Ramsey County judge grants RNC 8 joint trial

The group has been preparing for trial since their arrests in 2008.

Katherine Lymn

Eight activists facing conspiracy charges stemming from the Republican National Convention last year will be tried together after a Friday ruling âÄî something the defense sees as a positive. The RNC 8, as the eight defendants have come to be known, are charged with multiple felony counts for allegedly plotting to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention held in St. Paul in September 2008. The group made the request for a joint trial at an Oct. 8 hearing, saying it would better represent their unity. The request was granted last Friday in a ruling by Ramsey County court Judge Teresa Warner. âÄúThis is an affirmation from Judge Warner of what weâÄôve argued all along: that separation for trial would have undermined the interest of justice in this case,âÄù co-defendant Luce Guillen-Givins said in a statement on the RNC 8 Web site. In a joint trial, all evidence against each of the eight individuals is applied to all of the defendants âÄî a request that law experts say is unusual for defendants to make. But attorney Robert Kolstad, who represents co-defendant Nathanael Secor, said the political nature of the case makes it unique. âÄúThis is the best thing for this particular case, given that the allegations are that they worked together and acted together,âÄù Kolstad said. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner was originally in favor of eight separate trials. She was also open to the idea of holding three trials, where the eight defendants would be split into groups, âÄúto essentially find a middle groundâÄù between eight and one joint trial,âÄù she said. Trying eight people at once is âÄúuncharted territory,âÄù Gaertner said, and there are few strict legal guidelines on how to handle such a case. In Minnesota state courts, âÄúthe presumption is that you try defendants separately,âÄù and the laws reflect that, she said. âÄúIt would be rather bizarre for it not to be consolidated,âÄù Larry Leventhal, attorney for co-defendant Max Specktor, said. He explained that because the case involves conspiracy charges, prosecutors can use evidence certain defendants âÄúnever knew of or never participated in.âÄù âÄúEverybody should be able to challenge any evidence by the prosecution, and the only way to really do that is to have the trial together,âÄù Leventhal said. RNC 8 spokeswoman Melissa Hill said the joint trial will allow for the group to express solidarity while also helping minimize the time and money invested in the case. âÄúItâÄôs a pretty big victory as far as emotions go,âÄù Hill said. The individual attorneys are working together to build a defense, Leventhal said. âÄúWeâÄôve got literally tens of thousands of pages of documents to go through,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre confident that we can present a strong defense.âÄù Leventhal said the defense has been contacted by Judge WarnerâÄôs clerk to set up a hearing between Feb. 1 and Feb. 5 to hear remaining motions and set a date for the trial. âÄúItâÄôs safe to say the case couldnâÄôt proceed until sometime next spring at the earliest,âÄù he said.