“Shocking” was the word most often used to describe the events in the courtroom this morning at Dave Martorana and Trevor Ring’s arraignment.
I’ll start at the beginning. Dave and Trevor were arrested last week after hiking up the mountain as part of our normal monitoring schedule. Because we have no way of knowing blast times, we cannot predict when we will be forced to leave– yet a trip to the top at least allows time for a few pictures before law enforcement arrives and you’re served and asked to leave. Only if you refuse can you be arrested. This was clearly laid out for us by several law enforcement officers, as shown on one of the videos posted on this site. This time the scenario began the same as always – but then the police skipped the serving and the asking and went right to the handcuffing. In cuffs, Dave and Trevor were taken to Newport for processing, and then dumped on the street with no way to get back to their homes in Craftsbury.
This morning was their arraignment in Newport. A party of eight supporters from the Occupier ranks joined them in the courtroom, anxiously waiting for the proceedings to begin. We had to wait awhile – the judge on duty recused himself from the case, and a new judge had to be brought in on speaker phone. Their lawyer, Kristina Michelsen, asked to have the case thrown out, as there was not probable cause to arrest them. The state’s evidence did not show that Dave and Trevor had been given notice of when the blasting would occur prior to being arrested. Secondly, Michelsen argued, the injunction states that it only applies to “agents, employees, attorneys, invitees, licensees, permittees, and all and any other persons acting in concert or participation with defendants Nelson” and the state’s evidence did not show that Dave and Trevor fell into any of those categories. This all seemed logical to us, of course – and it seemed like the judge was feeling the same. He asked the State’s Attorney if he could find anything in the injunction which would make it apply to Dave and Trevor. The State’s Attorney read for several minutes, flipping pages back and forth. “The defendants stated that they knew blasting took place on the mountain,” he said, finally. I wanted to shout: “yes, and so does everyone else in Orleans County!” but of course I couldn’t. With some more prompting from the judge, the State’s Attorney came up with another point: just the fact that they were on Nelson’s land was enough to give probable cause that they were a “permittee.” Ms. Michelsen replied that if this were the case, then the order applied to anyone who went on Nelson’s land – and the injunction doesn’t say “anyone” – instead it names specific groups. Once again, this all seemed logical. We waited for the judge to dismiss the case.
He didn’t. “There is probable cause” was the verdict.
Outside the courtroom, we asked “what happened?” Our guess is that Judge Martin Mailey wrote a preliminary injunction which is unenforceable. Yet rather than pointing this out by dismissing the case; other judges are passing the buck, recusing themselves or sending the case onwards, to another judge. We can only hope that the next embodiment of justice Dave and Trevor encounter will have the chutzpah to set justice back on track instead of setting dangerous precedents denying the rights of property owners.
Finally, a note to Dorothy Schnure (head of public relations for GMP) who recently stated that there were only 10 people actively involved with the mountain occupation: Dorothy, there are actually over 200 people who call themselves mountain occupiers. Our planning meetings draw crowds of 50 or more. Our blog gets over 500 hits a day. We have had over 12,000 hits in less than a month! Our ranks are growing by the hour. And Dave and Trevor—we’re with you!