The first batch of 78 protesters from among hundreds arrested for disorder over the last six weeks filed into New York State court, nearly all of them telling a judge that they were innocent and demanding a jury trial to clear their names.
Prosecutors had offered a deal in which protesters would see charges dismissed provided they kept out of trouble for six months. The mass refusal raised the prospect of protesters clogging up a court system that will be obliged to provide each defendant with a trial lasting approximately a day.
“There’s a general push,” said Joshua Lewis, 23, after rejecting the deal, known in legal terms as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or ACD.
“They were offering ACDs and the majority seems to be moving (to reject). I rejected it,” he said. “I’m entirely not guilty.”
Protesters in court said their refusal to take the deal was a matter of principle.
Victoria Sobel, 21, said she “pleaded not guilty because we are not guilty… It’s about personal accountability.”
And Martin Stolar, a lawyer representing about 15 protesters, said pushing the cases to trial showed that prosecutors could not intimidate the mostly young activists.
“To force someone to take an ACD in a case where they are factually innocent is unjust,” he said. “They thought they were on a legitimate, lawful protest march.”
Another lawyer representing more than a dozen protesters, David Rankin, said “a lot of people believe they did nothing wrong and they deserve a day in court.”
Both the lawyers said that from their groups only two people accepted the ACD deal.
The protesters are charged mostly with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Trials could start as early as January 9.
Anyone found guilty faces a maximum of 15 days behind bars, although the sentence would typically be no more than community service or a fine, lawyers said.
The thought of how far the human race would have advanced absent initiatory force
staggers the imagination.
THE POINT: Unlike the government thief, a common thief doesn't claim his "craft" is honest.
Lawyer-like dishonesty a point: The common thief is honest when he tells you he's robbing you.