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City of Sacramento drops all cases against Occupy defendants

by Dan Bacher
“This case is about abuses of government power. The City had its opportunity to prosecute misdemeanor charges against Ms. Coke and the other Occupy protestors for political speech, and Ms. Coke would have been able to put on her Constitutional defenses in that forum,” said Patrick Soluri, a pro bono attorney for Ms. Coke.

Photo of Occupy Sacramento protest in front of Governor Jerry Brown’s loft on Saturday, November 19, 2011 by Dan Bacher.
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City of Sacramento drops all cases against Occupy defendants

Pro bono lawyers working for Occupy Sacramento defendants said the City of Sacramento has now dismissed all of its cases charging those arrested during protests at Cesar Chavez Park “administrative penalties.”

In late May, a Superior Court judge ruled that City of Sacramento abused its authority by attempting to charge administrative penalties for each Occupy Sacramento defendant after the City had failed to successfully prosecute them in criminal court.

The “test” case involved Katherine Coke. This week’s decision involves at least another half dozen others.

The City of Sacramento has made at least 110 arrests surrounding protests at Chavez Park from October through December. No one has ever been convicted. The City had sought to “punish” them through administrative penalties, thereby avoiding giving defendants their due process rights in court.

Occupy lawyers and civil libertarians said this is yet another victory for civil liberties and Occupy activists, who have declared since last October that their civil rights are being violated by the City of Sacramento.

“This case is about abuses of government power. The City had its opportunity to prosecute misdemeanor charges against Ms. Coke and the other Occupy protestors for political speech, and Ms. Coke would have been able to put on her Constitutional defenses in that forum,” said Patrick Soluri, a pro bono attorney for Ms. Coke.

“But, after failing to competently prosecute the criminal cases, the City was forced to dismiss them in their entirety. The City then misused its administrative penalty procedure by thereafter prosecuting Ms. Coke in a kangaroo court where she could not put on an adequate defense. The court the City’s actions to be an abuse of its authority, and set aside the administrative proceeding in its entirety,” he said.

“The City should feel constrained from this type of tyrannical enforcement efforts against those who choose to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Jeff Anderson, another pro bono Occupy lawyer.

Soluri and Anderson took the case because they believed the City may not lawfully dismiss misdemeanor charges and then re-file “administrative penalty” claims for the same alleged conduct in a kangaroo court where the defendant is denied trial by jury, court-ordered discovery, and the right to challenge the legality of the City’s curfew ordinance.”

Contact: Patrick Soluri (916) 599-0474, Jeff Anderson (916) 397-8418 or Cres Vellucci (916) 996-9170
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