Judge to decide if treesitter must pay
Should Carson McCann pay $1,503 for the wages of Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies who waited for him to climb down from his protest perch in a Douglas fir on Sierra Pacific Industries’ land?
Attorneys for the environmental activist on Friday argued that point with District Attorney Michael Ferguson in front of Nevada County Superior Court Judge M. Kathleen Butz, who will issue a decision in the coming months.
McCann’s attorneys said that lawbreakers simply aren’t required to pay officers’ salaries, and there’s no precedent for singling out McCann.
“That’s what the taxpayers pay officers to do, arrest … lawbreakers,” said Larry Hildes, a Berkeley civil rights attorney helping to defend McCann.
“The officers didn’t have to stand under the tree. They didn’t have to be there” around the clock last Sept. 10-11, waiting for McCann to climb down, Hildes argued.
Kevin Hoeke, the Nevada City attorney who’s in charge of defending McCann, told Judge Butz that McCann is being singled out.
“You just don’t see the district attorney seeking these types of restitution claims for anything,” Hoeke said.
He later challenged Ferguson to produce a list of every trespassing case in which he has sought restitution to cover the sheriff department’s costs.
Ferguson told the judge that McCann’s tree sitting wasn’t a protected form of free speech because McCann was breaking the law by trespassing.
“Nobody here is being (singled) out … for the content of their ideas,” Ferguson said. But “no matter how noble the cause … you can’t assert that cause in an illegal manner.”
Ferguson said the Sheriff’s Department was a victim that deserved restitution. He said McCann’s case is unique because Nevada County hasn’t experienced civil disobedience during his 21 years in office.
Judge Butz took time Friday to read the attorneys’ legal briefs. She said she would read the cases cited in the briefs, including one involving the Abalone Alliance – environmental activists who blockaded nuclear power plant construction in San Luis Obispo County and didn’t have to pay responding officers’ salaries.
Butz told the attorneys she’d mail her decision to them.
McCann isn’t contesting other elements of the sentence he received in November: $500 in restitution to SPI, a $370 court fine and eight days’ work release.
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