Judge Sentences Memorial Stadium Tree-Sit Protesters

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While some may have already forgotten about the tree-sit near Memorial Stadium, a superior court judge sentenced the tree-sit protesters Tuesday.

The University of California filed a civil suit in September seeking to recover thousands of dollars in legal fees from a number of protesters who spent 22 months at the grove protesting UC Berkeley's plan to construct a multi-million dollar athletic center.

University lawyers cite a 2007 ruling by a judge that said the protest was not an expression of free speech and reaffirmed the campus's claim that the sitters and their supporters were trespassing.

Michael Goldstein, an attorney for the university, said the proceedings would make a point.

"We do hope that the message has gotten out clearly to those that have gotten involved," he said.

Bill Simpich, an attorney for the tree-sitters, said he thought the university's efforts were unreasonable.

"These people are true community heroes," he said. "The university should be ashamed of itself."

On Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Cecilia Castellanos sentenced five protesters with contempt of court.

Tree-sitter Michael Schuck, who was known as "Shem," was sentenced to five days in county jail. Castellanos is allowing Schuck to serve those five days while he is in jail waiting for a hearing on separate misdemeanor charges.

Schuck, who was also known as "Fresh" when he spent more than two weeks in an oak tree near Wheeler Hall last spring, has been unable to make his $15,000 bail.

Erik "Ayr" Eisenberg, the unofficial leader of the tree-sit, was sentenced to five days in jail, but was given credit for time he served while waiting for trial. Eisenberg was also sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

Three others-Gregg Horton, Terri Slanetz and Matthew Taylor-were each sentenced to 50 hours of community service in lieu of a $1,000 fine.

Simpich said he appreciated that Castellanos showed the protesters "mercy" by not giving them the maximum sentence, as the university has requested.

The university is also seeking legal fees from the protesters-$8,500 from Schuck, $5,100 from Slanetz, $4,900 from Taylor, $4,100 from Eisenberg and $3,750 from Horton, according to court documents.

Goldstein said the university hoped to expand its lawsuit to include many other tree-sitters and their supporters.

Stephanie M. Lee of The Daily

Californian contributed to this report.


Will Kane is the city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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