PRESS RELEASE: Community members respond to RNC trials, beginning Monday, December 15.

For Immediate Release: December 9, 2008

Contact:  rnc08mediagmail.com

St. Paul, MN– The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS) announced Tuesday that large numbers of community members will pack Ramsey County courtrooms next week in support of the 13 people scheduled to stand trial on charges stemming from the Republican National Convention. One defendant is facing felony charges, seven are facing gross misdemeanor charges and five are charged with misdemeanors.

“We have stood in solidarity with our friends every step of the way,” said CRASS court watch working group member, Bill Drebenstedt. “From the time of their arrests, through the arraignment, omnibus and pre-trial hearings, we have literally stood at their sides. We are now turning up the pressure by increasing our presence even more.”

Forty people facing gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor charges were previously scheduled to go to trial the week of December 15. Judge John H. Guthmann issued pre-trial orders in these cases requiring the St. Paul City Attorney’s office to announce whether or not they intended to take the cases to trial no later than December 1. The charges against 28 of these people were dismissed last week because there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, according to St. Paul City Attorney John Choi.

The total number of cases charged and subsequently dismissed by the St. Paul City Attorney’s office currently stands at 72. CRASS has confirmed that 165 cases have been filed pursuant to arrests made during the Republican National Convention, September 1 to September 4, 2008. Fifty-nine cases are still on the dockets as of Monday, December 8.

The city attorney also reported that 27 cases have been resolved thus far. Cases have been resolved by defendants entering guilty pleas or agreeing to continuances for dismissal. CRASS has been gathering data on these cases and has found that a total of less than $4400 has been collected by the city pursuant to these plea agreements.

“It really makes you wonder what their motivation is for pursuing these cases,” said CRASS pressure working group member, Melissa Hill. “At a time when state and local governments are facing budget shortfalls and economic crisis, these prosecutions are proceeding at a high cost to Ramsey County residents just to prove a political point. The numbers show they are not succeeding at proving their point.”

CRASS has consistently maintained that the arrests of more than 800 people during the RNC and the subsequent prosecutions are politically motivated. The intent is to deter expressions of dissent.

CRASS will hold a press conference on Monday, December 15 concerning the upcoming trials, time and place to be determined.

About CRASS – The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure is a non-hierarchical coalition of RNC arrestees and community allies, including local groups such as Coldsnap Legal Collective (coldsnaplegal.org), Friends of the RNC 8 (rnc8.org), National Lawyers Guild – MN (nlgminnesota.org), Communities United Against Police Brutality (cuapb.org), Anti-War Committee (antiwarcommittee.org), Twin Cities Indymedia (tc.indymedia.org), and Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeace.org).

CRASS provides multifaceted support to those arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention to ensure that all interested arrestees have the support necessary to fight their charges and stand up for free speech. The first meeting of arrestees and supporters took place two days after the end of the convention and meetings have continued regularly since. CRASS has a travel fund available to aid arrestees in returning to the Twin Cities for their court dates, is actively working on court solidarity strategies to support those still facing charges, and is dedicated to aiding and facilitating civil suits. For more information, visit RNCaftermath.org

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