CITY DEFIES COURT ORDER IN COLUMBUS DAY TRIALS
Status conference set for Friday, November 30, 12 noon, Courtroom 117M, City and County Building, Denver. Media are welcome to attend.
Columbus Day Protesters have charged Denver city officials with acting arrogantly by disrespecting an order from Denver Judge Bohning and by disregarding the constitutional rights of defendants.
Attorneys for Transform Columbus Day Alliance (TCDA) defendants are responding to the willful disobedience of the Denver City Attorney's office in contempt of the court’s order to comply.
City attorneys were ordered to disclose which, if any, of its attorneys were present at a political protest at the Columbus Day parade October 6, 2007. They refused to disclose those names, and a motion for contempt of court was filed by the legal team representing 85 defendants in the case.
If city attorneys were present at the parade, their presence may disqualify them from prosecuting the cases, because they could be called as witnesses. They may have assisted Denver Police in orchestrating the arrests of the defendants.
On a motion made October 26 on behalf of the TCDA defendants, the Denver City Court ordered city attorney Daniel Douglas to provide, by November 9, the names of any city attorneys present at the protest. Douglas failed to comply with the court order, and the defendants' motion to find the city attorney in contempt of court was filed November 15. A hearing date for this motion is pending in Judge Bohning’s courtroom, 151P.
Instead of complying with the court's initial disclosure order, the city attorney filed an objection, contending that he is not required to investigate the matter.
The city attorney's decision to ignore the order was "legally invalid" and "rather disingenuous," said a member of the TCDA legal defense team. Ignoring the order represents a "blatant and willful violation" and the city attorney "should be held in contempt until he complies," he said.
The motion is one of several filed recently in connection with the Columbus Day protest, including a motion for access to Denver Police Internal Affairs documents as well as related e-mails to and from the police or sheriff's offices and the office of the mayor.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has said the police acted "with restraint" at the protest, during which more than 80 arrests took place, some accompanied by the use of pain compliance and other unjustified, violent tactics.
Police officials have referred questions concerning the arrest methods to the Internal Affairs Division or the city's Office of the Independent Monitor, from which no immediate comment was available.
A police spokesperson said the Internal Affairs Division is "aware of issues (concerning allegations of excessive use of force) brought to the attention of Internal Affairs and is looking diligently into the allegations at this time." No further comment will be made at present, the spokesperson said.
One Columbus Day arrestee, a student at the University of Denver, contends his Constitutional rights were violated because he was arrested even though he was simply a bystander at the parade and had pointed out an undercover police officer(s). He was "plucked from the crowd" and arrested, according to defense attorneys. After he was released from jail, Denver Police contacted the University of Denver to suggest that academic disciplinary action should be brought against the student, despite the fact that he has not been convicted of any crime.
The misdemeanor charges in connection with the political protest on Columbus Day generally allege disrupting a public assembly or blocking a public street.
Defenses to be employed at the trials of the more than 80 defendants focus in part on the right to free speech, to civil and political rights, and to protection under international laws against genocide and racial discrimination, attorneys said. The constitutionality of the ordinances under which most protesters have been charged, will also be challenged.