The OccuVerdict is in: guilty on all counts.
Ten defendants heard the verdict and their sentencing on June 21, the ruling handed down by Judge Elizabeth Wingo after five days of trial–almost twenty hours of motions and testimony–on charges related to a structure erected by Occupy DC in McPherson Park in December, 2011.
All eleven defendants were found guilty of the charge failure to obey in an emergency situation, and one, David Givens, had two additional charges, indecent exposure and disorderly conduct. One defendant had a waiver for his presence that day, and another, Rooj Alwazir, was acquitted last week. Two didn’t appear for trial at all and will have a separate hearing.
The judge prefaced sentencing by saying, “It is clear to me that [the defendants] acted not out of a desire to create havoc, [but out of] a desire to improve the state of the country. They did not have criminal convictions.” She also noted that for the failure to obey charge, community service was not appropriate.
Of the eleven defendants, Judge Wingo distinguished the three who climbed into the rafters of the building from seven who remained on the ground within it in defiance of a police order to vacate. All are required to pay a mandatory $50 assessment to the Victims of Violent Crimes fund.
The seven who remained on the ground within the structure received a $100 fine, suspended.
For the three defendants who took to the rafters and defended it against police the entire day, she took into consideration her assessment that their conduct was “a little more dangerous,” and she believed their “point [as protestors] could have been made another way.” She urged them to “think about the danger posed to themselves and others.” She also imposed $100 fine but did not suspend it.
In addition, one defendant, David Givens, was the last person extricated from the rafters of the OccuBarn, pried off by police officers and delivered into custody by a cherry picker. After ten hours aloft, he declined offers by police to use the porta-potty when they informed him he wouldn’t be able to return to the roof, so he relieved himself. “Urinating in an arc,” the judge said in the findings of fact, “making a display of himself, though not an extreme one.”
Taking into consideration her belief that Givens put Park Police officers “in a fair amount of danger,” she sentenced him to a $150 fine, 90 days suspended, one year unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service, plus $150 to the Victims of Violent Crime fund.
Upon learning that Givens spent five days in jail when he didn’t identify himself in court, the judge said, “Mr. Givens is committed.” The defendants responded with twinkle fingers, an Occupy signal of solidarity.
Defense counsel Jeff Light was generally pleased by sentencing. “We asked for $1 fine, and got a $0 fine,” he said.
He also thought they were in an advantageous position for appeal. “The judge did a great job of laying out the facts. Findings of fact were great. They’re now and forever the gospel.”
The case will go to appeal, first to an Associate Judge in DC Superior Court, then to the Court of Appeals.
UPDATE: In statement released by his office, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said, “We respect the right of Occupy DC participants to communicate their message to the public, but they crossed the line by refusing lawful orders to leave a structure that had been declared unsafe. I commend the work of the prosecutors in our Public Safety Division for securing this conviction.”
Corrections: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that eight defendants were given a $100 suspended fine, rather than seven. Also, David Givens was charged with disorderly conduct, not urination in public.
- OccuBarn Trial: Background (coolrevolution.net)
- OccuBarn trial: Emergency situation (coolrevolution.net)