St. Paul, Minn. — The remaining four RNC 8 defendants announced today that they will accept plea agreements to resolve their over two-year legal and political felony battle. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor plead to one count each of gross misdemeanor conspiracy to riot. Garrett Fitzgerald and Nathanael Secor plead to one count each of gross misdemeanor conspiracy to destroy property.
The agreements specify that the defendants will complete 100 hours of community service, will have probation for one to two years, and will be fined $200 each. However, the plea agreements do not call for jail time or restitution. Additionally, the defendants will not be required to testify against anyone else in any other criminal case arising from their cases.
"This plea must be embarrassing for Susan Gaertner and Bob Fletcher. Their case was so weak from the beginning that through political pressure, they have been forced from pursuing felony terrorism charges into settling on a plea with no jail time," said Jaime Hokanson of the RNC 8 Defense Committee.
Hokanson expounded on the circumstances that led to the plea: "The way the criminal justice system actually works is to wear down defendants through grueling proceedings, not to honor the supposed right to trial by jury in which guilt must be proven in open court. What the state calls 'justice' is just more of the coercion and force that the defendants and thousands of other people were organizing against in the first place."
The resolution of the case marks the end result of a wide-ranging campaign to defend the RNC 8. Since September 2008, fundraisers and other events in support of the defendants have been held in dozens of cities nationwide, and as far away as Russia and New Zealand. In spite of efforts by the state to vilify the defendants for their openly anarchist politics, monetary donations to the RNC 8 Defense Committee surged. Thousands of people signed a petition that was delivered to Ramsey County Attorney Gaertner shortly before the original terrorism enhancement charges were dropped in April 2009. Supporters continued to demand that all charges be dropped and, as a result, defendants Monica Bicking, Luce Guillén-Givins and Eryn Trimmer saw their charges dropped completely.
"We have long held that the charges against the RNC 8 were politically motivated, as the defendants were openly organizing resistance to the Republican National Convention as anarchists," said Hokanson. "Police intimidation, harassment and slander of activists in the lead up to the RNC was part of a broader strategy of criminalizing political organizing, and this view is now widely accepted in the Twin Cities. Many of us are disappointed we will not have the chance to further expose the criminalization of dissent at trial, but we are pleased the state did not succeed in sending eight respected activists to prison."
RNC 8 supporters had been planning an array of solidarity activities during the expected trial, including a series of six joint fundraisers with other social justice organizations (http://rnc8.org/events/). Those events will go on as planned, demonstrating a continuing bond with Twin Cities social justice causes. This solidarity has helped strengthen the activist community against repression from the state, as evidenced in the broad support of anti-war activists in the wake of FBI raids last month.
"Supporting the RNC 8 through their ordeal has made our community and our movement stronger in many ways," said Melissa Hill of the RNC 8 Defense Committee. "The judicial system always exerts pressure on everyone, and activists are not exceptional in this. Now our struggle against state repression moves into a new phase. The continued FBI harassment of activists in our community calls on us to stand together in solidarity to fight back against attempts to destroy our movement. We will meet this call."
For more information, visit http://RNC8.org. Also follow us on Twitter: @defendthernc8.
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