After long wait and frequent online debate, the second felony charge to come from Saturday's Occupy Denver riot has been released: Sean Driggers was arrested on criminal intent to commit second degree assault and will face an advisement at 10 a.m. this morning. His bond will be set at $5,000; the DA's timeline to file formal charges on Driggers ends Monday.
There's an important distinction here: Driggers is not alleged to have actually struck a police officer, says Charles Nadler, president of the Colorado Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. This slight variation in charge is different from the case of John Sexton, the 33-year-old protester and recent Westword profile subject. Sexton recently lost his job as an insurance salesman over his arrest for felony assault of a police officer -- an accusation he denies.
Nadler doesn't know why the Driggers charge was so late in coming; he says the prosecutor heard of the case two days ago, but didn't know the name at that time, either.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the announcement is that Driggers is not the person who pushed over (or was potentially rolled over by) a police officer's motorcycle. The allegation, which Sexton told Westword had been attributed to him while in jail, fits neither man.
In the meantime, Occupy Denver's 48-person professional legal team has taken ongoing action on the cases resulting from the first two rounds of 24 and then 26 arrests made more than two weeks ago. All of those who were originally arrested have pleaded not guilty, meaning all arrestees also refused the same legal bargain across the board: one year's probation and eight hours of community service rather to avoid the potential for stricter consequences.
"They all entered a plee of not guilty, and there might be a change in some of those, but I don't expect many, if that," Nadler says. "Most want to go to trial, because they feel they were wrongfully arrested during a demonstration. We figured it would probably go this way, though each individual makes up their own mind. They are making a statement." In selecting whether or not to work with the Colorado ACLU, which recently announced a preliminary investigation of the satefy and constitutionality of police action against the occupation, occupiers are making a similar statement. Although Nadler indicates that most of the group's legal team is perfectly happy to work with the ACLU, the decision then comes down to the individual arrestee, many of whom might not be willing to get involved after their own arrests.
"What we do is serve to facilate, so if the ACLU needs certain kind of information, we put out a call to the attorneys to see if any of them have that and would like to share it with the ACLU," Nadler says. "Pretty much everybody is cooperating with everybody else at the time. Given the attitudes of the representation and that they're pretty strong on the First Amendment and pretty against excessive force, it's really up to the individual. Not everybody wants to be a plaintiff in a civil case."
The group's most unusual cases -- those that stray outside of the disobeying a lawful order charges and the like -- have been handed to the public defenders office, which asked for a role in the legal proceedings. This is to ensure that cases like Sexton's, tasked to a public defender, are given the attention they need, while the rest of the legal team is able to focus on similar circumstances.
The earliest trial date for any of the original fifty arrests is December 6, while the last one is scheduled as late as March. Although the court cases that resulted from riots during the Democratic National Convention appeared to serve as a model of sorts for Occupy Denver's arrests, the similarities have ended earlier than expected.
"The difference here between what they did during the DNC is that they called a judge back from retirement and scheduled the cases with her," Nadler says. "She did a lot of them herself and parceled all the rest out with other judges. Here, they've all been scheduled within the normal system. While during the DNC they were all municipal cases, we have county ones, too. We're all over the place."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Michael Moore speaks at Occupy Denver to a crowd that leaves shortly after."
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