Picture
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"

 
 
by Carl Dix

The first day of our trial for protesting stop-and-frisk in Jamaica Queens last November went slower than at least I anticipated.  We didn’t even finish jury selection.  The prosecution announced they won’t put on their main witness till Monday, which means we won’t get to the defense case till Tuesday, Oct 30th.

The prosecutor and judge said often that this case isn’t about stop-and-frisk, but just about whether we broke the law.  This has me wondering, “Why are we here facing 2 years + in jail?”  The laws we’re charged with breaking all speak about our intent.  The Obstruction of Government Administration charges, which each carry a year in jail penalty, include language along the lines of ‘…acting with the intent to keep a public official from performing their duty.’  Our intent was and is crystal clear—to protest stop-and-frisk.

This discussion about the case not being about stop-and-frisk confused some of the prospective jurors.  Several of them asked how they were supposed to separate the protest from what we were protesting.  Of course, the prosecution eliminated them from the jury using their pre-emptive challenges.

The court told prospective jurors they had to decide our guilt or innocence without considering what our punishment could end up being.  In other words, "don’t worry about the fact that we’re trying to put these people in jail for 2 years for protesting a racist, illegitimate policy.  Just think about whether the way we have charged them several times for a single act can be justified by our tortured logic and fit within our rules.  We’ll handle bringing the hammer down on them and delivering a message to any who drew hope and inspiration from their actions that there’s a heavy price to pay for standing up to what they do to us."

Carl