Belated Court Update on the RNC 8 from the June Hearing
Wednesday, June 9th was the fifth and last day of the RNC 8 motion hearings.
Judge Warner rejected the defense’s motion to call FBI informant Andrew Darst, and with that the oral arguments of the probable cause hearing ended. Both sides will submit further written arguments and the judge will take the issues under advisement after July 14th, determining whether there is probable cause to charge the defendants at all. If she determines that there is not enough evidence to determine probable cause, the charges will be thrown out. The hearing then turned to whether the 8 had standing to contest the evidence collected during the raids on the convergence space and several houses prior to the RNC. First, the court examined whether any of the defendants had just cause to contest the admission of evidence from the convergence space raid.
The defense called Betsy Raasch-Gilman as a witness to establish standing. Betsy signed the lease to the convergence space as a board member of Jack Pine Community Center, which was the non-profit fiscal sponsor for the WC. Luce was also a board member of the Jack Pine. The prosecutor called the signing fraudulent, referring repeatedly to an e-mail in which Betsy called it a “scheme.” Betsy later testified that this word was used lightheartedly as a synonym for “plan.” She had signed the lease through the Jack Pine so that she would not be held personally responsible for damage to the space or rent.
The prosecution’s arguments in the standing hearing contradicted their arguments throughout this case so far. While all their previous witnesses had tried to indicate that the 8 had responsibility for nearly everything in the convergence space, not to mention in the streets during the RNC, the prosecution attempted to disassociate them from the space for the purpose of this hearing. At one point, the prosecution asserted that, “at most, the defendants were social guests” and had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the convergence space. Rather, the prosecution asserted, Betsy was the only one who would have standing to challenge the raid. The prosecution further stated that there was no evidence that the 8 invited people in or turned them away from the space, owned any of the property there, or had even been at the space during the raid (a statement that was quickly corrected since several of the defendants had been there and this is a well-established fact). These statements were made despite Betsy’s testimony that the convergence space was advertised as the WC convergence space, was maintained and used by members of the WC, and that were one or two security people at the door to keep out corporate media, cops, and people using substances. These statements were also despite previous testimony from Deputy Marilyn Hedstrom (aka Norma Jean) that Luce, Rob, Betsy, and Monica all had keys to the space.
The prosecution also used the occasion of Betsy being on the stand to attempt an info grab. Betsy was asked whether she had seen any of the 8 in the convergence space at any time, who the members of the WC were at the time of raid, and whether she knew several other people who the prosecution listed in court. Betsy did not know most of them.
At the conclusion of the oral arguments, the judge ruled that the 8 did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the space, and so did not have standing to contest the raid. The judge then turned to the motions to suppress evidence from the house raids. Rather than hearing oral arguments on these motions, she read through the defense’s written arguments about how police reports had misstated and omitted important facts to justify the warrants for the raids. For example, the defense argued that informant Chris Dugger was a violent and unreliable informant because of a previous domestic abuse charge that was not disclosed in the warrant affidavit. The defense also argued that the description of a picture of a person holding a slingshot near a line of police officers neglected to mention that the person appears to be a young child. Similarly, the defense argued that the descriptions of the “We’re Getting Ready” video misrepresented the video since they did not identify its clearly satirical nature. The judge ruled that all the facts had been represented accurately enough to justify the warrants, and thus the evidence from the house raids would not be suppressed.
In brighter news, the prosecution declined to contest any of the motions that had been filed on Luce’s behalf regarding the suppression of evidence from unlawful searches and seizures she endured. Yay for victories!
The judge will take the remaining issues under advisement and rule at a later date. The next court hearing is in September, so we’ll remind you about that as the date draws closer.
Although the pre-trial hearings are done for a while, there is still much for the 8 and their lawyers to do to prepare for trial. And there’s something easy you can do to support them–write a letter to the editor! You can write a letter to the newspapers in your city, connecting what the RNC 8 are facing to what’s affecting your community, or to the papers in the Twin Cities (see below for info for those).
When you write your letter, some points to consider are:
* Testimony from informants has shown that year-long undercover investigations failed to produce evidence that the RNC 8 made any explicit agreements to riot or destroy property
* Deputy Chris Dugger couldn’t point to any evidence of a conspiracy, but he testified that anarchists try to support each other and live by their ideals
* Deputy Marilyn Hedstrom could only identify one illegal action she witnessed during her year-long undercover investigation: a banner hang in which she and two other paid informants were the only participants
* The state is grasping at straws to try to substantiate the political charges, even going so far as to argue that the clearly satirical “We’re Getting Ready” promotional video was a completely serious call for people to riot and destroy property
* Prosecutors have argued that the fact that people have been convicted of crimes from the RNC proves there was a conspiracy and therefore that the RNC 8 are guilty
* The court has ruled in favor of the prosecution’s claims that people don’t have reasonable expectations of protections against searches and seizures when they’re in public spaces exercising their 1st Amendments rights to free speech and association
* This extraordinarily drawn out case continues to progress despite budgetary woes in Minnesota, wasting resources that could be better spent on aiding communities
* Police investigators testified that they decided to investigate the RNC Welcoming Committee because of the group’s perceived political beliefs and approaches to effecting positive social change
* Paid FBI informant Andrew “Panda” Darst has evaded a subpoena, appearing not to live at the address on record with his probation officer, and the court has refused to hold him accountable for this
* Darst has been paid $1500 each month by the FBI, ostensibly to be at the prosecution’s beck and call for the case, but mysteriously disappears when the defense needs his testimony to show the state has no basis to its case
Want to write a letter to papers in the Twin Cities? Here’s what you need to know:
Star Tribune: Editorial Department, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55488, fax to 612.673.4359, or submit via this form.
Pioneer Press: email@example.com
When your letter gets published, let us know at press[at]rnc8[dot]org.
Hello, everyone! Below is our much-belated court update from the last pre-trial appearance. Our apologies for the delay. Our limited time and energy caused us to fall shamefully behind. But you can help us do better in the future! There are plenty of ways to get involved in RNC 8 defense, both within the Twin Cities and from elsewhere.
If you’ll be at the US Social Forum in Detroit next week, join us for the strategizing session as we head into the last few months before trial:
Resisting State Repression, Defending the RNC 8 Workshop
Wednesday, June 23rd, 1-3pm
WSU Old Main: 1129
And look for the Conspiracy Tour slinking its way through a city near you this summer. The tour will be a grand ol’ time filled with up-to-the-minute info on the RNC 8, Scott DeMuth (charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), and Hugh and Tiga (facing charges related to anti-infrastructural organizing in response to the development of I-69). There’ll be solidarity, there’ll be strategizing, there’ll be resistance, there’ll be community in the face of repression. Don’t miss your opportunity to join the conspiracy!
Email us at info[at]rnc8[dot]org for more info about the RNC 8’s support needs and to get involved!
The RNC 8 Defense Committee