“The show must go on” and on and on and on.
Never failing to be surprising the Santa Cruz 11 case saw yet another interesting turn of events. With Judge Burdick still in place presiding over the case after the DA’s office attempt to recuse him, it seemed that the hearing on Tuesday would leave us with a new trail date. However the defense attorneys have been busy and filed a motion to recuse the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s office from the case based on bias stemming from DA Bob Lee’s financial relationship to the “victim” of the case Wells Fargo.
The motion casts doubt as to whether or not it is fair for the DA’s office to be hearing the case and delays the trial again as the motion is dealt with. It is likely that the DA’s office will request a specific hearing challenging the validity of the claim as it would look pretty darn bad on mister Bob Lee’s report card to have this claim on public record. Perhaps this move will motivate him to either get involved with the case and authorize a reasonable solution, or at the very least detach himself from the case and give prosecutor Greg Peinado the ability to move the case along.
Due to the lack of clarity as to who will be trying to the case in trial, a trial date was not set.
A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for August 27th where the motions will be heard. There was also an earlier date or two scheduled to address motions filed by individual attorneys. Besides the main recusal motion aforementioned there are numerous other motions on the table from the defense including a separate motion to recuse the DA’s office for their poor handling of the case.
Judge Burdick made a number of public remarks regarding his opinion and is clearly trying to find a way to end the case. He said it was “too old” and it was clearly in everyone’s best interest (the court, the defendants, the DAs office and the public) for a resolution to be found. He also said that the only way the four defendants could be help responsible for the total amount of alleged damages (above or around $20,000) would be if they were proven to be the leaders who directly enabled unnamed others to enter the building and subsequently damage it. Defense attorney Jesse Ruben responded by acknowledging that the Occupy movement from which this case comes from (Burdick actually called the case “the occupy case”) clearly identifies itself as leaderless.
The topic of restitution was a big one and the subject of at least one pending defense motion. The DA’s office argues that the total damages should be split between the four defendants while the defense attorneys site the police department’s estimate that there were 150-200 people involved and argue that the total should be divided by that number. The different being thousands or hundreds of dollars. Burdick seems somewhere in the middle. Attorneys and the Judge met off record to discuss a potential deal that would involve a misdemeanor plea, three years informal probation and a cap of restitution at $1,250 each. This has not been offered yet and it remains to be seen what, if any, deal defendants would take.
It is worth mentioning again how absurd this whole process is. Hundreds of people took over an unused and ostensibly empty bank building, occupied it for a few days then cleaned up and left peaceably. Wells Fargo, the most profitable bank in the US, hired out of town businesses to drive in from over the hill to clean up and encouraged them to boost their costs. They claim over $25,000 of damages. The City of Santa Cruz asked for public help to identify participants in the occupation and eventually charged 11 people with the four original offenses including felony conspiracy. Over two and half years later there are 4 defendants facing two charges and the tax payers of Santa Cruz have funded a case that has cost well over $100,000. The DA’s office has already been sanctioned for failing to follow court orders and now Bob Lee’s relationship to Wells Fargo casts clarity as to why things are where they are at.
Over and over we’ll say it. Enough is enough. DROP THE CHARGES!