RNC Legal Update: Milwaukee Three Sentencing, charges against Keith Smith dismissed

*JUDGE DOLES OUT HARSH SENTENCES TO CHRISTINA VANA AND KAREN MEISSNER*
**
On November 10th, 2009, Judge Teresa Warner stayed imposition of an unspecified amount of prison time and sentenced Karen Meissner and Christina Vana to 7 years of probation, 8 hours of community service every month for the next 2 years, and a $100 fine plus standard court fees. Among the conditions of probation were that they participate in whatever educational or vocational programming Probation sets for them. As is usual in felony cases, DNA samples were required. The issue of restitution will remain open for 90 days.

Around 25 people showed up to court to support these two of the “Milwaukee 3” defendants. Well, 25 people not counting lawyers, undercover cops, and a bevy of Sheriff’s Deputies. At the request of Courtwatch last week, the judge took steps to get a larger courtroom to accommodate the expected crowd. The advantage was that there were plenty of seats for everyone, but the disadvantage was that we were much further away from the judge’s bench and our friends.

Their sentences were the results of plea agreements reached between the defendants and prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft, who was not present at the sentencing. He failed to communicate the content of the agreement to the lawyer who filled in for him, causing the judge to dismiss the prosecution’s arguments for 90 days in jail out of hand.

A plea agreement, said the judge, is a legal agreement, and this one was entered into evidence in the court records. Neither the prosecutor nor the defendants were free to disregard this agreement. **

The judge said she had received 52 letters an hour before court was due to start–all of which appeared to have been printed on the same machine (which was confusing since she also said they had been faxed to her). She said that there wasn’t always time for a judge to read that much material just before court started. Nevertheless, she read all 52 letters. She called attention to one in particular that she said she found offensive in tone–she objected to the reference to a “plea bargain.”

“If you want a bargain, go to Target!” the judge snapped. This was a plea agreement.

Per the plea agreement, the judge said she had crafted a sentence that she felt would be useful for rehabilitation, yet sufficiently severe to provide the necessary punishment and accountability that was required in view of the seriousness of the crime. She told each of the defendants that, in spite of what the Pre-Sentencing Investigation found, she believed that they *were* remorseful and regretted their actions. She remembered them coming into court as two very scared young people, and she was convinced that they really had not considered the consequences of their actions on September 1st, 2008.

She said that, in some ways, the probation she had assigned was a much more severe sentence than jail time. Had they received a jail sentence, they might have “been very scared,” but they could have completed the sentence relatively quickly and gone on with their lives without ever really considering the consequences of what they had done. With a long probation, they would receive extended supervision and have plenty of time to see the consequences of their actions.

One of the defense attorneys, Ted Dooley, asked if it was possible for the defendants to do their community service in the state in which they would be living. The judge said that that would be acceptable if the probation was transferred. Dooley then asked if his client might return to Wisconsin to be with her sister who was in the hospital, but the judge declined to make specific allowances for that. Both Christina and Karen are forbidden to leave Minnesota without the permission of the Probation Office.

The judge’s tone and statements during the sentence show us all too clearly what the “justice” system is all about–controlling people’s lives and establishing authority over them. Having the audacity to imply that being incarcerated is easy, Judge Warner took what she felt was a more vindictive route to determine her sentencing. Having satisfied herself that she was exercising her authority over other people’s lives adequately, she made sure to rub it in Christina’s and Karen’s faces and talk down to them during the proceedings.

Although we’re glad that our friends do not have to spend more time in jail, we reject the “tough love” approach Judge Warner took, as well as the system of oppression known as the criminal “justice” system that enables her to take it. We will not be satisfied with any judge’s whims controlling our lives. Rather, we stand in solidarity with our friends and will continue to love and support them!


JUVENILE CASE AGAINST KEITH SMITH DISMISSED!!!

An unqualified victory in court this week was for Keith Smith. After being brutally beaten by the cops during the RNC, he was charged in an attempt to cover the cops’ asses. After requiring the defense to fly in a witness for Keith twice and attend several court appearances, the state finally dropped the bogus charges!

“Much to our satisfaction, the DA entered into a deferred dismissal agreement with Keith this afternoon. As of February 10, 2010 his case will be dismissed without repercussions. In return, he has agreed to keep his mouth shut” about some things he learned in the course of preparing for trial, said Keith’s mother.

Keith is happy with the outcome of his case, and he sends enthusiastic thanks to CRASS and everyone who sat in the lobby of the Juvenile and Family Justice center while his court hearings took place (juvenile court is not open to the public).

In a communication with Courtwatch, Keith’s mother said, “Bottom line, the case will be dismissed, which is exactly what should have happened (well, he never should have been charged in the first place, really). I appreciate the long-term commitment of the CRASS organization members and moreover those of you who diligently showed up, helped organize the flights and needs of our witness and extended your support for Keith. We will keep you posted on our civil suit.”

And we will keep all of you posted on Keith’s civil suit as well!


SUPPORTING RNC PRISONERS

Supporting political prisoners is one of the most important ways to foster solidarity within social movements. We’re only as strong as our prisoner support! You can support the people who are serving time for daring to fight back.

*Brad Crowder*
Previously convicted of federal charges, Brad Crowder has also pled guilty to one state charge of Aiding and Abetting Terroristic Threats. His plea deal gets him a 15-month sentence, which he asked to have executed (rather than having it stayed and being sentenced to jail time plus probation) and which will be served concurrently with his federal sentence.

His mailing address while in jail is:
Bradley Neal Crowder
#0904924
Sherburne County Jail
13880 Highway 10
13880 Business Center Drive
Elk River, MN 55330-4601

Matt DePalma
Matt DePalma of Michigan took a plea agreement in federal court, admitting to unlawful possession of destructive devices, a federal crime. He was sentenced on March 11, 2009 to 42 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. It is widely believed that he was entrapped by FBI informant Andrew Darst (who later faced his own assault charges in Hennepin County, MN).

His mailing address while in prison is:
Matthew Bradley DePalma
#14125-041
FCI Fairton
P.O. Box 420
Fairton, NJ 08320

Jesse James Forrey
In September, Jesse James was sentenced to four months for “damage to property” during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. We expect that he will be released on November 30, 2009. To find out some ways to support Jesse, check out his How You Can Help page.

His mailing address while in jail is:
Jesse James Forrey
RC Correctional Facility
297 Century Avenue South
Maplewood, MN 55119

David McKay
David McKay had trial the week of January 26, 2009, which resulted in a mistrial due to a hung jury. McKay’s lawyer argued that McKay had been entrapped by FBI informant Brandon Darby. McKay was released on bond and scheduled to begin a retrial on March 16, but that was preempted by him pleading guilty to three charges. His decision to plead guilty may have been influenced by the prosecutor’s underhanded tactic of compelling his friend Brad Crowder to testify against him in the second trial. He was taken back into custody after submitting his plea and sentenced to four years in prison.

His mailing address while in prison is:
David Guy McKay
#14130-041
USP Beaumont
P. O. Box 26030
Beaumont, TX 77720


CRASS WORKING GROUP UPDATES

Civil Litigation: Civil suits are in the works! So far, lawyers have stepped up to represent people who were arrested at the mass arrest incidents on Shepard Road on Sept. 1, the Rage Against the Machine concert on Sept. 3, and the anti-war march on Sept 4. Email us at RNCcivillit@riseup.net to learn how to get involved. We’re still collecting intake forms to get people connected to the work being done to file suit. You can find the form at http://www.rncaftermath.org/resources/civil-litigation-forms/.

Court Solidarity/Media/Outreach/Pressure (Omnibus):
We meet every other Wednesday at the Second Moon Coffee Shop in Minneapolis during the CRASS working meeting time. Email our listserv (rnccourtsolidarity@googlegroups.com) for more information.

Courtwatch: We need you in the courts! Email us at RNCcourtwatch@gmail.com to get involved. We’re doing our work online for the most part, so email us to get involved!

Felony Support:For more info about Felony Support, check out our little space on the web at http://www.rncaftermath.org/arrestees/felony-info-and-support.

Fundraising: If you would like to get involved, let us know! Email rnc08fundraising@gmail.com if you want to hang out with us.

Hospitality: Helping arrestees survive their stay in the Twin Cities while fighting court charges. Offer housing or find some for yourself at http://www.nornc.org/stay. Coming into town to fight your charges? Need help paying for your travel? Apply for funding through the Travel Fund at http://www.rncaftermath.org. So far, we’ve reimbursed more than $5,000 of travel expenses to and from the Twin Cities for people fighting their charges. We’d love to help you too! E-mail rnc08hospitality@riseup.net for more info.

The Spokescouncil: The spokescouncil is made up of the bottomliners from each of the working groups, and is also open to anyone who wants to be involved. We plan the agenda for the meetings, share information between the working groups, and formulate proposals to bring to the meetings.

The Zine Project: We meet every other Wednesday at the Blue Nile Restaurant in Minneapolis. Our current focus is releasing a short form of our zine for the 1-year anniversary of the RNC. Email us at crasszine@riseup.net or check out http://www.rncaftermath.org/get-involved/crass-zine-project for more info. Also check out our snazzy Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=66014266468. You don’t have to live in Minneapolis to be part of this project — email us to get involved!

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