Case Closed – A Certain Kind of Resolution

800_santa-cruz-eleven-3Today 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. brent on bench with folks court 7.14 circle after court in courthouse 7.14

Photos from court courtesy of Alex Darocy from https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/07/14/18774900.php

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Short Notice Court Date TOMORROW Tuesday 7/14!

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 7/14, at 8:15 am in Department 6 of the Santa Cruz Courthouse defense attorneys for the remaining 4 of the SC11 will be discussing possible pre-trial outcomes of the case with prosecutor Greg Peinado.

This is the first court date of the month that may prove to be a big one for the remaining defendants. With trial potentially starting in just two weeks, let’s show up in support! Just being there can really make a difference to those charged, especially as it has been years since the occupation that led to all of this. Court can be really isolating and uncomfortable, let’s make sure our friends know they are cared for!

This is also an opportunity to show the City that we are still paying attention and care about what is happening.

Tomorrow, there seems to be the possibility of attorneys coming to a pre-trial settlement (plea bargain or deal), or at least making steps in that direction. As of yet, Peinado has not offered anything to the defendants, and has often said he has to consult with his “higher ups” in before making or responding to offers of settlement. This is a continued practice after being criticized in court for coming to hearings without the power to do anything, therefor wasting the time of the judge and defense attorneys as well as tax payer money.

It seems that the defendants are preparing to go to trial while also being open to resolving the case beforehand if the City were to offer something they could agree to. The prosecution has pushed for a large restitution in this case and held on to the felony charges despite having the power to resolve this case by dropping or lowering the charges and restitution.

It has been a question throughout this case of where the motivation and power lie in the prosecution. Bob Lee and his ties to Wells Fargo were influential, but now he is no longer with us. Who is in charge? Who is asking for the continued prosecution and seeking of restitution? Is it Wells Fargo? Or City of Santa Cruz officials?

Regardless of the answers to these questions it is up to us to show each other that we care when the City and State repress activists and members of our community. It is up to us to find what is inspiring about this situation, or create that inspiration for ourselves.

See you tomorrow friends!suport banner on steps

Trial Approaches for the SC11! 

Friends and supporters, it is true. It seems likely that the remaining 4 members of the SC11 will be heading to trial later this month!

With a readiness hearing on July 22nd and Jury selection to start on the 27th, we will be gearing up awareness and support for the remaining 4. 

Help us spread the word about the court dates and keep and eye out for upcoming rallies and opportunities to come together.

Years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later let’s show we are still here supporting our community and urging the prosecution to drop the charges!!

8/27 A Rough Day In Court

As we approach 3 years of dealing with this case we had been hoping to see an end in the near future. Going in to today’s hearing many of us felt somewhat optimistic and curious to see how the defense attorneys’ motions would be heard. I write now with weight and frustration and some indignation.

Under Department 6’s new Judge, Stephen Seigel, SC11 defense attorney’s saw each of their motions denied and then were met with the reality that the soonest possible trial date for all parties is next July. With other cases, out of town trips, and prosecutor Greg Peinado going on paternity leave early next year, the next court date the remaining 4 have is trial readiness on July 22nd, 2015, with trial set to begin on the 27th. This will be over 3 and a half years after the occupation of 75 River St. 

There were a lot of things said in court and a more involved update will be written soon. There are a lot of things that feel wrong about this case and the length of time it is taking, the cumulative toll on the defendants as well as the cost to tax payers are sitting heavy today. 

If you are a friend to any of the defendants you may want to reach out and show some personal support. They may or may not specifically need or ask for it, and all the better to receive a gift when not in need. Our heads are high and our sights are on what feels right and true: the ending of this case; not forgetting that Wells Fargo is one of the most disgusting companies in this country and does not deserve money from our community; that Bob Lee is politically and economically motivated in this biased prosecution; that no matter what happens the courts and cops cannot touch out hearts. We will continue to support each other, to dream of better, healthier ways to live, and to try to put those dreams on the ground here in our lives and communities. heart moss

Come out in Support tomorrow in court!

Here we go again! The remaining defendants of the SC11 are back in court tomrrow, Wendesday morning at 9 am in Department 6 (though you may have heard 8:15am).

This hearing will focus on the defense motions against Bob Lee and the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s office accusing bias in this case. There are multiple motions for recusal arguing different perspectives. It seemed likely that a new trial date would be chosen depending on the outcome of the motions. All of this is exciting stuff is happening under a new Judge! Judge Stephen Siegel is now presiding over the SC11 case as the Santa Cruz County Court system underwent it’s usual Department shift (link to the Sentinel article about the hearing with Wells Fargo regarding Bob Lee’s finances). 

Judge Stephen Siegel

Judge Siegel is rumored to be good and if his first remarks regarding this case are a taste of what is to come, we can’t feel too bad for the change. We imagine Paul Burdick is happy to be rid of this mess.

Let’s show Judge Siegel the community is watching and show our friends they are not alone!

Join us on the 22nd as we Parade for the SC 11!

aug 27th parade2It’s that time again, time to come out and play! SC 11 Parade number 2!

August 22nd at 4pm meet us in the parking lot behind the Saturn Cafe as we Follow the Money from Wells Fargo to Bob Lee!

Dress in green and made up dollar costumes, wear your “I was in the building” shirts, bring noise makers and props, the more theatrical the better. We’ll have fliers to hand out as we play in the streets spreading the word about the case. Come show your support as we continue to call out DROP THE CHARGES!

DROP THE CHARGES! the joy of the parade!

https://www.facebook.com/SantaCruzEleven

Finding frustration and fighting fear

On August 27th the remaining SC11 defendants return to court as Judge Burdick hears evidence of DA Bob Lee’s financial connection to Wells Fargo and other arguments of bias against the DA’s office. We encourage signs and actions of support leading up to the 27th, and hope you will join us in court as the next phase of this drama unfolds.

The Santa Cruz 11 case is perhaps the only remaining large open case stemming from the Occupy movement. Almost three years after the original action the case is still without a set trial date and serious motions by Defense attorneys remain unaddressed. Questions that have plagued radical movements for decades sit with us as we wait.

What does justice look like? How do we create a healthier society through our actions? Do people care? Is this worth it? 

Spending even a little bit of time in a courthouse you get a picture of how the State uses a myriad of tactics to find quick and profitable outcomes to cases. Behind many options are the questions “Do you really want to put in the energy to see this case through? Wouldn’t it just be easier to end it now?” Innocence and evidence end up meaning less than the toll it takes to fight your charges or the fear of the State’s threats.

Listening to the judgments and deals made with District Attorneys you also get a sense of how much weight money gets in this “justice” system. Often enough if people just pay the fine offered by the DA the details of the charges, what happened and why, lose meaning. One almost hears the sound of a cash register as person after person is ordered to pay and then passed on to probation.

In the SC11 case we can’t help feeling frustrated that things are still unresolved. If you have not been in the position of awaiting trial, it is often an extremely debilitating experience. How can one plan one’s life when at some unknown point in the possibly near future they might have a trial that takes up all their time for weeks? How can one plan one’s life when they don’t know if they will be in jail, up to their neck in fines, or tied to court dates that are imposed by other peoples’ schedules? The psychological effects of our judicial system have been proven to be traumatizing and this is speaking only of the internal affects. The pressure to take a deal and to get things over with builds as time goes, and the public tends to forget any sense of “innocent until proven guilty” putting the blame for the drawn out case on defendants. It takes courage in our political and criminal climate to fight charges.

Viewed in a certain light our society is pervasively motivated by fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of difference. Fear of punishment. Fear of not belonging. Each interaction with law enforcement carries the threat of batons, tazers, guns, courts, jails, prison. It takes incredible integrity to remain true to oneself when faced with these threats. What would happen if we started giving each other space to stand without fear? What would happen if we could identify when we are afraid, communicate our vulnerability and from that place of connection seek resolution and actions that serve not just ourselves but differing communities? We hope that the Santa Cruz 11 case can be a source of inspiration and an opportunity to challenge ourselves to step out from behind our fear. We hope that it can be a part of us asking ourselves, does this makes sense? And if not, what can I do about it?

As most other Occupy cases are closed and as our County faces drought and other serious issues, the SC11 case just feels absurd. Hundred of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent by the City in efforts of saving face and making Wells Fargo some pocket change all the while keeping our community members in this place of waiting. The DA’s office has been unwilling to budge from the over $25,000 restitution amount even when their own police department estimates that over 150 people were involved in the occupation of 75 River. Is this about “right and wrong”? About money? Or about power? The relationship between money and power is clear in the courthouse and in City Hall with Wells Fargo as a perfect example of how prioritization is given to certain economic positions. Recently news of the bank’s policy of forging foreclosure documents has been made public and while court proceedings regarding those actions are underway Wells Fargo is still evicting people and profiting as the most successful bank in this country.

We who live in Sanatural-bridges-beachnta Cruz are responsible for creating the culture we live in. We can remain strangers and potential criminals to each other, or we can live in good faith and see each other’s struggles as our own. We must make up our own minds about what makes sense, and listen to our own hearts about what feels right. May we live connected to the land we live on, to the people we live with and to ourselves and our truths.

Yours in commitment to the hard work,

Friends of the Santa Cruz 11