A Santa Cruz judge Wednesday threw out charges against four Occupy protestors accused of trespassing and vandalizing the vacant Coast Commercial Bank at 75 River St. last November.
Judge Paul P. Burdick said there was no evidence linking the four to the crime of trespass or to a conspiracy to commit felony vandalism at the bank that reported $20,000-$22-000 of expenses cleaning up electrical fixtures, wiring, grafitti and damaged furniture by protesters who held the building for three days.
Burdick also said that the testimony of Santa Cruz Police officer David Gunter who was the lead investigator on the case "was not credible." The judge said the officer testified in one hearing that he was present in the bank on Dec. 2, but in another hearing said he wasn't.
"I discharge all four defendants on all counts alleged," Burdick said, after issuing an earlier warning that he would have anyone who made outbursts taken from the courtroom.
The defendants quietly celebrated outside the courtroom Wednesday morning.
"I feel relieved, very relieved," said Grant Wilson, who faced two years in jail and $22,000 of damages if convicted. "It's very unsettling to be falsely charged with serious crimes. My picture doesn't reflect how happy I feel."
This was a preliminary hearing to decide if there was enough evidence to bring Wilson, Franklin Alacantara, Edward Rector and Cameron Laurendau to trial.
Prosecutor Rebekah Young said she would refile charges on Alacantara and Laurendau based on evidence she would provide by other Santa Cruz officers, Sgt. Mike Harms and Sgt. Mike Hedley.
The prosecution's case had no direct evidence of these four comitting vandalism, nor could it even prove they were in the bank after being told to leave.
Two of the other 11 charged in the case were bound over for trial earlier. Alex Darocy, who claims to be a journalist but was seen vandalizing the bank and harrasing actual journalists and Bradley Stuart Allen, whose published photos of the takeover were used as evidence against him will be tried May, 29.
Allen's claim that he was covering the event for independent news media was backed up by the ACLU and the Society for Professional Journalists.
Patch will follow up the story later today.