Last of RNC8 accept plea bargain, avoid jail

The four remaining defendants resolved two years of legal wrangling over terroristic charges from RNC.

by Urmila Ramakrishnan

After two years of trials and hearings, the RNC 8 ordeal resolved Tuesday with plea hearings.
The remaining four RNC 8 defendants pleaded guilty at a packed court hearing to various offences stemming from their arrests over plans to âÄúcrashâÄù the Republican National Convention in 2008. None of the defendants were ordered time in jail, and none were required to testify in subsequent related trials.
The defendants were originally charged with conspiracy to commit riot and furtherance of terrorism, said Mordecai Specktor, father of defendant Max Specktor. He said this was the first time this charge was brought under MinnesotaâÄôs version of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Three months later, the defendants were charged with three other felony charges by Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. The terrorism charges were later dropped.
At the hearing, Gaertner reduced the felony charges to charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in the first degree and conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree as part of the plea agreement.
âÄúIt was a pragmatic decision to not expend any more criminal justice resources on the case,âÄù Gaertner said.
The four remaining defendants accepted various fees between $200 and $1,000, probationary periods and community service sentences, but all avoided additional jail time.
With the possibility of the Democratic National Convention being in Minnesota in 2012, the RNC 8 Defense Committee warned the DNC against assembling here, said Betsy Raasch-Gilman, a member of the defense committee, after the hearing.
Before sentencing, three of the defendants had statements for the court.
âÄúAll these cases have been about the criminalization of dissent,âÄù defendant Nathanael Secor said. âÄúIt is disingenuous to characterize me as a victim of the state.âÄù
As a preschool substitute teacher, Garrett Fitzgerald related this ordeal to the Dr. Seuss childrenâÄôs book, The Lorax, talking about the injustice of being tried for âÄúactivism.âÄù The book is about fighting for environmental issues.
After reading for a minute, Fitzgerald was cut off by the judge for irrelevance.
In his statement, Specktor defended his 2008 actions, saying he refuses to âÄúsleepwalk through life.âÄù
Contrary to the statements of the defendants, the judge was adamant that the trial was not politically driven and was strictly about the criminal offenses.
âÄúI think it was a good resolution of the case,âÄù Gaertner said. âÄúThe defendants will be held accountable for what they admitted was criminal behavior. They will have an incentive to remain law-abiding.âÄù
âÄúA long, circus-like trial was avoided,âÄù she said. âÄúAll the way around, [it was] a good result.âÄù
SpecktorâÄôs father echoed this sentiment.
âÄúSeven hundred and eighty days later we are standing here âĦ the RNC 8 case is finally over with,âÄù Mordecai Specktor said. âÄúWeâÄôve avoided what was going to be a lengthy trial.âÄù
Fitzgerald said he didnâÄôt think it was possible for the judicial system to be fair.
âÄúI think that the fact weâÄôve been on trial for the past two years is unfair,âÄù he said.
Gaernter blamed the defendants for the lengthy process.
âÄúThe defendants and their attorneys did everything they could to delay, delay, delay,âÄù she said.
âÄúIf we were able to drive the train, it would have arrived at the station a long time ago.âÄù