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Two protesters who blocked highway during Trump rally sentenced, a third takes plea

Donald Trump rallies the crowd in Lynden

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to an overflow crowd at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Wash., on Saturday, May 7, 2016.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to an overflow crowd at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Wash., on Saturday, May 7, 2016.

Two of the three protesters who blocked the main highway to Lynden during a then-candidate Donald Trump rally in May 2016 were found guilty Wednesday of disorderly conduct.

A third protester took a plea deal two weeks earlier.

Josefina Alanis-Mora, 20, and Thomas Kaplan, 23, were sentenced to 10 days out of custody work crew – the pair was also ordered to pay fines of more than $250, and placed on two years of bench probation, meaning they have to stay out of trouble for two years. Alanis-Mora and Kaplan were found guilty of the misdemeanor by a six-person jury after a three-day trial in Whatcom County District Court.

Their sentences have been stayed, pending a decision on whether they will file an appeal or not.

The third protester, Neah Monteiro, 33, took an Alford plea – to the same offense – Sept. 28 and was sentenced to 24 hours of community service, a $250 fine and a year of bench probation. An Alford plea is when a person maintains his or her innocence but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to prove guilt.

Prosecuting attorney George Roche said the case was straightforward.

“There was quite a bit of evidence. The entire protest was videotaped and we had photographic evidence of them in the middle of the street,” Roche said. “The jury deliberated for 15 to 20 minutes, so it was very straightforward from where I was sitting.”

Roche said he based part of his argument on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that dealt with protesting in the 1960s, and indirectly addressed obstructing traffic.

“What they talked about was that everyone has a First Amendment right to protest and to exercise their right to free speech, but there is a certain limitation to that,” Roche said. “The First Amendment rights are not to the exclusion of the rights of other people. You cannot cordon off a street and require anyone who wishes to pass by to listen to your exhortation prior to passing.”

Civil rights and defense attorney Larry Hildes said he and his clients saw it a different way.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) was one of the most bizarre and chilling days I have ever experienced in my two months short of 22 years of practice,” Hildes said. “Here our clients were protesting the violence and bigotry that was associated and surrounded by and encouraged by Trump and his events and they were protesting by trying to stop the people who do that from getting there.”

In May 2016, Kaplan, Alanis-Mora and Monteiro chained themselves to ladders and linked arms to block Guide Meridian around 3 p.m., the time Trump was scheduled to arrive at Bellingham International Airport. The protest was streamed live.

Trump’s campaign stop was not interrupted by the protest.

Hildes said his clients have 30 days from Oct. 11 to decide whether to appeal the sentence and conviction or not.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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