Lawyers gathered at the Philadelphia municipal court on Thursday in a status hearing to determine the next trial date for 30 of the 52 people arrested during the Occupy Philadelphia protests on Nov. 30.
Included were School of Social Policy & Practice assistant professor Toorjo Ghose, College senior Ellie Dugan and former Penn student Will Darwall, who all rejected the court’s offer of the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program at their preliminary hearing on Dec. 6. The program would have included community service hours and court fees. In yesterday’s status hearing, the judge determined their next trial date to be April 26, a day when most of the defendants and all the defending lawyers will be available for a full-day trial.
Ghose, Dugan and Darwall, along with the 52 arrested, were all charged with failure to disperse upon official order, conspiracy failure to disperse upon official order and obstructing a highway.
Lawrence Krasner, Ghose’s attorney, has defended protester cases similar to this one for over 10 years and said he has won 95 percent of them. “The defendants are going to be found not guilty, and that is because their behavior was morally and legally appropriate,” he said.
Most conspiracy cases are charged based on evidence that surrounds the particular incident, which can often be circumstantial, according to Paul Hetznecker, an attorney defending three co-defendants who are unaffiliated with the University.
A conspiracy would be proven in the case of agreement among those prosecuted to commit the crime, Hetznecker added. He does not believe that there is any evidence to prove conspiracy in this case.
“Our position has always been that they have a first amendment right to protests and that the police cannot simply in an unfettered way decide … at what point a particular demonstration and exercise of a first amendment right must end,” he said.
All three of the lawyers representing Penn community members are working pro bono. “We’re all donating our time and I’m proud to do it,” George Newman, Dugan’s lawyer, said.
Darwall has been on a leave of absence from Penn for two academic years. While he was waiting for his trial, he was just “living his life.”
Ghose and Dugan could not be reached for comment.
Two other Penn students — College junior Moshe Bitterman and College sophomore Emma Johnson — were arrested that night and charged with the same offenses.
The Philadelphia municipal court closed their cases on Jan. 10. Johnson and Bitterman chose to take the court’s offer to partake in the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, which required them to pay a fine of $199.50 and complete 12 hours of community service. Only 30 percent of the defendants chose to take the AMP option, according to Krasner.
Students from other schools were arrested as well. “I think the arrest was an invasion of our freedom of speech to peacefully assemble and gather on the sidewalk,” Evan Hoskins, a Temple sophomore, said.
One co-defendant was arrested even though he was not actively protesting.
“I came because I saw it on the news, and I wanted to film it,” Brad Neate, a Philadelphia resident, said. “I got sucked in.” He added that although he is not a part of Occupy, he does support the movement.Comments powered by Disqus
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