While even more members of Occupy Wall Street were arrested earlier this afternoon, 50 of those already charged in relation to the protests showed up to a New York’s 2nd Circuit District court today to turn down Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance‘s plea bargain. The D.A. had entered an offer for the offenders where the charges would be dropped on the condition that the individuals would not get arrested again for the next six months.
The fact that the offer was turned down shouldn’t come as much of a shock to those who have been following the story. So far over 800 people have been arrested in conjunction to the Occupy Wall Street movement, most of whom were booked on disorderly conduct charges during the 700-person mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge early October. While D.A. Vance’s offer (official title: “adjournments in contemplation of dismissal”) might seem like a sweet deal, several members of the National Lawyers Guild who have taken on the cases of the protesters note that under the plea bargain, their clients would effectively be barred from participating in any more marches or protests, lest there is another “mass arrest” that would find them in violation of their conditional “Get out of Jail Free” pass.
Further complicating the issue is the seeming arbitrary nature concerning whether individual protesters were issued DATS (Desk Appearance Tickets) or actual summons during the time of their arrests.
Today’s court appearance was concerning the 70 individuals who were arrested during a September 24th march to Union Square. Of those who showed up to New York County Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross, 50 of them refused the plea, meaning that they will be due back in court in January. Their lawyers have told reporters that they will move to have the trial dismissed at that time. If not, well, 800 individual trials are sure to take up a lot of the court’s time and the city’s money…which is exactly what the lawyers from the NLG are threatening should the District Attorney’s office agree to totally drop the charges, unconditionally.
Meanwhile, 16 more people have just been added to this roster of would-be criminals, including Naomi Wolf, Rev. Billy Talun, and journalist Chris Hedges.