Three protesters arrested during the March 2 occupation of Wheeler Hall were found guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor trespassing and misdemeanor resisting arrest charges.
Jason Ozolins, Michael Veremans and Elizabeth Bamaca, none of whom is a UC Berkeley student, were arrested during the March 2 protest when they and 14 other protesters refused to leave Wheeler Hall after its closing time. The three were charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and misdemeanor trespassing charges. They could face up to one year in jail for the resisting arrest charge and up to six months in jail for the trespassing charge.
The full jury trial for the protesters represents a shift from consequences faced by protesters in previous UC Berkeley demonstrations, where punishment was typically referred to the Center for Student Conduct. The other March protesters resolved their charges in a bench trial and plea bargains.
According to Veremans, 25, he and his fellow defendants were told numerous times to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.
“They were trying to get us to admit guilt by offering us some lower charge,” he said. “When someone says, ‘I want to go to court’ … that should be respected.”
During the trial, which began last week, the defense and prosecution questioned UCPD Officer Michael Miceli, who was present at the protest. Miceli said he had to exert “minor effort” when arresting Veremans, adding that Veremans “went limp” during the arrest. In California, going limp constitutes resisting arrest.
Friday, one juror was dismissed because she overheard a conversation between Ozolins and one of his supporters Thursday. After court had adjourned Thursday afternoon, the juror took the same elevator as Ozolins and heard him say something that could create prejudice against him, according to Judge Armando Cuellar.
Before the other jurors were brought into the courtroom Friday, she gave a statement to the court confirming what she heard, and she was dismissed shortly after. Cuellar ordered that the other jurors not speculate as to why the juror was dismissed, and he placed a gag order on the defendants to keep them from discussing the case anywhere jurors could hear.
Veremans said he hopes that “because of the nonviolent nature of the crime and the First Amendment implications … as well as our status as students, that we will receive a relatively light sentencing.”
The three protesters are scheduled to receive sentences on Nov. 3.
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.