Fr. Luis Barrios, Gbenga Akinnagebe, and Carl Dix outside court in Brooklyn. February 2013
UPDATE: Seven defendants remaining for trial were told on March 12 that charges would be dismissed in the case, but only when they return for a scheduled trial on Monday March 18. This makes, for some 14 separate days in court on charges that had no legal merit in the first place.
After two days of prosecution witnesses -- four cops -- the judge in the Brooklyn Criminal court trial of Gbenga Akinnagbe, Luis Barrios, Carl Dix and Morgan Rhodewalt granted defense motion to dismiss charges of disorderly conduct. The trial of Gregory Allen, who defended himself in November, brought the same result. Defense counsel says it's likely that six remaining defendants scheduled for trial March 12 will also win dismissal.
This is good news, and hard won, after dozens of court appearances.
Prosecutors initially charged 20 defendants with disorderly conduct, a violation, and two counts of Obstruction of Government Administration, a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months. Last fall, the OGA charges were dropped when prosecutors admitted that video evidence didn't support them.
But even after Greg Allen convinced a judge that the prosecutors couldn't prove disorderly conduct, the Brooklyn District Attorney proceeded in a second trial on the same facts.
Three arresting officers and Captain William Gardner of the Brooklyn North Task Force described their mission as "counter-terrorism, high-crime patrols, and disorder control." The task force has special training in crowd control and dispersion, and was a key part of NYPD's small army of police surrounding and trailing Occupy Wall Street. When asked, the Captain said he had "no opinion" on the message of the November 1, 2011 protest against NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice.
The protest was the second in a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network
to end the NYPD policy. Jason Lewis, in the Village Voice, Ninth Time's the Charm? Nah, But Arrested Stop and Frisk Protestors Finally Go to Trial in Brooklyn"NYPD officer John Blanco--who arrested co-defendant the Rev. Luis Barrios of St. Mary's Episcopal Church--was the first of five cops to deliver testimony in the trial. Blanco repeatedly indicated that he didn't observe any protestors blocking entry into the building. In fact, he testified that he never even saw anyone attempt to enter the precinct through that entrance."
Matt Sledge, writing in The Huffington Post, NYPD Stop-And-Frisk Policy Challenged In Court By 'The Wire' Actor: "On cross-examination, defense attorney Martin Stolar was able to extract from Blanco, over the prosecutor's objections, that he has stop-and-frisked a number of New Yorkers as part of his work with an NYPD high-crime task force. In 2011, the year of the protest, 73rd Precinct officers stopped 25,167 New Yorkers. Ninety-eight percent of them were black or Latino."
Defense counsel from Brooklyn Legal Aid Society, and Marty Stolar of the National Lawyers Guild successfully argued that the prosecution never established facts to prove disorderly conduct, in that no lawful order to disperse was given, but rather an arbitrary order to leave. The precinct was open to the public during the loud protest outside; protesters were arrested very quickly after arriving in front of the precinct.
The work of the whole Brooklyn defense team
is much appreciated by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and the defendants. Thanks to Noha Momtaz Tahrir Arafa, Genesis Fisher, Julie Fry, Daniella Korotzer, Elizabeth Latimer, Meg Maurus, Alex Smith, Marty Stolar, and Amy Swenson.
Also from Revolution: "Victory in 15-month political battle
: Charges Dismissed Against Brooklyn Stop-And-Frisk Freedom Fighters"
Bronx trial now set for Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Noche's Manhattan trial now set for Tuesday April 23, 2013
Noche's Queens trial now set for Monday April 8, 2013
Help Keep the Government’s Hands off this Young Revolutionary!
Many people are disturbed and appalled at the high-handed behavior of the NYPD:
· Unconstitutional Stop-and-Frisk policy
· Killing under the color of authority (Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas)
· Illegal surveillance of mosques, Muslim student groups all over the U.S
· Suppression of Occupy Wall Street … the list goes on and on.
Many also wonder why there is no movement of young people protesting all this, as previous generations have.
24 year old Noche Diaz IS protesting all this. He IS organizing others to protest against all this. He HAS put his body on the line to protest Stop-and Frisk and to observe the police abusing people. Noche is a revolutionary, who lays out his views as he protests and organizes. And for all this, he faces 4 ½ years in prison just in Manhattan, as well as jail time in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.
He was arrested three times when he was legally observing the arrests of others. The Manhattan District Attorney has combined charges on arrests in October 2011 and March 2012 into one trial, possibly prejudicing the outcome of all these cases, and, putting him in danger of jail time.
And YOU have a responsibility to make sure they don’t succeed in doing that. YOU need to help make sure Noche can continue to do the important work he’s involved in.
and on Facebook; stopmassincnet on Twitter to learn when to be at 100 Center Street for trial support
SIGN the message to the District Attorney to drop charges on Noche
Bronx for Noche: Yesterday, Noche's trial was continued until Wednesday, March 20. Josh Norkin, of Legal Aid, is filing a motion to dismiss the charges on facial insufficiency because of a favorable ruling in the NY Appeals Court
recently, which says that there has to be "harm to the public" for disorderly conduct to occur. Meanwhile, the prosecutors haven't handed over any discovery evidence yet, even though they were ordered to do so by August
15, 2012. Jeffeth James, Noche, and two others all still await trial from the same incident where the NYPD beat Jeff.
2/25 Manhattan for Noche: It looks like Noche may go to trial this Monday, February 25 at 100 Centre Street. This is the really messed up case where the DA combined two incidents where Noche was arrested while observing the police into one trial,
As we've said before, the only thing in common with these two incidents was Noche, in Harlem; the police lying that Noche interfered with them arresting another person, who, in each case, was not arrested. But he got thrown to the ground and charged with OGA, and resisting arrest, amounting to a year each, four times,and six months for resisting.
You can read more about the case here. We need a mass amount of people to come out. We can't let them be successful in their attempt to discourage others from doing what he does. We need research help in learning more about these two arresting officers:
Michael Duffy Shield # 27097 Manhattan Boro North
Harold Nunez Shield # 28069 26th Precinct
Come out for a 9:00 am rally / press conference, outside 100 Centre Street.
2/27 Brooklyn for Gbenga, Luis, Carl and Morgan. Prosecution started on February 14 with one witness, P.O. Blanco. More cops will testify Wednesday. The trial could go through Thursday if there is no order by the judge to dismiss
the disorderly conduct charges. We are looking for research help to learn more about Captain William Gardner of the Brooklyn North Task Force who gave the order for arrest. His name shows up in tweets from OWS last year
as a white shirt who harasses and brutalizes women. Let's learn more if we can.
Greg Allen posted a very detailed and entertaining account of his pro se trial in the same case in November. https://docs.google.com/document/d/11_92pK-4dS6mJvvPYdzQni2DwwjxseqmRPxIH2rDQn0/edit?pli=1
Trial 9:30 at 120 Schermerhorn Street, probably in 308F.
Note: The first Brooklyn Bridge case, from September 2011 to go to trial just ended with all four defendants convicted of disorderly conduct. Marty Stolar defended three of them, up against the same judge who convicted 20 of us
last May. This is really outrageous, given that 700 were mass-arrested, the state dropped hundreds of the charges, others took ACD's, and the few left to fight the charge may get convicted of disorderly. That's just so BAD!
World Can't Wait
By Tania Karas
A judge has dismissed a disorderly conduct charge against a man who represented himself at a trial stemming from his arrest last year at a Brooklyn police precinct during a protest against the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices.
Criminal Court Judge Desmond Green (See Profile) in Brooklyn declined to credit police allegations in People v. Allen, 2011KN094288, that Gregory Allen had blocked the entrance to the 73rd precinct in Brownsville.
Allen, a 40-year-old Harlem community activist, was one of 27 people arrested at the rally. A 17-minute video played at his Nov. 19 trial showed him standing in the back of the group of around 80 protesters until he “walked up to submit to be arrested” after police ordered the crowd to disperse, Green wrote in his Dec. 10 decision.
Officer John Blanco alleged in an accusatory instrument that Allen stood in the doorway of the precinct, preventing anyone from going in or out, and refused to disperse when ordered to do so by Captain William Gardner.
“This is incredible on its face as both officers, testifying for the People, contradict this assertion,” Green wrote. “It was factually impossible for defendant Allen to stand in the doorway of the front entrance of the 73rd precinct when there was a human barricade of 15 to 20 police officers standing 10 to 15 feet in front of the entrance to the precinct and the defendant was said to be standing five feet away from the line of officers. In order for defendant to have been in front of the entrance way door he would have had to breach the line of officers.”
Moreover, Green continued, “this would be the same scenario for any of the alleged co-defendants who were at the rally on November 1, 2011.”
Also, the police order that protesters disperse “was not lawful” because “the protesters were not blocking the entrance to the precinct” and were “peaceably assembled,” the judge said.
Thus, he concluded, the NYPD had failed to make out the elements necessary for a disorderly conduct charge and dismissed it because the prosecution had failed to offer a prima facie case.
The prosecution dropped a second charge, of obstructing governmental administration, before the judge ruled.
Obstruction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Disorderly conduct is a violation punishable by up to 15 days.
Allen said he was happy with Green’s decision.
“It was a good experience,” he said, adding that his arrest “was frivolous in the first place.”
The judge “did not respond well to obvious discrepancies between the officers’ stories” and the video, Allen said.
Allen cross-examined the officers, but he did not testify at trial and called no witnesses.
Bench trials for other defendants charged at the demonstration are scheduled for Feb. 7, 14 and 15.
“So far the prosecution has refused to dismiss even though the evidence is conclusive that they did not block the evidence to the 73rd Precinct,” said Julie Fry, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society who represents a group of people arrested with Allen. “The charges are all the same, the video is the same, the facts are the same. It’s a waste of everyone’s resources to go through with it.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said his office is considering how to proceed.
“With respect to the pending cases, we are reviewing the evidence in light of Judge Green’s decision,” he said in a statement.
Assistant District Attorney Seth Zuckerman appeared for the prosecution at the trial.
The 73rd Precinct recorded the second-highest number of stops in the city in 2011, with 25,167, according to NYPD data.
Meanwhile, in a similar case, four people arrested during a stop-and-frisk protest in front of the 103rd Precinct in Queens last year were acquitted in a Nov. 15 jury trial of obstruction of government administration. A jury found them each guilty of disorderly conduct. They are to be sentenced on Jan. 7.
In 2011, there were 17,152 stops by 103rd Precinct personnel, the eighth-highest in the city.
Feb 14, Thursday
After 15 months, the second group of defendants from Nov 1 in Brooklyn began a trial. Greg Allen's trial in November ended with an order of dismissal by the judge. Gbenga Akinnagbe, Luis Barrios, Carl Dix and Morgan Rhodewalt are on trial in front of Judge LaPorte. (Marina Benedetto took an ACD today). The prosecutors once again refused to drop the disorderly conduct charges, and plan to present 4 cops and one captain. They seem to have changed their charge from "blocking" the precinct door to "gathering" and refusing to leave the sidewalk.
The P.O. who arrested Luis testified today, and was cross examined by Julie Frey and Marty Stolar. The prosecutors showed the TARU video, up to a certain point. Defense showed the rest of TARU's own video, indicating how far the crowd was from the door. Officer Blanco admitted what was obvious; there was room for many people to walk to and from, and into, the door of the precinct.
This trial is continued until Wednesday February 27.
John Hector, Nick Malinowsky, and Bob Parsons have a trial date for tomorrow. [Friday, Feb 15] It's unlikely to go ahead. The five remaining defendants have a trial date of March 12.
Reporters from The Village Voice and The Huffington Post attended the trial today. A previous article by Jason Lewis on Blow the Whistle on Stop and Frisk:
Wednesday February 20, Noche Diaz trial in Bronx Criminal Court 265 E. 161st Street. Rally 9 am Trial 9:30 am
Monday Febfuary 25, Noche Diaz trial in Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Center Street Rally 9 am Trial 9:30 am
World Can't Wait
By Debra Sweet
February, black history month, is turning out to be a month of struggle for the freedom fighters inside the courthouses in 4 boroughs. Recent developments:
Jeffeth James, who was being beaten by NYPD last March when Noche and another man were arrested observing, went to traffic court for the original offense NYPD stopped him for, an insufficient light on his license plate. The arresting officer claimed that Jeffeth assaulted him, but also testified that it took "50 cops" to pull Jeff out of his car. Jeff's attorney played video footage of the beating. The judge said he had "no choice" but to dismiss the charge. Jeff's next court date is Thursday February 14, which is expected to lead to another adjournment for a trial later this year. He said to tell all of us that he really appreciates our support,and he is glad to meet the people who come to court in support.
Christina Gonzalez has appearances now set in the Bronx for March 6 and April 8.
The trial set today in Brooklyn for Noche, Randy, Matt & Christina did not go forward because there was no courtroom available. It's rescheduled for Tuesday March 12.
This week the 6 violations against Lois Schechter, the juror in our Queens trial who was outspoken against stop-and-frisk, were dropped. Attorney Ron Kuby was prepared to defend her pro bono, and she was looking forward to seeing
us in court with her. But she will be following us online.
Thursday Feb 14 9:30 am Trial, Brooklyn
Carl Dix, Luis Barrios, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Morgan Rhodewaldt, Marina Benedetto
John Hector, Brooklyn Criminal Court, 120 Schermerhorn
Friday Feb 15 9:30 am Trial, Brooklyn
Robert Parsons, Nick Malinowsky, Brooklyn Criminal Court, 120 Schermerhorn
Mon Feb 18, 7pm
SMIN/Defense Committee meeting. All welcome.
Riverside Church, Claremont Ave btwn 120th and 122nd Sts in Manhattan.
#1 train to 116 or 125
Wed Feb 20 8:45 am Rally, 9:30 am Trial
Bronx Criminal Court
215 East 161st (old bldg)
Trial fr Noche Diaz, arrested as Jeffeth James was beaten 3/12/12 click for more info
on Noche and how you can help; blog post on Dec 3 court date
Monday Feb 25, 8:45 am Rallly, 9:30 am Trial
Noche Diaz at 100 Center Street, Manhattan Criminal Court
Tues Feb 26 3:30pm
One year since the murder of Trayvon Martin by a racist vigilante. Gather at Union Square South Plaza, East 14th Street & Broadway, Manhattan. Bring whistles, drums, banners & signs.