Today's pre-trial conference in Vestal brought some good news but also laid out a tough road ahead: Thankfully, six of the eight remaining defendants from last March's anti-war rally and police riot accepted reduced plea deals of 'disorderly conduct' amounting in 50 hours of community service.
Two other defendants were essentially offered nothing; the State wants them to plead guilty to misdemeanors for crimes they did not commit, resulting in a criminal record and penalties.
Beyond the frightening implications of sanctioning dissent against the brutal policies of this government, at this point, such an offer does not seem even legally acceptable to us. It is, however, unclear what the strategy of the Vestal Police is; they could be focusing their energies on two defendants to "set an example" or merely draw out this process even longer to cover themselves.
What's sure is that we have renewed vigor to see these charges dropped. At a time when the US government is engaged in criminal occupations abroad and "bailing-out" the gangster of wall street while impoverishing and imprisoning working people, they have no legal or moral authority to repress legitimate dissent against their brutal policies. We're nevertheless prepared to mount a winning legal defense - if need be - within their framework.
This process will likely stretch out for more months as we await yet another pre-trial conference, and, potentially, a court date. We're still in tactical discussion with our lawyers to figure out what kind of community solidarity is best to build at this point, and where its energies should be directed.
For now, we're calling off our request to write letters to the District Attorney's office. However, there might well come a time when we'll need even more overwhelming solidarity, including a physical presence in a court room.
If you'd like to stay up-to-date with legal proceedings and how you can support us, please consider joining our google-group/listserv. We promise to send out messages infrequently and only when it's important. You can join by following this link: http://groups.google.com/
You can always donate to our much needed legal funds at our blog, http://solidarityanddissent.
Thanks for all your support.
In solidarity and struggle...