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Santa Cruz Eleven Defendants Follow the Money from Bob Lee to Wells Fargo at Latest Parade
On August 22, another energetic parade was held in support of the final four Santa Cruz Eleven defendants, who are still facing criminal charges in relation to the 2011 occupation of the vacant bank building located at 75 River Street. The course of the parade "followed the money" from District Attorney Bob Lee, who is prosecuting the case, to Wells Fargo Bank. Community members dressed in green and carried large, gold dollar signs. They followed a suit-clad parader wearing a Bob Lee mask who lead them to the Wells Fargo branch located at 74 River Street. Wells Fargo is the so-called plaintiff in the case, and defendants have recently discovered Lee has a financial relationship with the bank. The defendants are due back in court in Santa Cruz on Wednesday, August 27 at 9am to further press the District Attorney's office on this issue.
The visit to Wells Fargo felt much like the 2011 occupy protests that occurred there, and many of the other locations visited along the parade also recalled the occupy era. The court house was visited, as was San Lorenzo Park, and the parade traveled the length of Pacific Avenue twice. The parade also made its way past 75 River Street, where the building still sits empty and unrented, as it has for six years now.
Since June, defense attorneys have been attempting in court to obtain information related to a 2010 campaign disclosure form filed by District Attorney Lee with the county that indicated he received a campaign loan from Wells Fargo in the amount of $34,000, with zero interest having been paid on it from February to March of 2010.
When confronted by activists in 2012, Lee claimed that charges were still being pressed against the Santa Cruz Eleven defendants in order to recover financial damages Wells Fargo said it incurred as a result of vandalism that occurred during the occupation.
Though there has been no evidence presented that any of the defendants committed any acts of vandalism, they are being held to felony vandalism charges under a theory that their alleged involvement in relation to the occupation "aided an abetted" the damage to the building done by others. Additionally, the remaining four defendants will be responsible for paying the $20,000 in damages claimed by Wells Fargo if they are found guilty.
Many who participated in the parade wore shirts that read "I was in the Building," which is a reference to the large number of people who participated in the 2011 occupation.
Hundreds if not thousands of people entered and exited the bank during the three day occupation of 75 River Street in 2011, but when charges were filed in 2012, only eleven individuals were targeted for prosecution by District Attorney Lee. By 2013, seven of those had their charges dismissed by Judge Paul Burdick, all due to insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution.
The District Attorney's office has been responsible for many delays in the case, and at one point was sanctioned and fined $500 by Judge Burdick. One defendant estimates the case has required nearly 50 visits to court.
For more information about the Santa Cruz Eleven, see:
Trying on the Bob Lee mask
Download PDF (783.9kb)
Bob Lee campaign form from 2010. Page 6 contains the Wells Fargo loan information.
As we approach 3 years of dealing with this case we had been hoping to see an end in the near future. Going in to today’s hearing many of us felt somewhat optimistic and curious to see how the defense attorneys’ motions would be heard. I write now with weight and frustration and some indignation.
Under Department 6’s new Judge, Stephen Seigel, SC11 defense attorney’s saw each of their motions denied and then were met with the reality that the soonest possible trial date for all parties is next July. With other cases, out of town trips, and prosecutor Greg Peinado going on paternity leave early next year, the next court date the remaining 4 have is trial readiness on July 22nd, 2015, with trial set to begin on the 27th. This will be over 3 and a half years after the occupation of 75 River St.
There were a lot of things said in court and a more involved update will be written soon. There are a lot of things that feel wrong about this case and the length of time it is taking, the cumulative toll on the defendants as well as the cost to tax payers are sitting heavy today.
If you are a friend to any of the defendants you may want to reach out and show some personal support. They may or may not specifically need or ask for it, and all the better to receive a gift when not in need. Our heads are high and our sights are on what feels right and true: the ending of this case; not forgetting that Wells Fargo is one of the most disgusting companies in this country and does not deserve money from our community; that Bob Lee is politically and economically motivated in this biased prosecution; that no matter what happens the courts and cops cannot touch out hearts. We will continue to support each other, to dream of better, healthier ways to live, and to try to put those dreams on the ground here in our lives and communities.