City of Sacramento loses case against Occupy protester

Published: Tuesday, May. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 22, 2012 - 8:23 am

A Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the city of Sacramento cannot levy administrative penalties on an Occupy Sacramento protester who allegedly violated the city's curfew laws last year at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento.

The city sought to impose a $100 administrative penalty on occupy protester Kathryn Coke after the county District Attorney's Office and the city declined to prosecute her on criminal charges.

Coke, who has been arrested three times, was among more than 100 other peaceful Occupy Sacramento protesters who have been arrested since October on charges that they violated the city's ordinance barring people from remaining in a public park late at night.

After the District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute protesters on criminal charges, the city attempted to prosecute the cases on its own in December.

But on the day of the trial, the city dropped the criminal counts and moved to impose a $100 administrative penalty on Coke and eight other alleged violators.

Coke's attorneys had argued that the city could not lawfully dismiss misdemeanor charges and then refile administrative penalty claims for the same alleged conduct.

Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny agreed, ruling Monday that city violated Penal Code Section 1387, which bars "prosecution for the same offense."

The City Attorney's Office and Amy Williams, public information officer for the city, did not respond to calls for comment Monday night.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for Coke, said, "It was gratifying to get a ruling that confirms our view that the city was in egregious violation of the law."

Patrick Soluri, co-counsel for Coke, said he believes the ruling also should apply to the other eight protesters who were penalized. He said he hopes the city will drop the cases.

"This raises questions as to why the city is wasting so much time and resources to prosecute these cases," Soluri said.

He and Anderson will also work to recover attorney's fees, Soluri said.

"Even though we work on this pro bono, we believe we have won an important public benefit that entitles us to a recovery of attorney's fees," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Timothy Sandoval



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