Chelsea Gerlach Preliminary Hearing Notes, 12/13/05
[Please forgive the sloppiness of this report... I wanted to get it out as accurately and quickly as possible, so... sorry for legal gobbledy-gook]
Just got back from the preliminary hearing for Chelsea Gerlach related to charges from 2 incidents : The Bonneville Tower in Bend, OR and arson at Childers Meat Co, both in 1999.
This was not an arraignment, as Chelsea has already plead not guilty on all charges at an arraignment last week (and since the charges weren't read today, I don't know what they are). This hearing dealt with her detention pending trial.
Chelsea's Federal public defender (I'm sorry I didn't get his name) cross-examined a federal agent, Paul Caldwell (agency unknown), based on a sworn affadavit previously submitted to the court. Caldwell testified that a confidential informant (referred to as CS1) had admitted to involvement at the Childer's Meat Company arson, and stated that someone going as "Country Girl" had acted as lookout with a handheld radio. Defense counsel asked Caldwell, "Has the Government made any promises to CS1 in exchange for info?" Caldwell replied that he was "not aware of the specifics".
Caldwell, in response to another question, made mention of another informant, CS2, who had been charged with a crime and had given information to the feds within the last week.
The US Attorney argued that Chelsea should remain in detention pending trial then reeled off an unsubstantiated laundry list of actions the Government "believes she was involved in", including arson at UW Horticulture building, arson of the Vail, Colorado ski resort, Jefferson Poplar, and an arson in Monmouth, OR. He then went on to describe Chelsea as a flight risk due to her "extensive connections with underground networks worldwide". As examples, he mentioned Tre Arrow's flight to Canada, Josephine Overaker's "unwillingness to face the charges against her", and Chelsea's alleged friendship with Daniel McGowan.
Chelsea's Federal Defender made artful arguements in favor of her release until trial based on her strong ties to the Southern Willamette Valley and the support of her family (who were all present). He urged the judge not to consider the unsubstantiated allegations thrown out by the US Atty. with no sources or evidence presented. He pointed out that even though Chelsea was indicted by a Federal grand jury Dec. 3rd of 2004, she had not fled, and that if Feds had a warrant for her arrest, they could easily have picked her up at any time, as she had made no attempt to hide her whereabouts. He also suggested that Chelsea could be electronically monitored and be released to live with her father.
Judge Thomas Coffin ruled that she be held until trial due to "the severity of the charges". He stated that the grand jury intends to present two more cases this week for indictment, and said he'd been advised that the grand jury was considering the Vail, Colorado case. A court hearing was set for Monday, Dec. 19 at 1:30 pm to set a trial date and to arraign any added charges presented by grand jury this week.
The US Atty. stated that the investigations into other actions the Gov. believes Chelsea to be involved in will be concluded within the next six months.
Chelsea has stated that she is innocent on all charges. She considers herself an environmental activist, and believes in non-violence.