[Hpn] Charges to be dismissed in WTO arrests

wtinker wtinker@fcgnetworks.net
Sat, 10 Feb 2001 11:02:45 -0500


        Saturday, February 10, 2001, 12:00 a.m. Pacific

        Charges to be dismissed in WTO arrests


        by Jim Brunner
        Seattle Times staff reporter

              Mark Sidran
        Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran said yesterday his office would
 move
  to dismiss charges in 77 of 100 remaining cases from arrests made during
  last November's World Trade Organization anniversary protests.

        Sidran said his office had reviewed the cases, including videotapes
 of
  the Nov. 30 demonstrations, and found insufficient evidence to prove guilt
  beyond a reasonable doubt if they came to trial.

        A total of 142 people were arrested that day after peaceful daytime
  celebrations turned to tense nighttime confrontations with police. Some
  people were briefly detained and released, but most were loaded on buses
 and
  taken to jail, where they were charged with failure to disperse or
  pedestrian interference.

        Sidran's announcement came a day after it was reported that three
  local labor leaders had received preferential treatment - because of the
  intervention of Seattle Mayor Paul Schell - when they were swept up in the
  arrests.

        Steve Williamson, executive secretary of the King County Labor
  Council; Jonathan Rosenblum, director of Seattle Union Now; and Robby
 Stern,
  executive assistant to the president of the Washington State Labor
Council,
  were among those arrested and taken to jail. But the three were quickly
  released and never charged.

        Bob Hood, chief of the criminal division for the City Attorney's
  Office, said the timing of the decision to dismiss 77 cases was
 coincidental
  and had nothing to do with the accusations of preferential treatment.

        Attorneys for some protesters arrested say charges against their
  clients ought to be dropped because they did not behave substantially
  differently than the labor officials during the protests.

        "The only reason they (Williamson, Stern and Rosenblum) were
released

  was because of who they were, and that's totally offensive," said attorney
  William Broberg.

        Broberg filed a motion this week alleging selective prosecution and
  enforcement of the law in the case of Vanessa Lee, a tenant organizer
  charged with failure to disperse. Lee's case was not among those to be
  dismissed.

        Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said decisions about whom to arrest
were
  made by police commanders without interference from the mayor's office.
  While Schell's office did notify police that the labor officials had been
  asked to try to act as peacekeepers, Kerlikowske said he was never
  instructed to offer them special treatment.

        "I never would have taken this job if I thought the mayor would
  interfere with police decisions," Kerlikowske said.

        Schell has not been available for comment.

        King County Jail officials referred questions to Elaine Kraft, a
  spokeswoman for County Executive Ron Sims. Kraft said jail guards released
  the labor leaders and some others, including reporters, quickly because
 they
  were told by police that "these individuals were not to be booked."

        Once they were at the jail, Williamson, Stern and Rosenblum were
  quickly processed and released, while some of those arrested were detained
  for more than 24 hours, said Lisa Daugaard, an attorney who represents
some
  of the protesters.

        Daugaard called Lee's case a perfect example of selective
 prosecution,
  noting that Lee sat next to Rosenblum as they were arrested. While she sat
  quietly, he shouted on a bullhorn, Daugaard said.

        However, John Straight, a professor of legal ethics and criminal law
  at Seattle University, said allegations of selective prosecution are
  notoriously difficult to prove. Prosecutors have wide discretion on whom
to
  charge, Straight said. To prove selective prosecution, a lawyer must show
a
  prosecutor intended to discriminate because of political beliefs, race or
  other factors.

        "Absent an extremely candid and stupid prosecutor admitting it in
 open
  court, it's nearly impossible to show," Straight said. He said that police
  have less leeway, however, so lawyers may be able to prove their related
  claim of "selective enforcement."

        Williamson said he and other labor leaders had been asked by
Schell's
  office to help maintain order during the WTO anniversary. They were trying
  to negotiate with police to allow protesters to walk to the Labor Temple
on
  First Avenue and Broad Street when they were arrested, he said.

        After the protests, Sidran's office received 117 misdemeanor cases
 for
  prosecution. Of those, 17 have been resolved through guilty pleas,
 diversion
  or no charges being filed. Of the remaining 100, only 23 now remain.

        Sidran said that police were justified in arresting the protesters,
  based on probable cause.


        Jim Brunner can be reached at 206-515-5628 or
  jbrunner@seattletimes.com.

  Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.


  Copyright  2001 The Seattle Times Company