UC Davis 3 Legal Finale
Hi, my name is Thimble, and I'm the third and last of the UC Davis 3 to speak out about our action there (I'm the one looking all intense in the photo). Thankfully our case is over, so this article is an update for those who want to know what happened.
[ Here's an earlier account by Port Orford: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/06/267234.shtml ]
When we were arrested for our action of civil disobedience on public property, they threw a felony at us (conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor) due to the "seriousness" of our action. We didn't realize as we headed to UC Davis that the university was in a different county (Yolo County) than Sacramento, and the DA in this county has a habit of giving out the most serious charges he possibly can to intimidate people into accepting plea deals. When we got out of jail on $10,000 bail, each (the fact that our suite of charges included a felony had a lot of punitive consequences, including an astronomical bail with no possibility of reduction or a release on our Own Recognizance - thanks to everyone who contributed to our legal defense fund), we left town in a hurry. A couple weeks later we came back for our Preliminary Hearing, only to have the bumped off in favor of a stack of Capital case hearings.
That morning, however, in the back rooms our lawyers (a Public Defender, a private Conflict Attorney appointed by the court, and an activist attorney from the Mobilization) talked over the case with the presiding judge and received an plea offer from the Assistant DA of: one misdemeanor of our choosing, a few hundred dollars restitution for the "fire department rescue", and two years of informal probation administered from California. Now, normally, this would seem to be a strikingly reasonable plea bargain, especially when considered against the array of charges before us. But the sheer arrogance of pursuing felony charges against protesters who offered to leave the scene and were actually placed under arrest before they were asked if they would or could leave the scene, made us feel like there was something distinctly wrong with the way things have worked in this county. One of us, a teacher at an alternative high school in Colorado, who had a lot of good work to go back to, decided to accept the plea bargain rather than risk losing his job and freedom of movement over this case. It was a decision reached with consensus that the other two of us would be sufficient to carry the case forward.
The Preliminary Hearing in California is apparently a rubber-stamp process by which the prosecution needs to provide merely a "scintilla of evidence" that a felony may have occurred. Over the next two weeks, our remaining court-appointed lawyers prepared an active defense for the prelim that would hopefully reduce or abolish the felony charge of conspiracy. It was hoped that the presiding judge would deliver a message to District Attorney that he was regularly overcharging cases to deprive people of their right to fair trial. Two weeks later, on July 25th, Port Orford and I (I named myself after the beautiful slow-growing and shade-dependent Pacific Yew tree for this action), the "hangers", finally got our Preliminary Hearing, which was weeks after California state law guarantees this hearing take place.
The prosecution (led by a different Assistant DA than the first time, one apparently more willing to follow the dictates of the Boss), got off to a shaky start. The police officers he examined were honest, and admitted that they never specifically told us to leave and didn't ask us if we were willing to come down until after we were put under arrest. They didn't ask for our police liasons who had been evicted from the building along with the rest of the protesters. The interview-and-cross-examination process went on for hours, and we had various tapes ready to show in our defense but we didn't end up needing them. In her ruling on the charges, the judge decided that there was no evidence that we had conspired to break any laws, which took out the felony. She held over the resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges, but decided that since we came down willingly after our u-locks were cut by the fire department, we hadn't acted to resist the firemen, and the DA never showed that we weren't employees or students at Davis, which took out the "resisting a peace officer" and trespassing misdemeanors, respectively.
We hadn't expect to have so many charges dropped at the preliminary hearing, and decided to accept the same plea bargain that our co-defendant had two weeks earlier, rather than continue coming 600 miles down to Davis for court appearances. Now we're doing work for Cascadia Summer outside of Eugene. I'm glad we had this action as a part of the Sacramento Mobilization, but we need to figure out how to take a more active stance against Genetically Modified Trees in the near future, before they get released on a widespread basis. It'll be interesting to see how the WTO meetings go in Cancun next month. Unfortunately, we have to deal with quotes from scientists that have been getting into the paper (UC Davis helpfully compiled some of them here http://www.dbs.ucdavis.edu/news/index.cfm under the June 25th headlines) in which the public is treated as too dumb or ignorant to guage the risks associated with genetic engineering and releasing these organisms into the wild. RedRed continues to face felony charges in Sacramento and can still use your help. [ http://biotechimc.org/or/2003/08/1473.shtml ]
I personally am going to spend some time figuring out how the simplest way to convert diesel engines to run on waste vegetable oil and starting a collective in Portland to propagate this technology. Write to me, or search for WVO on Portland Indymedia in the near future to find out how this is going.
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