[Hpn] Charges to be dismissed in WTO arrests
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
Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran said yesterday his office would
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
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
taken to jail, where they were charged with failure to disperse or
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
Steve Williamson, executive secretary of the King County Labor
Council; Jonathan Rosenblum, director of Seattle Union Now; and Robby
executive assistant to the president of the Washington State Labor
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
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
was because of who they were, and that's totally offensive," said attorney
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
Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said decisions about whom to arrest
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
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
of the protesters.
Daugaard called Lee's case a perfect example of selective
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
charge, Straight said. To prove selective prosecution, a lawyer must show
prosecutor intended to discriminate because of political beliefs, race or
"Absent an extremely candid and stupid prosecutor admitting it in
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
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
First Avenue and Broad Street when they were arrested, he said.
After the protests, Sidran's office received 117 misdemeanor cases
prosecution. Of those, 17 have been resolved through guilty pleas,
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
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company