More than eight months after the NYPD began arresting people taking part in Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, the first of hundreds of criminal cases trickling through the court system are finally coming up for trial.
Earlier this month, we told you about the first two cases to go to trial. In both cases, the defendants were acquitted of all charges after photographic and video evidence contradicted the signed arrest reports and sworn court testimony of their arresting officers.
Two weeks later, prosecutors still have yet to secure a conviction in an Occupy-Wall-Street-protest-related case. [Update: The Manhattan District Attorney’s office points out that it has won convictions in a protest case involving Occupy Wall Street: On May 4, 20 protesters, including Cornell West, were found guilty of disorderly conduct for blocking an entrance to a police station during an October demonstration against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. Occupy Wall Street was among the groups that endorsed the demonstration.]
Last Wednesday, a judge threw out the case against Marni Halasa, the Occupy Wall Street “Freedom Fairy,” finding that the police write-up didn’t actually show a crime or a violation.
The next day, another criminal case in which video evidence on YouTube appears to contradict the police version of events was set for trial, but the case was continued because the police witness failed to show.
Yesterday Sarah Maceda-Maciel, charged with blocking traffic and failing to follow police orders on November 17th, also had her case dismissed, after the police witness again failed to show. In this instance, apparently, the officer is on maternity leave.
A second case scheduled for trial yesterday was continued. Emmet Kavanaugh and his legal team were ready, and were under the impression that the prosecutor was too. But the police witness didn’t come to court, so Kavanaugh, who lives in Philadelphia, will have to come back to court in late October.
While many Occupy protesters feel vindicated by the string of victories, others see the rulings as evidence that the NYPD never made the arrests with any intention of securing convictions.
This morning marks the largest group of Occupy Wall Street cases to come to trial. Twenty-two cases, consolidated into four trials, will be heard in Jury Part 7, the special section of New York City Criminal Court created just to handle the glut of Occupy-related cases. All the charges in today’s cases stem from the first instance of mass arrests used against the movement on September 24th of last year — the same day Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna sprayed pepper-spray in the faces of peaceful demonstrators kettled by police nets.
We’ll be in court watching the trials, so check back for a report on the outcome.