Defense Lawyer Robert Callahan and Judge Albrecht
  • Paul Cone
  • Defense Lawyer Robert Callahan and Judge Albrecht

It finally happened. On Friday, July 6, after members of Occupy Portland once again packed the courtroom of Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht, the seemingly unthinkable occurred: Albrecht finally set trial dates for the first set of mass Occupy arrests. Unless the dates change, they are:

• Sept 5-6—Chapman Square eviction arrests.

• Sept 11— the Main Street arrests

• Sept 26-27—the Jamison Square arrests

But this should not be interpreted as a legal victory for Occupy. As we and the Portland Occupier have been reporting, protesters' defense lawyers are still trying to get at police records, especially raw police video. And whether they will is still up in the air.

So far, Occupy lawyers are convinced the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and the Portland Police Bureau haven’t given them all the video that's been recorded. And in court on Friday, their suspicions seemed to have been borne out, when Deputy DA Brian Lowney told the court the police had indeed found previously unfindable footage.

After hearing motions from defense lawyers Robert Callahan and Kenneth Kreuscher—both say they are missing video essential to their clients’ defense—Lowney, who is overseeing the prosecution for the DA, told the court more video had showed up at the DA’s office. This revelation, however, did not satisfy the defense.

What video has shown up, the defense lawyers told the court, has been edited. Lowney, however, told the court this wasn’t the case.

"What I have been told [by the police] is the video is not edited. There is just no continuous footage," said Lowney.

His answer didn’t go over well with the occupiers. Someone in the crowd murmured, “You’re lying,” another, “fuck you.” At this point occupier James Tardy stood up to speak.

“Mr. Lowney is alleging that there is no edited video, as if the police officers running the video cameras knew when to record. It’s ridiculous to assert that.”

Albrecht responded to these and other comments by saying she wasn’t going to hear “editorial comments” from the occupiers. The judge did say, however, that the DA was still legally obliged to hand over all the video it had to the defense.

“My ruling before the court is very clear,” said Albrecht, “I have explicitly stated, ‘all video.’”

What exactly this will mean in practice is still a big unknown. The judge has asked the DA to give the defense all remaining video by Friday, July 13. But whether this will be enough to help the occupiers as they head to their trail dates is another matter.

Many occupiers are heading to trial unrepresented. And despite Albrecht’s earlier decisions, which were favorable to occupiers, the judge’s recent rulings suggest the balance might be tilting away from the protesters.

On Friday, Albrecht shot down a constitutional argument presented by Occupy lawyer Pete Castleberry. He argued, basically, that the act of occupying a city park should be protected as free speech. Albrecht didn’t think so. After hearing Castleberry’s arguments the previous week, she ruled that the ordinance the police had used to evict occupiers from the city parks was justified under the law.

In Friday’s courtroom, the judge also shot down a defense request that occupiers be allowed to copy police video free of charge by bringing in their own blank disks or thumb drives. Many occupiers had complained that paying $31 for each CD of video is outrageously expensive. Friday, one occupier told the court she spent more than $500 on video that, she said, proved to be worthless to her defense. As she put it, “If it [video] had been available to copy, then I wouldn’t have had to spend $500 for no evidence."

Albrecht, who so far has been using kid gloves to handle the occupiers, appears to be losing patience with the movement’s assertive (and vocal) presence in her courtroom. Occupiers, for their part, also are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the legal process. Many expressed their concerns on the record during the proceedings. Others booed or called out insults at the DA. And as they left the courtroom Friday, occupiers made a point of plastering the court benches with stickers printed with the text of the First Amendment and "We are the 99%.”

The next court date for these Occupy cases is set for August 16. While later today, at least two May Day cases are set for trial.