Today three of the the remaining Santa Cruz Eleven defendants agreed to a plea deal with the prosecution, and it is likely the last remaining member of the group will follow suit at his hearing this coming Wednesday, bringing to a close the case that has been slowly moving along since 2011.
In front of Judge Siegel in the Santa Cruz Courthouse today Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, and Brent Adams, as well as Angel Alcantara through his attorney entered pleas of “no contest” to a charge of misdemeanor trespass. They waived time for sentencing and were each sentenced to:
- pay $1,500 in restitution to Wells Fargo
- pay $220 in court fines (minus any credits for time served)
- serve 18 months formal probation – to be reduced to informal probation upon full payment of restitution
- serve 100 hours of community service with any non-profit/community organization without having to report to/through the Community Options office
- stay away from 75 River St (unless it officially becomes a Community Resource Center
- costs associated with probation were waived
- the felony vandalism charge was dropped
They were not assigned any further court date and were given 5 days to report to the probation office. Angel was given a longer period to report as he was not present in court, having not been on the official court calendar he authorized his lawyer to enter his plea on his behalf.
Financial support is being called for and supporters are planning fundraisers to ease the burden of restitution for the defendants. It is a perpetuation of State and Law based logic to hold these individuals soley (or even jointly) accountable for the arbitrary sum of money imposed on them as restitution. What would it be like to feel that burden as our own as radicals, activists, and community members striving for a different way of living?
The City originally offered a deal of $2000 in restitution, plus fines and 3 years formal probation. After a few hours of negotiating defense attorneys came to Gabriella and Brent with the lowered offer. Defendants discussed with their lawyers, each other and friends and eventually agreed to the terms.
Lots of factors were considered in those discussions. Nobody felt good about giving any money to Wells Fargo. In fact many of us asked each other and ourselves why that money needed to be paid at all. Where will it actually go? Why, after arguing for months for a restitution amount of around $26,000, did the City and Wells Fargo finally decide $6,000 was enough? Does this have anything to do with actual costs incurred in the occupation or is it simply punitive or symbolic?
The impact of trial and the risks involved were also taken into consideration. How would a trial lasting up to 6 weeks impact the community here? The defendants were ready for trial, and understood that could end with them having felonies and a larger restitution and were still ready. How could this end in a way that feels good for everyone? Was that even possible? The costs in energy, attention and funds of the trial were a real consideration. As were the needs of the different co-defendants. It was a lot to consider and it is likely that no one feels whole-heartedly good about the resolution. After all this whole affair was a tool of the State to derail conversations about class, houselessness, inequality, and community power.
Let’s all hold the courage of the defendants in our hearts, and let it spread to all the folks that deal with the courts, cops, dehumanizing laws every day.
It might seem like this case did not have very high stakes, and maybe it didn’t compared to others with decades long potential sentences and hundred of thousands of dollars in fines, and yet the negative impact on real lives has been felt. Many of us have talked about and looked at other struggles for inspiration and opportunities for solidarity. The City of Santa Cruz has been slowly increasing Police presence, increasing surveillance, and implementing stricter laws. The predominantly white and wealthy business/property owning population are raising the cost of rent, and living here. This has left many marginalized people in even more precarious positions. For those of us who see this happening, how do we struggle together to live in right relationship with each other and our dreams? One thing is to honor everyone who is trying.
The case of the Santa Cruz Eleven stemmed from an occupation of a downtown bank building that was given the dream and intention of becoming a real asset to the community. The attempt to turn an unused Wells Fargo property into a community center touches on the kind of change that might actually have rippling impacts in our lives. This is the spirit underneath the struggle in this case, and the power we walk with into our next projects.
Photos from court courtesy of Alex Darocy from https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/07/14/18774900.php