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Bob Lee and the Santa Cruz Eleven - Time to Move on and Let the Community Heal
by Steve Pleich
Monday Nov 11th, 2013 12:59 PM
Time to Close the Book on Santa Cruz Eleven Prosecutions
We are now approaching two full years since the events surrounding the 75 River Street occupation and it's appropriate that we review and reflect upon the impact this event has had, and is still having, on our community.

To refresh our recollections, remember that several of our local activists were charged with a variety of offenses arising from their alleged involvement with the occupation of a vacant bank building in December of 2011. Both local and national civil liberties groups, including ACLU Santa Cruz County and the Northern California ACLU rose to the defense of these members of our community individually and as a group based upon both the law and the facts of the case.

First, all of these defendants were either journalists, members of our local press, and/or activists committed to the Occupy Movement––and particularly Occupy Santa Cruz. Therefore, we believed that civil liberties were being broadly threatened by the continuing prosecution of these cases.

Secondly, none of these defendants "occupied" the premises in the same sense that those who remained on the property for several days did. Indeed, these defendants were participating in constitutionally protected activities either as news gatherers or as supporters of the activists inside the occupied building.

Thirdly, the charges being pursued by our local District Attorney were over broad and overreaching in consideration of the facts. Each of these defendants was charged with (1) felony conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor (Penal Code Section 182(a)(1); felony vandalism (PC Section 594(b)(1); misdemeanor trespass by entering and occupying (PC Section 602(M); and misdemeanor trespass and refusing to leave private property (PC Section 602(O). The facts in support of these charges as adduced through discovery provided by the District Attorney were both scant and unpersuasive even in the absence of any civil liberty considerations.

Fourthly, these defendants were being selectively prosecuted in a manner directly related to the existing adversarial relationship several of these defendants have with both our local police department and the District Attorney's office. According to reports published and/or broadcast by local news media, anywhere from 150 to 300 individuals entered and exited the bank building during the 75-hour occupation, including local elected officials. And, yet, only these eleven defendants have been charged.

Fifthly, significant civil liberty issues arise on the facts of this case. Although we are mindful that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and free assembly do not confer immunity from prosecution on those who choose to participate in arguably unlawful activities, it is of critical importance that clear distinctions be made between the exercise of the aforementioned rights in the context of direct political action. These defendants posed no threat to public order or private property by their actions either as chroniclers of the events or as ardent supporters of the occupiers and the occupation.

I believe this is an appropriate time for closure of the wasteful prosecutions of the Santa Cruz Eleven. It is particularly apt at this point in time in that Bob Lee will soon begin his campaign for reelection, if indeed he hasn't done so already. It is time to bring the selective nature of these prosecutions to public light and into the full glare of a public forum. Such pressure brought to bear in this context would likely have little effect on the District Attorney's prospects for reelection. But it could create a tipping point in which he might view dismissal of the charges without further drain on the public fisc to be in his best interests; to say nothing of the best interests of the people he was elected to serve.

Bob Lee, time to move on and the let the community heal.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Peter Maiden
Monday Nov 11th, 2013 2:19 PM
The issues, stated above, are as plain as day. I was a witness for a fellow photographer who was caught up in this case and found the prosecution had a through-the-looking-glass quality. Some kind of police-district attorney-community review commission, without jurisdiction to punish with fines or jail time, would be a much better place to go over the matters that were of concern to this trial. I agree the trial should be stopped, so everyone can get on with their lives.
by Robert Norse
Monday Nov 11th, 2013 8:47 PM
Everything Steve writes is certainly true and a good liberal's argument for stopping the huge waste of taxpayer money.

The endless hearings have cost the County over $100,000 so far with a likely felony trial cost of another $100,000 in March if the trials resume. The (inflated) alleged damages to the vacant Wells Fargo bank building (still vacant) is less than $25,000. The four defendants had nothing to do with the vandalism, but are being charged under a hyped-up contrived legal theory "aiding and abetting" with draws an inference of guilt from their presence in the building (which is not yet proven). There is no evidence linking the remaining defendants to felony vandalism. They are whistleblowers, activists, reporters, and suitable scapegoats for intimidating any repetition of the Occupy movement power challenge to the greedy rich.

What is clear is that hundreds of people including City Council members and other (uncharged) reporters went in and out of the building without the permission of the owner.

Indeed the very success of some of those charged in facilitating communication with the occupiers were able to ensure a peaceful resolution to something the SCPD was unable to do on its own. No good deed, as they say, goes unpunished.

The D.A. who dragged the Santa Cruz Eleven through the courts for a year has disappeared (either quitting or being forced out) after having been sanctioned by Judge Burdick for repeatedly withholding defense evidence and contempt of court orders.

Finally the more profound underlying rationale for the occupation was to address needs that the city, county and 1% are still ignoring as they rake in taxes and profits. These include shelter for hundreds of people as winter approaches, more community space, and an end to bankster fraud from Wells Fargo and its sister criminals--who continue to rip off the community, falsely foreclose on homes, and duck investigation much less prosecution here.

With all the manufactured hysteria about "public safety", it would be reassuring if D.A. Bob Lee put more time into prosecuting real crimes of violence and fraud than serving as bagman for Wells Fargo and PR massage-artist for the SCPD. Lee has candidly acknowledged that if the defendants forked money over for "restitution" it would be "a whole different ball game".
by G
Tuesday Nov 12th, 2013 4:37 AM
In my opinion, of any local vote, the vote for District Attorney has the greatest impact on curbing local tyranny (or increasing it). If the DA refuses to prosecute unjust convictions, unjust laws are implicitly striken. If the DA persues unjust convictions, the typically subservient bench(s) habitually rubber stamp the tyranny. Of course, this assumes voting, and representative democracy, isn't a cruel farce.

Also remember that the local and Northern California ACLU stood by in silence when protesters were given obscene sentences for napping with protest signs. Apparently 'reporters' are better donation/election fodder for the ACLU than the oppressed poor and peaceful, non-violent protesters. Of course, this assumes the ACLU isn't a cruel farce.
by John Colby
Friday Nov 22nd, 2013 1:23 AM
November 21, 2013

Joyce Angell
Assistant District Attorney
County of Santa Cruz
Office of the District Attorney
701 Ocean Street, Room 200
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: 831.454.2400
Fax: 831.459.7613

via email to: dao [at] co.santa-cruz.ca.us
cc: Criminal.Division [at] usdoj.gov
cc: san.francisco [at] ic.fbi.gov
cc: RSalom [at] hudoig.gov
cc: senator.monning [at] senate.ca.gov
cc: mark.stivers [at] sen.ca.gov
cc: lisa.engel [at] asm.ca.gov
cc: tara.welch [at] sen.ca.gov
cc: Thomas.Clark [at] asm.ca.gov
cc: Nancy.deSerpa [at] mail.house.gov
cc: elizabeth [at] gtweekly.com
cc: jhersch6 [at] gmail.com
cc: terry [at] calaware.org

re: CPRA request for District Attorney Bob Lee's Oaths of Office

Dear Ms. Angell:

I don't believe District Attorney Bob Lee has been fulfilling the duties of his position with regard to the Mission Gardens Apartments. I would like to know what oaths Bob Lee swore to uphold after he was elected to be district attorney.

Subsequently, I am submitting a CPRA request. I ask for any and all oaths which District Attorney Bob Lee swore to uphold as Santa Cruz County District Attorney.

I ask that this request be expedited so that I can share it with the news media when I show them how District Attorney Bob Lee has violated the oaths he swore to uphold.

District Attorney Bob Lee has refused to prosecute violent criminals who have and still endanger residents of the Mission Gardens Apartments where Carl Reimer was murdered.

Specifically, District Attorney Bob Lee refused to prosecute violent felon Nebosia Freeman for prowling and violating probation, and now Bob Lee has refused to prosecute teenage gangster and alleged drug dealer Dmitri Palmer. District Attorney Bob Lee has shown a blatant disregard for the safety and well being of the community while seeming to serve the interests of Santa Cruz City Planning Commissioner Mari Tustin who oversees the management of the Mission Gardens Apartments. Moreover, he seems to be protecting the Santa Cruz Police Department and the Santa Cruz County Probation Department from accountability for dumping (violent) criminals at Mission Gardens for the last twenty years.

I am willing to pay a fee of up to two dollars for this new CPRA request. If your estimate the costs will exceed this, please contact me before completing this request. However I ask you to waive all applicable fees — search, retrieval, redaction and duplication — in the public interests.

If these documents are available in an electronic format such as Portable Document Format (PDF), eXtensible Style Language (XLS), MS Word Document (DOC), Rich Text Format (RTF), Hypertext Markup (HTM), plain electronic text (TXT), or as hyperlinks to the Internet that they be provided to me in one of those forms, preferably in their native form.

Thank you for fulfilling this CPRA request. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Respectfully yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.