Twelve protesters who were charged last March for obstructing movement in a public place and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, following demonstrations outside a UC Davis branch of U.S. Bank, agreed to a plea deal Monday.
The deal comes nearly one month before the scheduled June 17 trial date in Yolo Superior Court.
The group of one UC Davis English faculty member and 11 students, otherwise known as the Davis Dozen or Bankers Dozen, previously faced up to one year in jail. The group believed U.S. Bank had a hand in increasing student costs and student debt, and the privatization of the university.
They agreed to 80 hours of community service and an infraction notice ticket, which the group described in an email interview as similar to “when the neighbors complain about your stereo” and bears virtually no implication on the recipient.
According to Alexis Briggs, one of the attorneys for the group, many factors were taken into consideration before a final agreement was reached. This included the District Attorney’s office making an offer for 80 hours of community service in exchange for misdemeanor pleas for everyone, and the University and U.S. Bank stating that both organizations were not planning to seek restitution. Briggs also said she received a large amount of internal documents from UC Davis and U.S. Bank.
“That gave us a much better understanding of how those decisions were made, and throughout that process, we were engaged in discussion with the District Attorney’s office about resolving the matter though an infraction,” Briggs said. “For the last month, the discussion has been revolving almost exclusively around the amount of community service that the district attorney found acceptable to resolve it for an infraction.”
Briggs said that the court initially intended to split the case into two separate trials, which were estimated to run a span of six weeks per trial, which would have utilized a substantial number of taxpayer dollars.
The case was taken on pro bono, with the exception of public defender representation for one of the defendants, she said.
“We were fortunate that a number of highly respected and renowned attorneys volunteered to take our case pro bono; there was also an outpouring of support, communal and financial, from places around the world. It would have been nice if the UC Davis administrators driving this case had had such support rather than spending [students’] funds on a petty and ill-fated prosecution. For obvious reasons, they did not,” the group stated in an email interview.
Claudia Morain, Director of Public Affairs at UC Davis released a statement on behalf of the University.
“We appreciate the hard work of the Yolo County DA’s office on this case,” the statement read.
According to Briggs, U.S. Bank documents stated that a number of U.S. Bank employees and other people working with the UC Davis Police Department were posed as bank customers to create a blockage situation. She also said that after the Nov. 18 pepper spray incident, the University decided not to employ law enforcement practice.
“If there were certain individuals that were blocking access it would’ve been appropriate for law enforcement to ask for identification and issue a citation for them to later appear in court, no arrest needed to be made, certainly the creation of ongoing charges… escalated all of this to the point where there [were] 21 misdemeanor charges,” she said.
The group said they will not be entirely content until “education has been entirely disentangled from student debt, banks cannot profit from desires for freedom and class society is in flames.”
MUNA SADEK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.