Columbus Day Protestor Cases Dismissed

Charges against several key anti-Columbus Day Parade agitators were dismissed today by a Denver County Court Judge.

Russell Means, Glenn Spagnuolo and Shannon Francis will not have to face a jury trial for blocking the annual Columbus Day Parade on October 6. Judge Claudia Jordan threw out the cases – the first of 83 scheduled for trial – after prosecutors from the City Attorney’s Office failed to produce key evidence including video tapes and witnesses during suppression hearings. Charges against longtime protest figurehead Glenn Morris were maintained only after the judge was able to contact the arresting officer at home by phone and order him into the courtroom.

“The judge is the one that’s going to look bad,” says defense attorney David Lane. “They’ll call her an activist judge, a liberal. When it’s the City Attorney’s office that can’t get their shit together.”

Lane is far from celebrating, however. He suspects the dismissals are a strategy by the city to remove the most outspoken and high-profile activists from the docket as a way to prevent attention-grabbing trials. Charges for the remaining 80 arrested that day range from Refusing the Order of an Officer to Obstructing a Passage for using their interlocked bodies to stall the procession for more than an hour along 15th Street downtown.

After a jury trial in 2005, Morris, Spagnuolo and fired CU professor Ward Churchill won acquittal on similar charges of disrupting the 2004 parade, which resulted in charges being dropped against about 240 others.

Spagnuolo is a main organizer for Recreate-68, the group that hopes to coordinate protests at the Democratic National Convention here in August. –- Jared Jacang Maher

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Sean Cronin