NEW YORK, Jan 11 (Reuters) - After mass arrests in
Union Square on Sept. 24 and on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1,
many Occupy Wall Street protesters said they would take their cases to trial, vowing to stretch the resources of the
district attorney's office and the court system to the breaking
And while several hundred protesters appear to be keeping
that promise, it now seems likely that many of their cases will
be consolidated into single trials, said Martin Stolar of the
National Lawyers Guild, which is representing the bulk of the
For a group of protesters intent on spreading their
anti-corporate message -- and drawing attention to what they say
were illegitimate arrests -- the prospect of larger,
multi-defendant trials is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, NLG lawyers said Wednesday, pursuing hundreds
of individual trials could result in dismissals if police
officers and other witnesses are unavailable to testify in
On the other hand, Stolar said, consolidated trials would
probably last for days and garner additional media attention,
which would appeal to protesters. Individual trials, by
contrast, would last perhaps half a day each, given that the
vast majority of protesters are charged with misdemeanors such
as disorderly conduct or blocking vehicular traffic.
On Wednesday, as a special courtroom dedicated to the Occupy
cases churned through another 54 cases, prosecutors asked to
consolidate defendants in groups of nine or 10. It is common for
prosecutors to seek consolidation of cases that involve
defendants charged under similar circumstances, such as the 700
protesters arrested en masse on the Brooklyn Bridge.
"The People have filed motions to consolidate the remaining
cases for efficiency purposes, to ensure that the same
witnesses, police officers, and detectives do not have to
testify in unnecessarily duplicative trials," Erin Duggan, a
spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, said
in an email.
Stolar said he did not think the judge assigned to the
Occupy cases, Criminal Court Justice Neil Ross, would permit
hundreds of individual trials.
"My reading of the tea leaves is that attempt will be
foiled," Stolar said.
Instead, Stolar said, the NLG is planning to file its own
consolidation motion after identifying those protesters who have
the time and the desire to attend a longer trial -- perhaps 20
defendants at a time, he said. Others who cannot afford to spend
several days in court will press for their own separate trials.
HANDFUL OF DISMISSALS
Eight protesters Wednesday accepted the prosecution's offer
of what is known as an adjournment in contemplation of
dismissal, or an ACD, which dismisses charges as long as the
defendant is not arrested within the next six months.
In addition, half a dozen cases were dismissed on the spot
Wednesday because prosecutors said they did not believe the
charges could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Duggan said about half of the 1,800 Occupy-related cases
that are being handled by her office have been resolved thus
far, the majority through ACDs.
Wednesday's appearances came two days after another batch of
60 to 70 protesters, most of whom were arrested in Union Square
in September, appeared in court. Approximately 30 other
protesters also had court appearances Tuesday, and others are
expected later this week and next week.
Ross will rule on defense motions to dismiss and on the
consolidation issue in February, when most of this week's cases
are scheduled to return to court.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)
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