By Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
The final four defendants of the RNC 8 all took plea deals on Tuesday (October 19), ending the two-year-long court saga that began with the 2008 Republican National Convention. Rob Czernik, Garret Fitzgerald, Nathaneal Secor and Max Specktor each pled guilty to gross misdemeanor charges, and their suspended sentences mean that none of them will serve jail time.
On August 29 and 30, 2008, two days before the RNC started, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department raided the RNC Welcoming Committee Convergence Center and three homes and arrested members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist/anti-authoritarian group. Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer were the first to be arrested, followed by Luce Guillen-Givens later that day. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were arrested on September 1.
The RNC 8 were originally charged with conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in the first degree. The two conspiracy charges were later enhanced with a terrorism charge under the 2002 Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act, but last spring Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner dropped the terrorism enhancement.
Nathaneal Secor pled guilty to conspiracy to commit damage to property to the third degree, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail with $1000 fine which was suspended to 100 hours of community service, a $200 fine and one year of probation. Secor said at the trial that it would be disingenuous for him to state that he was at the victim of the court, but stated that Ramsey County Sheriff's Department was also guilty of crimes, exercising an "absurd degree of social control." Secor said that he would "continue to work for nothing less than liberation."
Max Specktor pled guilty to conspiracy to commit riot to the third degree, and was also sentenced to 180 days in jail with a $500 fine, which was suspended to 100 hours of community service, one year of probation, and a $200 fine. "I accept total responsibility for conspiracy,' Specktor said to Judge Teresa Warner, "but that is only part of the story." Specktor said that he refused to participate in the spectacle of democracy. "I refuse to sleep walk through life," he said.
Warner responded to Specktor, saying "You are entitled to your opinions and ideas," but that she was basing her sentencing on his actions. "This isn't about political ideals," Warner said. "This is about a criminal offense."
Rob Czernik pled guilty to conspiracy to commit riot in the third degree. Czernik refused to swear an oath with the words "under God" and was reprimanded by Warner for speaking at the same time as her. "Please don't talk while I'm talking," she said to him. When asked whether he was guilty of conspiring to commit riot, he responded "proudly." Czernik didn't give a final speech as the first two defendants had, instead saying "I'm not going to speak to the court so let's just get on with it." He was sentenced to 180 days in jail with $500 fine which was suspended to the same community service obligation as the others, and a $200 fine and two years of probation. His attorney asked why Czernik's probation time was longer than the first two defendants, to which Warner replied "I'm not here to negotiate with you," and that the decision was at the court's discretion.
Garret Fitzgerald also refused to swear an oath with the words "under God." He pled guilty to committing damage to property to the third degree. When asked whether he admitted that what he did was wrong, Fitzgerald responded "I knew it was against the law." He called the charges against him exaggerated and overblown, and said "I've never denied that I broke the law," but that "we were specifically targeted because of our political beliefs." Fitzgerald also attempted to read for the court The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, but Judge Warner did not permit him to read the whole thing. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail with a $1,000 fine, which was suspended to 100 hours of community service, a $200 fine, and two years of probation. (Press conference video below.)
Charges were dismissed against Monica Bicking, Erin Trimmer and Luce Guillen-Givens on September 16. Erik Oseland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit damage to property in the 3rd degree, a gross misdemeanor on August 27, in a deal that required him to serve a 91-day sentence in the Ramsey County Workhouse beginning on October 20. He is the only one of the RNC 8 who will serve time in jail.
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