Occupy Bellingham cases come to a close, one still pending

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 1, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Only one in a series of 17 legal cases against Occupy Bellingham protestors is left unresolved, after charges against a man arrested after speaking at the Whatcom County Council were dropped.

Whatcom County District Court on Feb. 20 dismissed the case against Daniel "Ten" Young, who was accused of intentionally disrupting a lawful assembly. At the end of a public comment period at the Whatcom County Council, Young staged a "mic check" comment where he would say a sentence and those in the crowd repeated it until he was done with his speech.

Most of the council members walked out at this point.

Council member Sam Crawford said Wednesday, Feb. 26, that he was surprised that the case was still pending, and people who disrupt public meetings should be held accountable.

"If you have an anarchic approach to the public process, the public process disintegrates," Crawford said. "There's no allowance for people to disrupt these meetings."

Young's attorney Larry Hildes said he appreciates that the prosecutor came around.

"This was in the interest of justice," Hildes said. "This case should never have been filed."

Official reasons for the dismissal included witnesses' fading memories and the fact that Young had never been arrested before or since the incident, Hildes said.

Hildes said the council overreacted to Young's speech, which was in opposition to the council's decision to move the public comment period to sometime in the middle of a meeting, rather than the beginning. Hildes said this made it more difficult for people to speak at meetings.

Crawford said those who spoke were not operating within the council's rules. The council has since clarified its rules regarding speaking at public meetings and met to discuss how to prevent such incidents.

Hildes filed a tort claim Feb. 21 against the county for encroachment of Young's First Amendment rights, he said.

Whatcom County prosecutor Dan Gibson confirmed the claim was filed and said the county is reviewing it.

Gibson said the county has a considerably different view than Young regarding his actions at the council meeting.

Fifteen other Occupy-related cases dating back to 2011 have been resolved, all reaching their end between April and August 2012.

Four people were arrested on Dec. 28, 2011, during the eviction of Occupy protestors from Maritime Heritage Park in Bellingham. Herbert E. Goodwin, Debra J. Cantrell and Russell W. Rollins were arrested during the sweep of the park.

Cantrell, Goodwin and Rollins were charged with second-degree criminal trespassing and obstructing a police officer. The trespassing was brought down to a public noise disturbance, and the two men served eight hours of community service, according to Bellingham Municipal Court records. Cantrell paid the court $100.

The fourth person, Shea Field, moved his tent from the park into the street and stayed there until he was arrested for disorderly conduct. Field pleaded guilty Aug. 3, 2012, served one day in jail and was fined $498, according to court records.

Twelve others were arrested after blocking the railroad tracks near Roeder Avenue for more than three hours on Dec. 12, 2011. They were the only arrests in a much larger crowd, according to police.

Nine of the 12 protestors - Goodwin, Gerald Warren, Zachary Elisha Robertson, Jordan Quinn, Tamara King, Ian K. Alexander, Robert Burr, Michael Cragan and Alexis Garcia-Silva - were given eight hours of community service for the same charges of obstructing a police officer and public noise disturbance, according to court records. Robertson and Cragan were fined $493 to avoid a one-year prison sentence for second-degree criminal trespassing, according to court records.

Two others, Bonnie Barker and Andrew Ingram, were given 11 hours of community service for obstructing an officer and a public noise disturbance, according to court records.

The last of those arrested in the railroad blocking was Joshua James Smith. Smith is the only unresolved case from the Occupy arrests. Smith was charged with second-degree criminal trespassing and obstructing an officer, but he failed to appear in court on April 26, 2012. There is a warrant out for his arrest, according to court records.

Reach James Kozanitis at 360-715-2249 or james.kozanitis@bellinghamherald.com.

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