January 24, 2006

Protesters Sentenced

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On Dec. 19, Judge Judith A. Rossiter handed down a guilty verdict in the trespassing trial of the “Redbud Eight,” which was completed on Oct. 25.

The defendants, Amelia Apfel ’08, Laura McIntyre ’08, Ethan Middlebrooks ’07, Kjirsten Alexander ’07, Sun columnist Danny Pearlstein ’05, Daisy Torres ’05, Jordan Wells ’07 and Patrick Young ’06, were sentenced to 25 hours of community service each at a hearing held on Friday.

They were charged with trespassing stemming from the their April occupation of the office of former President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77.

They have 30 days from last Friday to appeal the verdict and the sentence.

Pearlstein said that he was not necessarily surprised with the guilty verdict.

“Given what she considered, we weren’t surprised,” he said.

He said that the group had a “difference of opinion of the facts of the case” with Rossiter.

The group argued that their cases should be dismissed because they did not expect to be arrested, but rather referred to the Judicial Administrator and therefore it was “not their intent to break the law.”

According to Rossiter, Young concluded that “no student had ever been arrested for trespass for political protest on Cornell’s campus.”

Young said that he believed that the protest was “a violation of the campus code, not of the penal code.”

According to Rossiter’s opinion, “that conclusion is just wrong.”

Rossiter cited People v. Pease, a case from 1998, in which Bryan Pease ’00 was arrested and prosecuted for harassment and trespassing on Cornell’s campus.

In addition, Rossiter wrote that Elizabeth Millhollen ’05 was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct arising from protest in 2003.

“This Court’s decision in that case was actually published in State Reporters and would have been readily available to any researcher,” Rossiter wrote of the Millhollen decision.

Pearlstein said that he believed the other cases to be a “different kind” of crime, and Young said that the cases were “very much distinguishable.”

“We were surprised that the decision disregarded many of the arguments made at trial,” Young said.

Simeon Moss ’73, Cornell’s press office director, said that the University had no official comment on the outcome of the case or the sentencing.

The group has not yet decided whether they will appeal.

“If we can change the precedent [of students getting arrested for trespassing on campus] then we would appeal in a second,” Young said.

“We need to examine all of our options,” Pearlstein said.

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun Managing Editor