Student protester begins formal trial proceedings

After nearly eight months of conferences and negotiations with district authorities, UC Berkeley student Eric-Michael Wilson, who faces misdemeanor charges for his involvement in protests during the November 2010 University of California Board of Regents meeting, began formal trial proceedings Friday.

Wilson faces one count of assaulting an officer, two counts of resisting or obstructing an officer and one count of attempted riot — all misdemeanors — and will begin court proceedings at the San Francisco County Superior Court within the next few weeks after attending last week’s trial readiness hearing.

On Nov. 17, 2010, at the regents’ meeting, Wilson was arrested and cited with misdemeanor counts of rout — the attempt to incite riot — and resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer. He was released the same day.

In addition, the campus Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards brought several student conduct violations against him.

According to a Dec. 9, 2010, charging document provided by Mir Kamran Meyer, a lawyer who represents Wilson, the student was cited not only for the two previous counts but also a felony charge for battery of a police officer and an additional misdemeanor charge for resisting a peace officer. According to Wilson, he only learned of his additional charges days later, on Dec. 14, 2010.

Following a preliminary investigation, the court found that there lacked sufficient evidence to pursue Wilson for the felony violation, and the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. The remaining four misdemeanor counts will fall at trial.

According to Meyer, despite a slew of pretrial conferences scheduled throughout last semester with the intention of reaching a compromise with the district attorney’s office, negotiations with the state have been fruitless.

“The district attorney is not interested in compromising on this matter at all, and we are proceeding toward a trial,” he said. “The government has been exceedingly unresponsive to us, and in terms of actual negotiation, there hasn’t been any.”

The district attorney’s office was not able to give a response as of press time.

According to Meyer, the trial proceedings could take weeks depending on the number of witnesses the district attorney’s office produces for examination. Due to the proximity of Wilson’s trial, Meyer declined to comment on the details of previous hearings or the nature of the evidence presented against Wilson.

While Wilson’s student conduct charges were eventually dropped by the campus, Wilson said his legal proceedings, which consisted of  “constant” pretrial conferences and hearings  — some as brief as 10 to 15 minutes — have worn him down.

“I’m glad that it’s almost over, but I’m aggravated that it’s taking this long,” he said. “I know that everything I have to say is the truth.”
Wilson added that he is working as a resident assistant during UC Berkeley’s Summer Sessions and hopes that the court proceedings do not hinder his ability to carry out his duties.

After Friday’s trial readiness conference, the court set a jury selection deadline for Aug. 12. The first hearing is scheduled to take place on Aug. 15 or Aug. 19, but Wilson said that since the court system is experiencing a glut of cases, proceedings for the first hearing could be pushed back a week or more.