SARATOGA SPRINGS – Most of the disorderly conduct charges stemming from a July protest in Saratoga Springs could be dismissed if the activists charged stay arrest-free in the coming months.
Defense attorney Kathy Manley in court Tuesday morning said that the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office has indicated an intention to provide protesters facing disorderly conduct violations with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, a legal process that withdraws the case from the court schedule for a period of months before dismissing the charges if the defendant is not arrested again.
Manley said she was in discussions with Assistant District Attorney Joseph Frandino about the possible dismissals pending further review of video evidence. Frandino did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
“I expect most of the people will get that [dismissal] but not everyone,” said Manley, who is representing six of the roughly dozen protesters facing charges from a July 14 protest. “It’s a dismissal. No conviction, no plea, and it should happen in most cases.”
The potential dismissal process would not apply to the handful of protesters who face misdemeanor charges of unlawful imprisonment connected to blocking traffic on Broadway. Manley, in an interview, argued the unlawful imprisonment charges should not apply to the actions of the protesters and said she planned to move for their dismissal.
Four more protesters turned themselves in at the Saratoga Springs police station Tuesday morning: T.J. Sangare of Clifton Park; Andre Simmons of Schenectady; Adam Walker of Troy and and Anthony Brown Davis of Albany. They were arraigned in City Court shortly after they surrendered to police.
Sangare missed college classes Tuesday as he returned to the Capital Region from Vermont to surrender to police. Davis was charged with disorderly conduct on July 14 and faced a warrant for another disorderly conduct charge from the protest.
About a dozen protesters face charges in connection to the July 14 protest, a mix of disorderly conduct violation charges and the unlawful imprisonment misdemeanor charges.
Saratoga Springs police made a handful of arrests the day of the protest, and they continued to investigate the actions of protesters in the months that followed, citing health and safety concerns raised by motorists blocked in traffic during the protest.
Police were granted arrest warrants in the cases Aug. 31, and along with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department arrested organizer Lexis Figuereo while he was on his way to college classes Sept. 7. While he was held at the Saratoga Springs police station, other activists gathered outside for an update on his status; police outside the station arrested three other activists on outstanding warrants that night, as well as a fourth woman who attempted to intervene in the arrests.
Activists, their supporters, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Saratoga County League of Women Voters have all criticized the police for pursuing arrest warrants rather than giving protesters a chance to appear on their own. Many have argued that arrest warrants are rarely issued for violations like disorderly conduct.
“I’ve never heard of warrants for disorderly conduct, especially two months after the fact,” Manley said Tuesday.
A group of activists and supporters who did not have court dates Tuesday turned up at City Hall in solidarity. The activists said they attempted to attend the court hearings but were prevented from attending. Such proceedings are usually open to the public. Parents of the people in court did attend the hearings in the courtroom.
Since the Sept. 7 arrests – activists have said they were not aware they faced charges at the time – other activists have surrendered themselves to the police.
Activists Samira Sangare and Chandler Hickenbottom appeared in City Court Tuesday for their first appearances following their Sept. 7 arraignment. Both face the disorderly conduct violation and were represented by Manley, who informed City Court Judge Francine Vero of the potential adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. Vero scheduled new hearings for both Samira Sangare and Hickenbottom for Oct. 21, but it’s possible the dismissal process could remove the need for those hearings.
“It sounds like this could possibly be resolved before then,” Vero said during Hickenbottom’s appearance.
The unlawful imprisonment misdemeanor charges, though, will still loom for some of the protesters. Jamaica Miles, a prominent Schenectady activist and school board member, Molly Dunn, T.J. Sangare and others face misdemeanor charges for allegedly preventing motorists and passengers from moving during the protest.
“This one doesn’t look like it will get resolved, and we will move forward with motions,” Manley told the judge during T.J. Sangare’s appearance. The judge set a November deadline to submit motions in Sangare’s case and scheduled another hearing for Nov. 30.
Manley called the unlawful imprisonment charge “problematic” and said she had not seen it used in connection to a protest. She said she planned to file a motion to dismiss the charge. Manley in the interview after the court hearings also argued that Saratoga’s response to the protest represented an attack against protesters’ rights.
“Saratoga police seem determined to keep people from protesting here,” she said. “They clearly don’t like it.”