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Will DA charge Stephon Clark protesters arrested after East Sacramento march?

This is what demonstrators told us about Stephon Clark protest arrests

After a protest that ended in 84 arrests, activists and protesters describe what went down on the streets of East Sacramento on March 4, 2019, in wake of decision to not charge officers who killed Stephon Clark.
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After a protest that ended in 84 arrests, activists and protesters describe what went down on the streets of East Sacramento on March 4, 2019, in wake of decision to not charge officers who killed Stephon Clark.

Three days after the arrests of scores of demonstrators in Monday’s Stephon Clark protests in East Sacramento, it remains unclear whether the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will move ahead with charges against them.

Sacramento police arrested 84 people during the nighttime protests through the tony Fabulous 40s neighborhood, a group that included clergy members, legal observers and working journalists.

They were protesting Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s recent decision not to charge the police officers who shot Clark in his grandparents’ backyard last March. Clark, 22, had been holding a cellphone police thought was a gun.

In a statement after the protests, district attorney’s officials on Tuesday said they had not yet been contacted by law enforcement nor had they received reports related to the arrests. That remained unchanged Thursday, officials said.

Any charges against the protesters, if filed, would likely be out-of-custody infractions or misdemeanors. Many of those taken in by police were released in the hours after the protests.

Sacramento Superior Court spokeswoman Kim Pedersen said the cost and caseload would likely be minimal.

“It wouldn’t be a burden to the court,” Pedersen said.

District attorney’s officials typically file formal misdemeanor charges within two weeks and would likely file charges against individual defendants rather than a one-time arraignment for a blanket group of defendants. That means court appearances would be staggered over many dates, lessening the need, for instance, for additional court security called on to handle hearings with multiple defendants.

An infraction takes about 22 minutes of court staff time to process, Pedersen said. If all 84 arrestees were charged with infractions, staff costs would amount to about $2,400. Misdemeanor cases are more complex and take more staff hours to process – about 478 minutes or nearly eight hours per case. If all 84 arrests were filed by prosecutors as misdemeanors, the total would be about $48,000, Pedersen said.

At least one group, the Sacramento chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, has vowed to fight any charges in court. The group of legal observers has been a regular presence at area protests.

Guild officials in a statement said two of their members were arrested during the police roundup. “We will be contesting those charges in earnest,” guild officials said in the statement.

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.

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