The new charges are conspiracy to riot in the second degree (without the terrorism enhancement); conspiracy to damage property in furtherance of terrorism; and conspiracy to damage property (without terrorism enhancement). The eight were arrested before the Sept. 1 start of the RNC.
Something else seems to have been discussed in Rosas' chambers, but the parties weren't talking about it afterward. Attorneys for the defendants and Janet Hafner, a spokeswoman for Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, said the judge asked them not to disclose details to the press. That request -- which was not a formal gag order -- was apparently breached almost immediately when defense attorneys discovered that Gaertner's office had issued a statement, prompting the RNC8 attorneys to rush back to the judge's chambers en masse. The result was that Gaertner's office pulled back its release, which reads in part:
Contrary to the assertions of some individuals supporting them, the defendants are not being singled out for prosecution for political reasons, or to silence the free speech we all cherish. Plain and simple, they face these charges because they broke laws that apply to them, and to all others, equally... The evidence shows that these defendants, rather than being victims of oppression, planned to deprive others both inside and outside the convention hall of their free speech rights through acts of violence.
The RNC8 Support Committee released its own statement, mostly prepared before Wednesday's court date, asserting that the newly added felony counts amounted to "prosecutorial games meant to cloud public perception and to ensnare the 8 in a web of overlapping charges. ... [T]he Prosecutor's office is attempting to obtain a court order to keep the RNC 8 from sharing information about their case." Gaertner's retracted press release, the statement said, engaged in "defaming our character in an attempt to taint the jury pool."
More than 50 people were in the courtroom, including the eight defendants (who stuffed themselves onto a single bench in the gallery), at least two of their fathers, 14 lawyers, three deputies, several reporters and one baby. Victor the bomb-sniffing dog searched the courtroom as people arrived, prompting one defense attorney to voice a tongue-in-cheek protest: "I find that offensive -- as if we wouldn't tell our clients to leave their bombs at home."
The hearing came on the heels of a series of activity in support of RNC protesters facing charges, including Vernon Rodriguez of California, who was charged with a felony and whose trial was postponed by four weeks on Monday, according to a courtroom clerk. An announced effort to flood Gaertner's office with phone calls demanding she drop charges didn't amount to a noticeable uptick in call volume, according to the main desk receptionist at Gaertner's office. But some in the courtroom today were still discussing a protest against St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman at a downtown restaurant; that protest succeeded in generating at least several minutes of excitement. (Gaertner has announced her candidacy for governor, and Coleman is considering a run for that office.)
Whatever went on behind closed doors, the mood was light enough that one of the eight young defendants performed a handstand and a backflip while waiting for the attorneys to return from the judge's chambers.
Useful article? Use these tools to let someone know:
Send & Share | Print | Access RSS Feed for Syndication