People's Park tree-sitter released from jail Monday

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People's Park tree-sitter Matthew Dodt, who was arrested in January after allegedly cutting a man's hand while attempting to slash his throat, was released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin Monday after his remaining charges were dismissed in a preliminary examination.

Dodt - also known as "Midnight Matt" - was in custody for 61 days after allegedly attempting to cut the neck of Austin White, who had attempted to climb up the tree in the park that Dodt had been sitting in for 89 days. Dodt was initially booked Jan. 28 on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct.

The attempted murder and disorderly conduct charges have since been dropped, while an additional charge of possession of stolen property - a police helmet that was found in Dodt's tree following his arrest - was added to the case.

Though White was served a subpoena, he did not show up at the hearing Monday and never testified in court, according to Zadik Shapiro, Dodt's lawyer.

"The case got weaker as time went on," Shapiro said. "I think it was blown out of proportion to begin with."

According to Shapiro, the preliminary examination was held at the latest date possible, as defendants must be brought to trial within 60 days of their arraignment under the California penal code.

"They put it off as long as they could to keep him in jail as long as they could, I guess," Shapiro said.

Zachary RunningWolf, a local activist and homeless advocate who said he organized the park tree-sit, said he believes the charges against Dodt had something to do with the university wanting the park for development purposes.

"Attempted murder with no victim? That kind of shows you that the university wants it," RunningWolf said.

He added that he plans to continue organizing a tree-sit in the park and that Dodt will "probably not be the direct person in the tree" in the future.

Mark Hawthorne, a park frequenter who is also known as the "Hate Man," said he does not think the park is being threatened, adding that he likes the fact that UC Berkeley has jurisdiction over the park.

"I just so much disapprove of the whole tree-sit thing ... but I'm glad it ended," he said.

In a separate case, Dodt is being charged with a misdemeanor for pointing a laser beam at a police officer a couple weeks before the incident in the park and will testify in another hearing April 18.


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