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Trial Continues in OWS Trinity Church Trespass Case

The trial is proceeding despite the fact that a subpoena issued by the defense team hasn’t been complied.

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The second day of what is commonly known as either the “D17” or the “Forgive us our trespasses” trial concluded on Tuesday, June 12, around 4:30 PM. The case revolves around events that happened on and around December 17 of 2011, when members of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) entered a fenced-off lot known as Duarte Square. Of the many who were arrested that day, eight remain on trial, as the others have either had their cases dismissed or accepted some sort of plea deal. The trial is proceeding despite the fact that a subpoena issued by the defense team hasn’t been complied and even though Judge Sciarrino deemed the information contained in the subpoena request relevant.

The trial represents the district attorney’s most involved case yet, as they have already called nine witnesses to the stand and plan on calling several more. Previous cases have generally included only one witness – the arresting officer – and many have been dismissed. The district attorney (DA) is focusing so much attention on this case, in fact, some speculate they might not be ready in time for the upcoming Brooklyn Bridge proceedings.

The trial is important to the DA because unlike Zuccotti Park, which is a public space that’s privately owned, Duarte Square is private property that OWS had requested permission to use, and, therefore, the DA’s office seems to believe it has a strong case for trespassing. As for OWS, this case is significant because it has the most defendants of any trial so far, and could result in longer sentences than the movement has previously seen.

The eight co-defendants – who include Bishop George Packard and Jack Boyle, who is on a hunger and medication strike demanding Trinity drop the case – are being charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing. The maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. One defendant, Mark Adams, faces additional misdemeanor charges. Sentencing will be at the judge’s discretion once both sides have rested their cases.

The DA is expected to call additional witnesses on Wednesday, June 13, to further the argument that members of Occupy Wall Street entered Duarte Square by going over; under; and, in some cases, through, the fence surrounding the property.

On the first day of the trial, the DA called several police to the stand to describe what they saw and participated in on December 17, including whom they arrested. Each also described having a conversation with Amy Jedlicka, Trinity Church’s general counsel. As James Thilman reported in a story to which this correspondent also contributed:

“not one of them was able to recall when they spoke with her, the specifics of their conversation. Nor did they take any notes in their memo book, a major point of contention for the defense.”

Jedlicka is a key witness for the DA’s office. As Trinity Church’s general counsel and custodian of Duarte Square, the prosecutors allege that she is the person legally capable of determining who was or was not allowed to be in Duarte Square on December 17. The conversations that each officer had with her, then, form the foundation for whether or not the arrests were made lawfully.

Jedlicka’s testimony on the first day revolved primarily around the relationship between Trinity Church and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). In 2009, the two entities entered into an agreement in which LMCC would curate cultural events in Duarte Square, but Trinity would retain the ability to reject any such events or terminate the agreement at any time, according to testimony from Diego Segalini, the vice president of LMCC.

Jedlicka returned to the stand on the second day to face further cross-examination from defense attorney Gideon Oliver, during which time Oliver asked her about various deeds that have been issued since the late 1960s that the defense alleges adds some degree of uncertainty to Trinity’s claim to Duarte. Oliver also briefly questioned Jedlicka about the Edwards family, who claim that Queen Anne gave Duarte Square to their ancestor, a pirate, and that, therefore, they are the proper owners of Duarte, not Trinity.

Segalini was called to the stand to corroborate some of Jedlicka’s testimony. Defense attorney Paul Mills, on cross-examination, questioned Segalini about his knowledge of the agreements between Trinity and LMCC. Within minutes, Mills asked that the witness be briefly removed from the courtroom, at which point Mills told Judge Matthew Sciarrino that he, “couldn’t continue cross-examination without the subpoena being complied with.” Sciarrino – a baby-faced, goateed man with a mean laugh and a penchant for sarcasm directed disproportionately at the defense team – told Mills he could proceed with the information they had at hand, or he could sit down. When Segalini was brought back into the courtroom, Mills said he had no further questions.

On the day prior, Mills made a similar argument when he moved that Jedlicka’s testimony be stricken from the record based on an inability to properly cross-examine due to the subpoena not being complied with. Judge Sciarrino overruled that motion.

The prosecution also called to the stand Steven Fisher, a 20-year member of the NYPD and currently the deputy director of security at Trinity Church. Fisher, a man with little to no voice modulation, described for the court how he gave keys to Duarte Square to the notorious and despised Capt. Edward Winski, whose name provoked a barely audible vaudeville-esque hiss from observers. Fisher also stated that NYPD officials were in control of Trinity Church’s video monitoring surveillance on December 17.

Much of the afternoon testimony revolved around whether two witnesses for the prosecution – Detective Keith Livingston of the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) and Officer Alexis Rodriquez – were aware of any dispersal orders that were issued. Both stated that to their knowledge there were no official dispersal orders given with a bullhorn, even before protesters entered the square. Once inside, there was to be no dispersal order. “Once we went into the park there were no warnings,” Rodriguez stated. “We were arresting people.”

Around 12:30 PM, court officers removed three observers from the back row of the courtroom, apparently after some kind of device made a quacking sound. Minutes later, the officers then told the entire back two rows they had to leave but could, “come back after lunch when they’d thought about what they had done.” When the observers balked at the orders, Judge Sciarrino threatened them with 15 to 30 days in jail for contempt of court, at which point the two rows cleared out.

In one of the lighter moments of the day, defense attorney Gideon Oliver described Fisher’s characterization that the protesters, “ripped the fence to shreds,” a “huge exaggeration.” Oliver went on to say, “I mean, it wasn’t like the Hulk or something.” When Oliver finished cross-examination, Judge Sciarrino asked if he had any questions “about the rest of the Avengers.”

“No, but I’ll try to keep it in the Marvel universe,” Oliver replied.

The trial continues Wednesday, June 13, at 2:30 PM at Jury 7.