Protest remains a sticky situation

The defense said the University is unfairly interfering with the case.

Devon Sykes

People involved in the case against protesters arrested at a May 4 sit-in said they believe the University is taking an active role in the prosecution.

Nine current and former students were arrested and charged with trespassing after they did not leave Morrill Hall by 6 p.m. Five go to trial next week.

Phyllis Walker, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 3800 president, was charged with obstructing the legal process outside the sit-in. Her case was scheduled for court today.

The protesters face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine if found guilty of the misdemeanors.

Jordan Kushner, a National Lawyer’s Guild attorney defending some of the protesters, said he found a note attached to a prosecution document requesting that the information be sent to the University’s Deputy General Counsel as soon as it becomes public.

Kushner said the note “shows that (the University is) taking active interest in the prosecution.”

“It certainly leads to an inference that they’re putting political pressure on the case,” he said.

Kushner also said the prosecuting city attorney, Jessica Warren, had to go through her supervisors to see what deals she could offer, which, he said, is “unusual.”

The city attorney’s office declined to comment.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg denied allegations that his office is directly involved with the case.

“Accessing public documents is not an improper activity for anybody Ö it’s a routine activity for many people,” he said.

Those arrested and charged in connection with the May 4 sit-in were aware of the ramifications when they stayed in Morrill Hall after closing hours, he said.

“We have elaborate, detailed warnings handed out in writing and posted about protests and building occupation,” Rotenberg said.

A student who was sprayed with Mace by police outside Morrill Hall is also being charged. Mike Wilklow, a University student at the time of the protest, is charged with obstructing the legal process.

National Lawyer’s Guild attorney Bruce Nestor, who is defending Wilklow and other protesters, said the city attorney also threatened to charge Wilklow with rioting. Wilklow’s trial date is set for Nov. 7.

The people arrested for obstructing the legal process were “encouraged to interfere with the movement of the (arrested protesters),” said Greg Hestness, University police chief.