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

Surprise move by Defense Attorneys – Post hearing update

 

“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.

drop-all-charges-now_2-11-14

Over and over we’ll say it. Enough is enough. DROP THE CHARGES!