Judge Dismisses Three of Seven Bank Protesters of All Charges, Fines DA's Office
Judge P. Burdick also imposed a monetary sanction of $500 on the District Attorney's office—the first time he's ever had to do so—for violations in turning over evidence and other errors.
Desiree Foster, Becky Johnson and Robert Norse were the three defendants discharged on all counts against them, because Judge Burdick found evidence "insufficient" in placing these three at the scene of 75 River Street after the first day, and after police allegedly told them to leave.
The DA's Office does have the power to re-submit these charges for those three dismissed, according to Alexis Briggs, lawyer for Cameron Laurendeau.
Judge Burdick also threw out the felony trespassing charge for all seven defendants, for lack of direct evidence.
"This, to all appearances seems to be a spontaneous entry into the building after the front door was opened with a key," said Judge Burdick.
"Consequently, considering all of the circumstances as it relates to all of the charges, I can't even infer that there was an agreement to commit a trespass crime, that there was an agreement to go into that building and occupy it and stay there even after law enforcement showed up with an agent of the bank and ordered persons to leave, so I'm not going to hold count one, the conspiracy charge against any of the defendants," he said.
"I do not want this case to linger, we're going to move this one along," said Judge Burdick, and set their arraignment for Jan. 22 at 8:15 a.m.
The defense remains optimistic
"There's a number of layers where you can challenge this holding order, so we are far from done with dealing with what the evidence presented in this preliminary hearing actually shows and what the law supports. But what is clear is that the district attorney's theory of the case utterly failed today in trying to charge a conspiracy," said Alexis Briggs.
After the Judge's findings had been read, defendants and supporters embraced outside of the courtroom.
Becky Johnson, one of the lucky three, is excited to finally return to a classroom, since pending felony charges had gotten in the way of her teaching credentials.
Franklin Alcantara, defendant, is confident in his innocence, despite the holding order which requires him to reappear.
"I'm still feeling very confident that we will triumph over these charges, I know that I didn't have any involvement in these charges against me. I was just curious as to what was going on as well as up to 300 other people were there for whatever. I know in my heart that I'm innocent so I feel confident," said Alcantara.
"We were confronted by a large number of officers in riot gear that were very threatening and intimidating. I had witnessed them hitting an individual with a baton, and I had realized that there was a video camera and someone had repositioned it to face the ceiling, so what I did was position it back to it's original position to videotape anything that was occurring because I was concerned for my well being," said Alcantara.
Ripley-Phipps and Adams both declined comment. Of the vandalism charges, Lisa McCamey, representing Adams, said, "He's just not responsible, as a direct perpetrator or as an aider or abettor."
Previous testimony by Sgt. Harms alleged Adams moving furniture against the doors of the bank building.
Alexis Briggs later commented on the sanctioning of the District Attorney's office, saying that District Attorney Rebekah Young had made several mistakes.
"There's been a number of improper things done and I believe that those are the result of being overburdened by Bob Lee and the number of cases that they're filing, and the number of cases that they're requiring their district attorneys to handle," said Briggs. "He's been shown on video indicating that filing this case doesn't cost his office any more money because he pays the same salary regardless of the number of cases his district attorneys are required to handle, and when they're overburdened, they start to make mistakes. And that's what we're seeing here."
Related Topics: Santa Cruz 11 and occupy santa cruz