Last updated: April 19, 2004
CITING DA’S POSSIBLE FAILURE TO TURN OVER EVIDENCE, ACTIVISTS MOVE TO SET ASIDE VERDICT
Sixteen political protesters still face jail for criminal conviction on non-violent civil disobedience.
New York – In a closely watched case which will set precedent for New York City’s treatment of protesters at the Republican National Convention, 16 non-violent demonstrators postponed their sentencing today with a motion to set aside their guilty verdict.
The sixteen, who were to be sentenced this morning in Manhattan Criminal Court, face possible jail time on the recommendation of the District Attorney’s office.
Sentencing was delayed until May 12th in Manhattan Criminal Court, pending review of new exculpatory evidence, and evaluation of the defendants’ claim that the District Attorney improperly relied on dismissed or unsubstantiated charges in his recommendation of jail time.
Defendants are seeking to learn the reason that the NY State Supreme Court granted the DA’s request to unseal some defendants’ sealed records. The DA made his sentencing recommendation based on the existence of the sealed cases, most of which were dismissed, and almost none of which involved criminal charges. In spite of ethical questions raised about the recommendation, the DA made no adjustment to his request today.
“The DA’s use of secret hearings, and the dredging up of dismissed cases as bases to impose a jail sentence, are designed to deter activists from demonstrating at the Republican National Convention this summer. The overcharging and criminalization of non-violent protest is an unlawful attempt to deter future protest. It tells RNC protesters: ‘Welcome to NY, now leave with a criminal record’” said civil liberties attorney Ron Kuby.
The defendants also stated that the DA failed to turn over video evidence to the defense. They asserted additionally that the DA failed to notify defendants or even explain his petition to NYS Supreme Court to open the sealed records.
“We live in a nation that at this moment is sending young men and women to fight and die, saying we’re protect basic freedoms around the world. But here in this country, the minute you exercise this freedom, you’re arrested, convicted and possibly sent to jail,” said Councilmember Annabel Palma of the Bronx.
Jail time is still on the table for the activists when they return to court on May 12th.
Information and previous statements on the case are available at <http://www.m26.org/>www.m26.org