Last updated: October 9, 2003

District Attorney’s Office Reneges on Plea Bargain
Anti-war Protesters to Appear in Court Tuesday

Last Tuesday,  Rick Costello, Deputy Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Trial Division, withdrew a week-old offer to lower charges against two nonviolent protestors in the Operation Homeland Resistance cases in return for a guilty plea. Lisa Bhungalia and her co-defendant learned of the retraction when they came to court to accept the offer, which would have dismissed misdemeanor charges from this and an earlier nonviolent protest in return for a plea to a violation. “It is unheard of for the District Attorney’s office to renege on an agreement that has been achieved through good faith bargaining. It is an essential principle that plea bargains be honored. If they are not, it undermines a crucial element of the criminal justice system that has implications far beyond this case,” said Steven Edwards an attorney for the defendants and former Assistant District Attorney.

Operation Homeland Resistance mounted three days of nonviolent civil disobedience at 26 Federal Plaza on May 5, 6 and 7 to protest what they called the Bush administration’s illegitimate war against Iraq and the war at home. Eighty-three protestors were arrested. “American soldiers were allegedly sent to rid Iraq of what we now know, are nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile poor people, especially people of color, suffer cuts in healthcare, social services and education because of the war and occupation. Bush’s additional request of $87 billion dollars for the occupation compounds the injury,” said Monami Maulik of Operation Homeland Resistance. Prosecutor Costello has offered deals to nearly all of the defendants, over 50 of whom have accepted them, with the remainder awaiting court dates.

“The District Attorney’s strategy from the outset has been to try to divide and conquer the defendants, offering deals to some, while targeting others for worse treatment,” said Wol-san Liem one of the action’s organizers. For example, Costello singled out two longtime AIDS activists, refusing to dismiss their misdemeanor charges, presumably because of their history of nonviolent direct action. Their treatment by the DA has prompted some defendants to reject Costello’s offers in a show of solidarity with those treated unfairly, charging that the DA violated the principle of equal treatment.

Operation Homeland Resistance is a coalition of racial justice and immigrant rights groups in New York City, endorsed by 56 organizations throughout the city.

Organizers encourage supporters to fax the DA from the Homeland Resistance web site