Normally, when people arrested during protests show up for their court date they don’t get legal council or a trial. Judge Albrecht’s decision changes this. Why going to trial is important, says lawyers for Occupy, is that during protests police have long used arrests as a form of crowd control.
In February, following a motion filed by Occupy lawyer Bear Wilner-Nugent, Judge Albrecht decided that, yes, members of Occupy that received misdemeanors were entitled to legal council and a jury of their peers. To circumvent this decision, in March, the District Attorney’s office responded by dropping the majority of the misdemeanor charges. Occupy defendants were now told they were being charged with traffic violations, which would not be entitled to trial and council.
Lawyers for Occupy called foul on the DA, and filed a second motion requesting that the misdemeanor cases be reinstated. Judge Albrecht has yet to rule on this motion. And what happens next is a bit of a mystery.
“I’m pretty sure the charges are going to be dismissed,” says Occupy’s Cameron Whitten, who has four charges against him. “I think trying a bunch of activists for civil disobedience is nonsense. There’s no difference between what we did and what happened during the Boston Tea Party.” And there’s a good possibly that Whitten is right.
The DA could drop the charges instead of choosing to face Occupy in the courts.
Judge Albrecht is expected to rule on the latest motion filed by Occupy lawyers later today. But don’t expect a showdown anytime soon. Even if the judge rules that Occupy will have its day in court, lawyers say that day won’t come for at least another month.
After protesting in front of the courthouse, members of Occupy walked down to city hall to protest the reinstatement of Ron Frashour, the Portland police officer who was fired in November 2010 for shooting Aaron Campbell in the back.
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