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Judge Dismisses RNC Charges in First Case to Proceed to Trial

by staff |
January 23, 2009
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St. Paul, MN - A Ramsey County judge threw out all charges Jan. 23 in the first Repbulican National Convention (RNC) protest-related case to proceed to trial. The ‘Wall Street Seven’ consisted of seven people arrested on Sept. 1, 2008 for blocking the intersection of 9th and Wacouta in downtown Saint Paul. They were charged with obstructing legal process, disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and blocking traffic. All charges were thrown out after the city of Saint Paul had presented the prosecution’s case and the judge concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.

“This was the city of Saint Paul’s showcase trial - the first RNC case to go to trial and one in which the city consolidated the trials of all seven defendants. Unfortunately for the city, however, it showcased how police had no basis for the vast majority of arrests made during the RNC,” said defense counsel Jordan Kusher, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild. “The judge in this case decided there wasn't even enough evidence to require the defendants to put on any evidence and allow the case to go to a jury,” he said. Kushner and Ken Tilsen, another volunteer attorney from the National Lawyers Guild, represented the seven defendants.

By granting the motion for a directed verdict, Ramsey County Judge Michael Fetsch decided that no reasonable jury could find the defendants guilty, even if all the testimony from police was accepted as true. The defendants did not have to present any defense and charges can not be re-filed in the future.

To date, over 40% of the arrests reviewed by the city attorney’s office have been dismissed without formal charges even being filed. This was the first case to proceed to trial in a case where the city attorney claimed there was sufficient evidence for a formal charge. Although the Saint Paul city attorney has for the past three months defended the arrests made during the RNC, this trial represents the first real test of the strength of that evidence. As demonstrators and their lawyers have contended, the dismissal of these charges is additional evidence that hundreds of people were arrested without cause during the RNC in a government crackdown on dissent.

Each defendant in this case served several days in jail before being released on bail. The out-of-state defendants, Samuel Maron, Kathryn Bonner Jackson, Molly Adelstein, Katherine Tolman, Andrew Wilson, Paul McCarrier and Timothy Clifford, all missed work or school obligations and incurred great expense as they had to come to Minnesota multiple times for court appearances.