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Occupy Wall Street Protesters Take Deals on Arrest Summonses

By DNAinfo Staff on December 14, 2011 2:42pm  | Updated on December 14, 2011 7:03pm

Protesters line up outside court on Dec. 13, 2011, where dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were seen by a judge to answer protest-related summonses.
Protesters line up outside court on Dec. 13, 2011, where dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were seen by a judge to answer protest-related summonses.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

By Serena Solomon and Shayna Jacobs

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Occupy Wall Street may not be clogging the courts after all.

More than half of the anti-greed protesters who were called before a judge in summons court Wednesday took deals from prosecutors, apparently abandoning their vow to "clog the courts," which many had claimed they would do when the protest arrests began.

"Very good luck to you," Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross told William Perry, a protester in a Vietnam Veterans Against the War sweatshirt, who was among of the many whose disorderly conduct and blocking roadway summonses were conditionally dismissed on Wednesday. 

Under the terms of the deal, the cases will be dismissed after six months if the protesters are not rearrested, a caveat many previously said they were not willing to accept because it would restrict their ability to protest.

"I live in New Jersey," said Luis Diaz, 26, of Clifton, a UPS shipping rep who was among those who took the deal. "You have to travel two or three times in the year. It is difficult."

In the end, 178 protesters appeared, and many of them had two or more charges — such as disorderly conduct and blocking traffic — issued during the Oct. 2 march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Of the number that appeared, 94 took dismissal deals and 67 turned them down, opting for a motions proceeding and possible trial, according to prosecutors.

Many of those who declined the dismissal offer said on the day of the march, they were led to the Brooklyn Bridge's traffic lanes by police and then trapped with nowhere to go, and subsequently arrested.

"I plead not guilty because I'm not f**king guilty," said Robert Grodt, 24, of California, who says he was stuck in a group of people and could not comply with the after-the-fact order from police.

Grodt said the he and the other protesters were "on our way out", headed to the Brooklyn side of the bridge when police closed it off and caused a much bigger gridlock than would otherwise have occurred.

"We were on our way out. We were not having a dance party," Grodt added outside the courthouse.

Another who vowed to fight on was Michael Dobsevage, 35, a video editor from Connecticut.

"It would mean refraining from taking part in future action. It is also accepting injustice," he said.

"If there is something that comes up [such as a protest], I don't want to be held up. A lot can happen in six months."

They were among the hundreds of protesters whose summons cases are expected to go before a judge this week on disorderly conduct and other charges stemming from demonstrations at Zuccotti Park, Union Square and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Similar deals were offered to hundreds of other protesters who were issued desk appearance tickets instead of summonses during the demonstrations.

The deals came after the judge rejected an argument by a defense lawyer that the tickets were "fixed" by the police department.

Martin Stolar, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who represents many of the protesters, claimed that the court clerk returned the tickets to the NYPD, allowing the tickets to be "tampered with." 

"They fixed them — the legal bureau and whoever else in the police department was able to do that with the approval apparently of the court clerk who gave it back to them," he said.

But a judge rejected the claim, saying: "there is nothing whatsoever to suggest in any way shape or form any of the [summonses]...have been tampered with."

The scene at the 346 Broadway courthouse was a far cry from the raucous protests and clashes with cops that marked the two-and-a-half-month long movement, which started at Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17.

Although the mass of protesters in the hallway and in waiting rooms on the fourth floor of the courthouse gave the appearance of chaos, once inside the courtroom, court personnel called the cases quickly and efficiently.

An extra detail of court officers in the hallway kept the crowd in line and dozens of National Lawyers Guild volunteers helped the protesters with their cases.

In a change of plans, the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which generally does not handle summons cases, decided to jump into the fray, assigning two prosecutors to the the roughly 700 summons cases that are set to be heard over the next few days.

The DA's office had said it was not going to handle the summons cases because it had never done so in the past. But on Tuesday it made special arrangements "to ensure these cases are handled consistently and fairly."