Judge Sentences Tree-Sitters, Supporters

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Two months after the last tree came down, three tree-sit protesters were sentenced to five days jail time on Monday, while another six were sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Marshall Whitley said the nine protesters had willfully disobeyed a 2007 court order that declared the protest was not a legal expression of free speech. The tree-sit, protesting the proposed construction of an athletic center west of Memorial Stadium, began in December 2006.

Superior Court Judge Richard Keller warned the sitters in October 2007 that they could face jail time if they continued the protest.

On Monday, six of the protesters-including the two tree-sitters who were the last to come down-struck a deal with the university and pleaded guilty to the violation of the court order.

In exchange for a guilty plea, the university agreed not to seek legal fees from the protesters that could have run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 each, said Michael Goldstein, an attorney for the university.

He said the university reached an agreement with the six activists on Friday.

Carol Strickman, an attorney for the tree-sitters and their supporters, said the activists chose to plead guilty because they thought their actions were honorable.

"They're pretty proud of what they did," she said. "So (a guilty plea) seemed expeditious."

Three other protesters-including unofficial tree-sit leader Zachary RunningWolf-refused to accept the plea deal and were sentenced to five days in jail.

Strickman said RunningWolf declined to plead guilty because he thought he had not violated the 2007 court order.

Because they did not agree to the university's offer, the three protesters who were sentenced to jail will likely have to pay legal fees, Goldstein said. A judge will determine the amount of fees in the coming days.

Strickman said she thought the university's request for legal fees was excessive.

"The university is trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip," she said. "They are trying to get as much as they can out of these people."


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

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