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Charges Thrown Out Against Four Occupy Bank Takeover Protesters

Judge Paul P. Burdick said there wasn't enough evidence to bring the four protesters charged with trespass and conspiracy to trial. Prosecutor Rebekah Young says she will refile on two of them.

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.

Arthur R O'Reilly April 26, 2012 at 02:26 AM
but Franklin Alacantara was arrested for wearing that tie with that shirt.
Whitney Wilde April 27, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Please support these folks and sign the ACLU support petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/549/146/902/11-people-are-facing-2-felonies-each-sign-the-aclus-statement-of-support/
Linda Ellen Lemaster April 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Where is the "investigative" media's coverage? Where is the Occupy movement coverage? And where th'heck is the story about this consistent orchestration, by both state agents and the corporate cancers who are manipulating the state's resources, to wrest everything USAmerican away from minority groups, frail elderly folk, women 'n' girls, peaceniks, the self-employed, and everyone else who is too busy surviving to become a sociopathic scale corporate "takers." I am looking for news reporting WHY the District Attorney office has decided on such a wasteful and off-the-wall strategy? Maybe they're in collusion with the REAL keyholders of that long-vacant, for-sale bank building? I do not support the taking of another's property. But in this instance it seems a lesser evil than trying to crush Occupy Santa Cruz and disrupting and attempting to extort and crash the lives of eleven of our citizens and community workers?
Brad Kava (Editor) April 28, 2012 at 11:48 PM
So, Linda, if you are against the taking of another's property, who should be responsible for the damage to the bank building and how should it be enforced. I also wonder this: What if they had taken over the active Wells Fargo? What would the response be from both sides?
FROP May 02, 2012 at 01:33 AM
BOB ITNA EHT OT hTAED

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