Attorney: Police Used 'Ambush' Tactics in 'Occupy' Arrests

Defense wraps up its arguments in trial of Occupy Members arrested in a Palm Desert Park last year.

Three people accused of illegally gathering in a Palm Desert park during last year's Occupy Coachella Valley protests were swept up in a police "ambush'' intended to intimidate and make examples of the demonstrators, an attorney said today.

"This was about casting a dragnet to randomly catch anything and
everything in its path,'' defense attorney Mark Foster told jurors in his
closing statement.  "You've heard this was the most conciliatory group
imaginable. So why didn't the city of Palm Desert just provide notification
(that it wanted the park cleared)? Because it wanted these arrests to happen.''

Foster's client, former U.S. Marine Jack Lee Noftsger, 28, is charged
alongside 32-year-old Dustin David Powell and 23-year-old Mary Elizabeth Walker with unlawful assembly for allegedly occupying Civic Center Park last October.

A fourth defendant, Stephen Mark Finger, 59, was also charged with the
misdemeanor, but his attorney, Aimee Larsen, successfully argued last week for
a dismissal of the allegation based on evidence that he was not actively
involved in the protest at the time of his arrest.

All of the defendants were taken into custody during a sheriff's sweep
shortly after midnight on Nov. 1.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office says the protesters were
given ample opportunity to depart the park after the city of Palm Desert
refused to grant another temporary use permit for use of the grounds, as it had between Oct. 24 and Oct. 28, but some demonstrators wouldn't budge.
According to prosecutors, by anchoring themselves in a public square as
a group, the defendants constituted an unlawful assembly.

But their attorneys countered that the Nov. 1 law enforcement operation
was staged to frighten protesters away for good.

"This stealth police raid was an ambush,'' Foster said. "They planned
these arrests. They didn't want to go with a simple cite and release. If
(authorities) had made a simple announcement telling my client and others to
leave the area, would we be here today? No.''

The three Occupy protesters had remained in the park in defiance of an
11 p.m. city curfew order, according to testimony from the weeklong trial.
Deputy Grant Grasso testified that the protesters had been given ``multiple
warnings'' to leave before he and fellow deputies, led by then-Lt. Andrew
Shouse, conducted the sweep.

But Foster and Deputy Public Defender Roger Tansey, representing Powell
and Walker, argued their clients were arrested for effect rather than any act
of genuine civil disobedience.

"They never declared an unlawful assembly, yet they turned right around
and arrested them for that,'' Tansey told jurors.  "This case is not just
about government overreach; it's about government overkill. This was a police
ambush on peaceful people. This is about stifling dissent.''

The attorney said there was no "violence'' in the park until deputies
began making arrests, throwing people to the ground and handcuffing them.
Noftsger had to be awakened in his tent before deputies arrested him.

"They were getting ready to leave,'' Foster said. "There was no
permanent occupation. And the police come along and conduct this crazy,
confusing, botched operation, sneaking up on people without making any

"This case is about the letter of the law trumping the spirit of the
law. It's about making a mountain out of a molehill. Do we really want to live
in a state where the government throws the book at somebody for a technical

The defendants, free on their own recognizance, were affiliated with the
national Occupy Wall Street movement, decrying the disparities between rich
and poor.

Michael Harrington August 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Before they even knew the members, they knew what the vote should be then picked members whi would vote the way the wanted before the organization was even formed, initially the $$$$ was said to go to one of the lawyers signifigant other. This is all sounding very questionable, but if one questins occupy cv , occupiers go after the person with threats, slander, harrassment.
Michael Harrington August 18, 2012 at 04:37 PM
If you want to address this money funneling fundraiser proposal made by occupy to go to something presumably related to the criminal defense case that just ended, feel free. But if you dont know you dont know. Youre lawyer (former) Aimee Larsen, was NOT named at anytime to be one of the lawyers to get the money she was not involved. So you may not know. But to attack the questioner with false statements is what occupy usually does. Youre the one that broadcast all over the net that you want to talk all about everything! Not me, im a private person and not in the news or a public figure im just taking up the public invitation you made to tell all. Why attack me?
Michael Harrington August 18, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Here is anorher for you, you want yo "tell all" now... Lew Stewart said he works closely with the defense team and the plan was for Tansey to use a "full on first amendment defense" attacking the Sheriff as being anti - free speech and using a pre trial public media campaign to get this attack against the Sheriff out in the public early ; that means before a jury is selected; this suggests the defense team would being using the media , thru occupy, to taint the jury pool or public opinion, Occupy was to carry out the media campaign, one example was a possible march to Palm Springs Police Dept and presentation with a letter of gratitude for Palm Springs PD being respectful of free speech as opposed to the Sheriffs. Any comment?
Michael Harrington August 19, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Fighting corruption is always constructive. I am being constructive.
Michael Harrington August 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Dont want to talk about the case afterall. Ok. What about "picnics"? Thats simple. or is it? Occupy CV member Krystle Rogers founded the local chapter of Food Not Bombs, along with Keith Howe. They initially represented to me they are a 501 c 3 and solicited donations (thru Craigslist, Facebook, and a donation box); they also initially said they dont feed Occupy CV . I donated food for Easter to feed the homeless. I went to the park on Easter to help feed the homeless. But they just fed YOU and occupy cv. They admitted they feed no homeless too and blamed other occupiers for it. Then later said they fed a few homeless yet I was there the whole time and never saw it, asked why, and no one cared, occuoiers just ate all the donated food. Including my donations that I gave for the homesless and saw occupy eat it and they didnt look homeless to me. Later Krystle changed her story again. After she and other occupiers shut down my food drive at Demuth Park, they admitted that there FNB is to feed occupy cv, that they are not a 501 c3 and they dont believe in charity. So they shut down my food drive that I was organizing for actual homeless people. One of the occupiers threatened violence, not just taking over the Demuth Community center and making trouble for my event but violence. So a police report was filed. This is corruption. This is occupy cv. To me, bottom line


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