SARATOGA SPRINGS – Most of the disorderly conduct charges stemming from a July protest in Saratoga Springs could be dismissed if the indicted activists are not arrested over the next few months.
Defense lawyer Kathy Manley in court Tuesday morning said the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office had indicated its intention to grant protesters facing disorderly conduct violations an adjournment for dismissal, a legal process that removes the case from the judicial calendar for a period of months before dismissing the charges if the accused is not re-arrested.
Manley said she was in discussions with Assistant District Attorney Joseph Frandino about the possible layoffs pending further review of the video evidence. Frandino did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
“I expect most people to understand [dismissal] but not everyone, âsaid Manley, who represents six of the dozen or so protesters facing charges following a July 14 protest. âIt’s a dismissal. No conviction, no plea, and it should happen in most cases. “
The potential dismissal process would not apply to the handful of protesters who face charges of unlawful imprisonment related to blocking traffic on Broadway. Manley, in an interview, argued that charges of unlawful imprisonment should not apply to the protesters’ actions and said she plans to seek their dismissal.
Four other protesters attended the Saratoga Springs police station on Tuesday morning: TJ Sangare from Clifton Park; AndrÃ© Simmons from Schenectady; Adam Walker of Troy and and Anthony Brown Davis of Albany. They were brought to justice in city court shortly after surrendering to the police.
Sangare missed college classes on Tuesday as he returned from Vermont to the capital region to surrender to the police. Davis was charged with disorderly conduct on July 14 and faced a warrant for another charge of disorderly conduct of the protest.
A dozen protesters face charges in connection with the July 14 protest, a mix of disorderly conduct violation charges and unlawful jail time charges.
Saratoga Springs Police made a handful of arrests on the day of the protest and continued to investigate the actions of protesters in the months that followed, citing health and safety concerns raised by motorists stranded in traffic during the event.
Police obtained arrest warrants in the cases on August 31 and, along with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, arrested organizer Lexis Figuereo on his way to college classes on September 7. While being held at the Saratoga Springs Police Station, other activists gathered outside for an update on his status; police outside the station arrested three other activists on outstanding warrants that night, as well as a fourth woman who attempted to intervene in the arrests.
The activists, their supporters, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Saratoga County League of Women Voters have all criticized police for issuing arrest warrants rather than giving protesters the opportunity to appear on their own. Many have argued that arrest warrants are rarely issued for violations such as disorderly conduct.
“I have never heard of warrants for disorderly conduct, especially two months after the fact,” Manley said Tuesday.
A group of activists and sympathizers who did not have hearing dates on Tuesday showed up at city hall in solidarity. Activists said they tried to attend court hearings but were prevented from doing so. These procedures are generally open to the public. The relatives of those present in court attended the hearings in the courtroom.
Since the Sept. 7 arrests – activists said they did not know they were facing charges at the time – other activists have surrendered to police.
Activists Samira Sangare and Chandler Hickenbottom appeared in city court on Tuesday for their first appearances after their arraignment on September 7. The two face the disorderly conduct violation and were represented by Manley, who informed City Court Judge Francine Vero of the potential adjournment for dismissal. Vero has scheduled new hearings for Samira Sangare and Hickenbottom for October 21, but the revocation process may remove the need for those hearings.
“Looks like it could be resolved before that,” Vero said during Hickenbottom’s appearance.
Charges of unlawful imprisonment, however, will still hang over some of the protesters. Jamaica Miles, a prominent Schenectady activist and school board member, Molly Dunn, TJ Sangare and others face misdemeanor charges for allegedly preventing motorists and passengers from moving during the protest.
“This one does not appear to be resolved, and we will move forward with motions,” Manley told the judge during TJ Sangare’s appearance. The judge set a November deadline for submitting motions in the Sangare case and has scheduled another hearing for November 30.
Manley called the charge of unlawful imprisonment “problematic” and said she had not seen it used in a protest. She said she plans to file a motion to dismiss the charge. Manley in the interview after the court hearings also argued that Saratoga’s response to the protest represented an attack on the rights of protesters.
âThe Saratoga police seem determined to stop people from protesting here,â she said. “They clearly don’t like it.”
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