Bloomberg News

Occupy Wall Street Judge Refuses to Throw Out Summonses

December 14, 2011

(Updates with judge’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- A Manhattan judge refused to throw out summonses issued to dozens of protesters arrested in the Occupy Wall Street movement that a defense lawyer said were “fixed” by the police.

Hundreds of individuals charged in New York in connection with Occupy Wall Street protests against the financial industry and income inequality began to appear today in a Manhattan court for case hearings.

Martin Stolar, an attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild who represents some protesters, asked the court to dismiss the summonses, saying the police “fixed” them. He didn’t say how. Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross denied Stolar’s motion and refused to hold a hearing to investigate his claims.

“There is nothing to suggest in any way shape or form that these documents have been tampered with or fixed,” Ross said after denying Stolar’s motion. “I think words like that can have any number of different meanings, which can certainly have negative connotations.”

Several hundred demonstrators are to appear in court over the next week. Many were among 700 arrested during an Oct. 1 demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge, Stolar said. Most are charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or blocking vehicular traffic.

More than half of the 161 demonstrators who appeared in court today accepted an offer from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office to have their cases dismissed in six months for good behavior. At a similar proceeding last month, most demonstrators chose to plead not guilty and go to trial.

Offer Accepted

Stephanie Fleury, 27, of Easthampton, Massachusetts, who was arrested during the Brooklyn Bridge protest, said she accepted the offer from prosecutors today because she couldn’t afford to miss work.

“It’s purely financial,” Fleury said in an interview outside court. “Otherwise I’d be pleading not guilty, because I don’t think this was legal.”

Phoebe Harmon, 29, of Brooklyn, said she chose to plead not guilty today for “moral reasons.” The police didn’t inform protesters that they were being placed under arrest, and she was never read her Miranda rights, she said.

“They corralled us and zip-tied us,” Harmon said.

More than 1,400 people have been arrested in connection with the protests in New York since the demonstrations began on Sept. 17. About 17 were arrested this week after a march to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. headquarters, according to the NYPD.

Americans’ Plight

The protesters said they wanted to highlight the plight of average Americans who have suffered from home foreclosures and soaring unemployment while the largest U.S. banks have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.

Today’s court appearances were held in a New York County Criminal Court building at 346 Broadway, as opposed to earlier appearances, which were held several blocks away at 100 Centre Street.

Protesters had to pass through two metal detectors to enter the courthouse, where they packed the hallways and two courtrooms.

An assistant district attorney will appear in court for the Brooklyn Bridge cases to ensure they are handled “consistently and fairly,” Vance’s office said. Prosecutors don’t normally handle summons cases.

Vance’s office declined to comment on Stolar’s allegations. Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Charles Carter

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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