Monday, August 20, 2012

Santa Cruz Eleven brace for a long, dirty fight

 Occupy Santa Cruz and the supporters of the Santa Cruz Eleven met on Seabright Beach August 19th, 2012 for a beach bonfire, cook-out, and peaceful gathering on the eve of a momentous court hearing. Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
August 20, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Sunday had been upbeat. Defendants and their supporters met on Seabright Beach for a bonfire and cookout. Anyone strolling down the beach would see what looked like a relaxed, peaceful gathering of beach-goers -- as all-American as apple pie. Few would guess it was a gathering of eleven people charged with felonies and their supporters fitting in one beach cookout on the eve of what all hoped would be a long-awaited dismissal of specious charges.

However, Monday morning in Judge Burdick's court that was not to be.

This wasn't to be the long postponed preliminary hearing. Burdick had cancelled that on Friday. Instead, assistant DA Rebekah Young appeared in court with DA Jeff Roselle and DA David Sherman. Over the weekend, the three had worked to create an evidence list of 13 videos, over 600 photos, a copy of the lease, and the police reports. They purchased 7 hard drives for the seven lawyers representing the seven remaining defendants, including the author. It must be nice to have an unlimited budget.


Young was also able to deliver via e-mail the billing sheets for damage alleged to be caused by defendants.

One look at them confirmed why Young had dragged her heels on releasing the documentation for the "vandalism." Billing sheets had outrageous amounts billed with few details as to what services had been rendered totaling over $25,000. And not a single contractor from Santa Cruz County was hired.

For instance, Wells Fargo manager, Alicia Bucher hired a San Leandro firm to remove furniture damaged beyond repair. The cost? $6,545.41.

Last December, when the SCPD had shut off power and water to the building, protestors had made a make-shift bathroom in a utility closet. The cost to " remove biohazard" was $6,222.83! The shit heard 'round the world?

Bucher hired a Richmond firm to "detail clean" the property. Protestors report the building was far from pristine when they first entered the building, not having had a tenant for 3 1/2 years, or seen an agent showing it to a potential client in months. The bill? $2,988.00.

She hired a locksmith in Foster City to rekey the building. While protestors used a key to enter the front door, and presumably only had access to the external doors, Bucher opted to have every lock and key replaced in the entire building and at after hours costs totaling $2,430.19.

Despite each and every billing sheet appearing to be padded to the maximum, there was no billing sheet for the graffiti on the air conditioning ducts on the roof of 75 River Street. This is surprising because this was the only damage for which photographic evidence exists. In over 600 police photos turned over to defense attorneys, no other vandalism has been documented.

There are no police photos of any "bio-hazard." No "broken furniture." No before and after photos after $2,988.00 worth of cleaning had been completed. No evidence any locks other than those the stolen key fit needed to be replaced. And why did the locksmith ONLY work after midnight?

This is a ridiculously padded account done to foster the claim protestors were out of control vandals rather than concerned activists trying to highlight the waste and blight left in Wells Fargo's wake for leaving that building empty so long.

Defendants are also being asked to pay for the external fencing which Wells Fargo should have put up before the demonstrators occupied the building.

Why were no local contractors used?Instead Wells Fargo manager, Alicia Bucher contacted and hired contractors from as far away as San Leandro, but not a single Santa Cruz County business benefitted. Bucher herself has an East-bay area code, and no ties to the local community.

Could it be Bucher only used contractors she could manipulate to produce whatever paper-trail she desired? What does that say about Wells Fargo's integrity generally?


Lawyers, judges, and deputies get paid for what they do. Defendants do not.

"I missed my grandmother's funeral," Angel Alcantara revealed. "Her funeral was Friday in Fresno and I had to be here." How do you put a price on this?

The case grinds on; despite little evidence against those charged and no evidence of vandalism committed by any of the defendants charged,

"It's a weak case,"David Beauvais, attorney for Robert Norse told Burdick. "It's time to end this charade."

But DA Jeff Roselle disagreed.

"Someone broke into...entered private property without permission. Sanction our office but do not dismiss the case. The sanctity of private property has been violated."

"What about the sanctity of our rights to free speech, to a fair and speedy trial, to dissent?" queried defendant, Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, shortly after the hearing.

Burdick opted to consider what sanctions he might impose but, apparently persuaded by Roselle announced "Serious crimes were committed. My discretion is not appropriately applied by dismissing these cases."


Jan 4th 9am for prelim set
Jan 7th 9am Preliminary Hearing

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Case against Santa Cruz Eleven is crumbling

By Becky Johnson
August 18, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The case against eleven mostly long-time and well-known activists or alternative media journalists seems to be falling apart.

On Friday, DA Rebekah Young was made to answer for video discovery not delivered, potentially exculpatory evidence not turned over, billing sheets confirming allegations of damages still missing, and promises made not kept.

"She still has not turned over the second videotape mentioned in police reports about my client," charged defense attorney, Alexa Briggs. "And the first tape is exculpatory as it shows my client, Mr. Laurendau leave the building when warned."

Judge Burdick cancelled the Preliminary hearing on August 20th and ordered Young to show cause why he should not dismiss all charges.

A 9am hearing is scheduled.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jailing Attorney Ed Frey is an Outrage!

Attorney Ed Frey retrieves the Peace Flag from deputies and returns it to Peace Camp 2010 while protester, Vamp, stands by July 13, 2010.   Photo by Becky Johnson

 by Becky Johnson

August 5 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Respected local Civil Rights Attorney Ed Frey, has been ordered to report to the Santa Cruz County Jail on Wednesday morning of August 8th at 9AM. He is scheduled to begin serving the remainder of his six month sentence for "lodging" which is a highly-suspect section of the statewide disorderly conduct code. For instance, "lodging" is not defined anywhere in the code section, so law enforcement (and local DA's and Judges) can interpret what constitutes illegal "lodging" anyway they wish. And since it is a misdemeanor, a violation can result in immediate arrest. Activists consider it an end-run around loitering laws which have largely been declared unconstitutional.

Testimony by several sheriff's deputies at Ed Frey's trial cited observing defendants "sleeping" with no other index of criminal activity reported. During the 92 day protest, not a single littering ticket was issued. Ed Frey provided a porto-potty every night as he and hundreds of housed and homeless people alike slept in civil disobedience of laws which criminalize sleeping.

This model of protest was copied and expanded with Occupy Santa Cruz a year later. Ed Frey served on the legal support working group and defended the encampment in court.  In each of these cases, Ed worked tirelessly, providing a powerful voice, setting a moral and ethical framework for dealing with the influx of homeless people who joined the encampment primarily to meet their own physical needs. He even took a pregnant, homeless woman to his home for several nights.

Judge John Gallagher sentenced Frey in a fit of anger he later grew to regret.  The law Ed Frey was primarily focused on opposing was MC 6.36.010 section a, a.k.a. "the Sleeping Ban" for which the maximum fine would have been 8 hours of community service. DA Sara Dabkowski sought 400 hours of community service, which constitutes a 50 fold increase in sentencing. When Ed Frey refused to serve 400 hours of community service, Gallagher angrily sentenced him to the maximum sentence he could issue: 6 months in jail for a 1st offense.

Frey asked to be released on bail pending appeal, only to have Gallagher set bail at $50,000!
Frey served 14 days in jail before being set free at a hearing before a much calmer Judge Gallagher who set bail at $110 which was, apparently, the bail amount for that charge normally.

Frey's only real chance at appeal took place before appeals court panel, Judge Paul Marigonda and Judge Timothy Volkmann. Marigonda claimed the 6 month sentence was not excessive since he, as a prosecutor, had commonly sent defendants to jail for the maximum sentence when THEY refused community service.  Of course his defendants were involved in domestic violence cases, while Ed Frey was engaged in 1st amendment activities which victimized no one.

The bottom line is it is a CRAZY use of police, court, and jail resources to arrest people for SLEEPING. Be it protestors at a protest or homeless people who can't afford a roof over their heads. It is wrong. Mean. Cruel. Counter-productive. Selective. It is a human rights abuse done under color of law. And NO ONE who is convicted for sleeping will ever refrain from future sleeping. Sleeping is not a voluntary act.  Every living thing must sleep in order to live. Enforcing a sleeping ban is torturous and causes sickness, mental illness, depression, fatigue, poor immune function and yes, death.  The sleeping ban causes death.

Under these circumstances HOW CAN THEY SLEEP AT NIGHT? 

How can DA Bob Lee, County CAO Susan Mauriello, County Counsel Dana McRae, Sheriff Phil Wowack and Judges Gallagher, Connolly, Marigonda, and Commissioner Baskett sleep at night knowing they are the chief conspirators to foment this policy of persecution and judgement.

Attorney Ed Frey made a mockery of our local justice system so that Gallagher had to make up language to feed to his hand-picked jurors in order to get a conviction.  Gallagher even used language cribbed from the 1851 Indiana State Constitution which stated  "No Negro or Mulatto shall come into, or settle in, the State, after the adoption of this Constitution," when he defined "lodging" as "settling in or living in a place which may include sleeping" as HIS definition of what constituted illegal behavior statewide.

Please attend a protest beginning August 7th at 6PM to oppose the Jailing of Ed Frey. Assert our rights to seek redress of government grievances, our right to peaceably assemble, and our right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment or excessive fines.