Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lermaster Lodging 647(e) Trial: Many Supporters, Santa Cruz

'Sleep Crime' Defendant Gets Community Service 

by Brad Kava, December 7, 2012 


In a courtroom packed with supporters, Linda Lemaster got 59 hours of community service after being arrested for illegally camping at the courthouse. Her attorney said that was ironic, since much of her life is devoted to community service.
Linda Lemaster and supporters Thursday at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse.
A Santa Cruz woman who was convicted of trespassing for sleeping out on the courthouse steps in protest of laws against doing so, was given community service Thursday instead of jail time.

The Santa Cruz courtroom was packed with supporters for Linda Lemaster's sentencing and a petition signed by 85 people was given to Judge Rebecca Connolly. The judge was sympathetic toward Lemaster's protest, saying she understood that Lemaster was "important to the Santa Cruz community."


"There are consequences," Connolly said of the civil disobedience, a misdemeanor punishable by as much as six months in jail. Connolly added that Lemaster's First Amendment rights were used to get attention from the media and homeless supporters.

Lemaster argued that she was on the steps to support a sick homeless man who was also sleeping out in what had been a three-month long occupation called "Peace Camp" in 2010.


A jury found her guilty of violating a law against camping any property without the owner's consent, including county property, a law that some homeless advocates say denies their basic rights.
Even prosecutor Alex Byers was sympathetic, although he asked the judge to give Lemaster 40 hours of community service and three years probation. "She's a very nice person," he said.

The judge fined Lemaster $590, which she said could be worked off in 59 hours of community service.

Lemaster's attorney, Jonathan Che Gettleman, asked the judge to lower the probation to six months and hold off on the sentence until it could be appealed. He said Lemaster didn't even have the money to pay the service fees for administering the community service sentence.

Supporters passed a hat around in the courtroom filling it with bills to help Lemaster.

"There's a bigger problem and it's important to me that we all become aware of it," Lemaster told the judge. "Even elemental needs are denied them (the homeless)."

Afterwards they celebrated outside the courthouse, claiming a victory for pointing out the plight of the 2,800 homeless people in the county who have only about 400 shelter beds during the winter.

They also said they hoped this focused attention on First Amendment rights to congregate or protest.
Related Topics: linda lemaster and sleep crime
Should the law be changed to allow people to camp out on county property or sleep in their cars? 

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