Occupy L.A. Protesters Released From Jail: Was The LAPD Punishing Them?
Updated at the bottom: The City Attorney's office says that while about 245 have been released or were bailed out without charges, it ain't over yet. First posted at 4:42 p.m.
Most of the 291 or so Occupy L.A. protesters who were jailed following Wednesday morning's raid of their City Hall encampment were in the process of being released this afternoon, attorney Carol Sobel of the National Lawyers Guild told the Weekly.
She said they were being cut loose with "no charges, no paperwork."
She expressed anger over the situation because ...
... she said the LAPD used a 48-hour-old hold to teach the occupiers a lesson after they failed to leave the City Hall lawn willfully following their nearly two-month-long engagement there.
"This is clearly to punish people," Sobel said.
Of course police don't get to punish people. That's up to a judge and/or jury. But the law gives cops enough flexibility to hold folks in jail without due process (that sure feels like punishment to us).
Sobel has argued that the cops are violating state law by holding such misdemeanor suspects instead of citing and releasing them, although the City Attorney's office has disputed that interpretation of the law.
It appears police can keep folks they arrest for 48 hours max, which would give the City Attorney's office time to file charges. It looks like no charges were filed for the vast majority of arrestees today. The office has until 5 p.m. to attempt to keep the protesters behind bars via court filings.
But the office has a year to file charges anyway and can drag those folks back into court.
Yesterday the office charged 20 people arrested during Wednesday morning's raid. Sobel said she believes they were charged because most had records, were on probation or parole or had warrants for their arrest.
Even many of those folks, Sobel said she learned, were offered deals to walk if they promised not to return to City Hall, she she says they didn't take.
[Update at 6 p.m.]: City Attorney's criminal branch Chief Earl Thomas tells the Weekly virtually no one is getting off scot-free.
He said that while about 175 people were released today they could still be charged. Those folks were determined to be eligible for the Alternative Prosecution Program, a 90-day love fest in which suspects can enroll and avoid prosecution.
Thomas said a special agenda would be formulated for the Occupy arrestees, one that would focus on First Amendment education:
We'll include a First Amendment law component about having to stay within the law in terms of conduct. We don't care what the message is but we are concerned about illegal conduct.
Those people don't have the accept the program and can chose to duke it out in court.
Additionally, the office filed 26 more cases against arrestees that mostly involve alleged failure to disperse or resisting arrest, he said. That brings the total number of cases filed to 46 and fulfills the City Attorney's duty to weigh the cases of all 291 arrestees within 48 hours, Thomas said.
Another 70 people appear to have bailed themselves out and so the office doesn't have to file right away. In fact it has a year from the arrest date. Thomas indicated that those people will either be offered the program if they're eligible or will be charged.
Bailed out: 70
Charged Thursday: 20
Charged Friday 26
Eligible to avoid prosecution through APP: 175
Total arrests: 291