid in the clean-up–business given to out-of-county companies when presumably cheaper local business were available.
Police couldn’t or didn’t bother to actually document and identify real vandals on the scene and make arrests there–even for trespass. They could have done this without risk to the officers or the people in the building after the first night. But without real suspects, Burdick is stuck with the people the police forwarded–who also largely happen to be high-profile activists whose political actions they dislike. So Burdick holds four for arraignment and trial.
After that January 22nd arraignment (for 3 of the 3), there’ll doubtless be a Motion to Dismiss. A similar motion ended the court nightmare for two earlier defendants (reporters Bradley Allen and Alex Darocy) earlier this year. The dismissal motion will be heard before another judge. Before the community dares to hope, remember that this is a well-oiled, politically-biased judiciary. don’t count on any sense of justice burrowing its way through D.A. Bob Lee’s year-long and mile-high mound of crap.
Young’s claim that she came up with “new evidence”, for example, is another lie (among many she’s told the court). The testimony of Sgt. Harms was not new, but was available when she screwed up the first Prelminary Hearing against Alcantara and Laurendau by having Detective Gunter contradict himself on the stand about so simple an issue as what day he was there. That should have been the end of the case there, along with strong sanctions for her withholding evidence and lying about it to the defense and the court.
Instead, Judge Burdick apparently believing it was Be Kind to Incompetent D.A.’s Week let her drag the case on for another nine months–and now for god knows how many months into 2013.
I’ve let myself spend far too much time writing about this phony case. I can’t seem to help myself.
We must return to the original focus: justice and equity. Don’t let the police and prosecution terorize us into finding real and immediate answers to far more important questions.
How do we address survival threats against the homeless community (who face freezing temperatures, shelter for less than 10% of them, and official harassment under the Sleeping and Camping Bans)?
How do we end the wellp-financed foreclosure fraud menace of Wells Fargo and its bankster buds?
Empty buildings and obscene profits are the crime. Those who waste time and money harassing the taxpayers are the criminals
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 7:26 PM
Friday Jan 11th, 2013 11:41 PM
I advise the Santa Cruz Eleven to shop for good attorneys ASAP. Remember to file tort claims against the City and County within 90 days of the dismissal of your cases to preserve your rights to sue City and County government.
Saturday Jan 12th, 2013 12:07 PM
Saturday Jan 12th, 2013 2:14 PM
Sunday Jan 13th, 2013 3:16 AM
Thus Bob Lee and Rebekah Young thought they could misbehave with impunity.
However they are subject to administrative complaints filed with the California and American Bar Associations. They can be fined. Their bar licenses can suspended or taken away.
Yet I think the more effective route is to file color of law complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the FBI. The USDOJ and FBI have far ranging powers to obtain evidence, interview witnesses and use other means to pursue their investigations. The USDOJ and FBI can apply both civil and criminal sanctions.
I recommend filing bar complaints — it can’t hurt — and filing color of law complaints too. Bob Lee and Rebekah Young must be held accountable. They cannot walk away thinking they are above the law. Asserting your rights protects the rights of those who come behind you. Ensure Bob Lee and Rebekah Young are never able to persecute obviously innocent citizens.
Bob Lee and Rebekah Young believe they are above the law. That’s why they were so arrogant. They cannot not walk away without consequences. That would truly be a crime.
Sunday Jan 13th, 2013 6:26 PM
Sunday Jan 13th, 2013 10:05 PM
To quote from the FBI website:
Title 42, U.S.C., Section 14141 makes it unlawful for state or local law enforcement agencies to allow officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or U.S. laws. This law, commonly referred to as the Police Misconduct Statute, gives the Department of Justice authority to seek civil remedies in cases where law enforcement agencies have policies or practices that foster a pattern of misconduct by employees. This action is directed against an agency, not against individual officers. The types of issues which may initiate a pattern and practice investigation include:
Lack of supervision/monitoring of officers’ actions;
Lack of justification or reporting by officers on incidents involving the use of force;
Lack of, or improper training of, officers; and
Citizen complaint processes that treat complainants as adversaries.
Under Title 42, U.S.C., Section 1997, the Department of Justice has the ability to initiate civil actions against mental hospitals, retardation facilities, jails, prisons, nursing homes, and juvenile detention facilities when there are allegations of systemic derivations of the constitutional rights of institutionalized persons.”
Monday Jan 14th, 2013 5:50 AM
Monday Jan 14th, 2013 10:44 AM
Monday Jan 14th, 2013 1:40 PM
Monday Jan 14th, 2013 1:52 PM
“A District Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer for the county in which he/she is elected.”
“By law, the district attorney is the chief law enforcement officer in the county.”
Monday Jan 14th, 2013 2:58 PM
Someone say hey to Angel for me. There in spirit.