Charges against 'Bankers' Dozen' protesters settled

Published: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 - 8:29 am

Charges against a dozen UC Davis protesters who were arrested last year after demonstrations blocked an on-campus U.S. Bank branch were settled Monday just weeks before the case was to go to trial.

The 11 students and one faculty member, known alternately as the "Bankers' Dozen" and "Davis Dozen," faced a single count of conspiracy and 20 counts of blocking access that were filed in March 2012 in connection with the demonstrations that occurred in January and February that year.

But in a plea deal Monday, all 20 access charges were dismissed and the 12 pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, an infraction, said Alexis Briggs, the San Francisco-based attorney for the dozen.

The conspiracy charge – an allegation that carried a maximum one-year jail term – was held in abeyance until the dozen complete 80 hours of community service.

"It's very good for the defendants and for the taxpayers," Briggs said. "An infraction in the case, is, in fact, an appropriate response. It's a great resolution."

Briggs said two, six-week trials had been planned in the case "at a significant cost to the public."

Trial had been set for June 17 in Yolo Superior Court.

Yolo County Assistant District Attorney Michael Cabral said he was prepared to go to trial, but "tying up a courtroom with a case this long didn't make sense."

Cabral said Monday's plea deal had been on the table since the case's early days. "It was always our point that they have the right to protest. All we wanted was an admission of wrongdoing," he said. "Our goal was to seek responsible protesting."

The dozen were among a throng of demonstrators who blocked the entrance to the campus U.S. Bank branch in the tense weeks after the pepper-spraying of students protesting tuition hikes in the university's quad in November 2011 by campus police.

The pepper-spraying incident sparked international outrage, campus protests and investigations into university police conduct that led to the ouster of its chief of police and a $1 million settlement.

Students in the bank demonstrations in January and February 2012 protested U.S. Bank's presence on campus and what they saw as the continuing privatization of the university.

Minnesota-based U.S. Bank closed its University Union branch Feb. 28, 2012, later citing the protests and the university's refusal to disperse demonstrators as reason for the closure.

University and U.S. Bank officials officially severed their relationship in June 2012, according to settlement documents.

A call to U.S. Bank's Minneapolis offices after its business hours Monday was not immediately returned.

UC Davis spokeswoman Claudia Morain said only that the university "appreciated the hard work of the Yolo County DA's Office."

The University Union space U.S. Bank once occupied is undergoing renovation and will become a study and entertainment venue, Morain said.

She said there were no plans to bring a banking institution to campus.

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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