Police Beat

2017 0415 trial 900

Six defendants and supporters celebrate outside Skagit County court after a jury failed to convict them of criminal trespass for blocking the Burlington-to-Anacortes rail line in May, 2016.

Ben Joldersma, Scott Yoos, Claudia Kleinholz, Michelle Fry, Keith Ervin and Todd Davison were all on trial for criminal trespass. Despite the fact that none of the defendants disputed the facts of the case, and all characterized their actions as civil disobedience, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict with two of six jurors refusing to convict.

“We had a chance to present our case to a jury of our peers. The resulting hung jury was a powerful vindication of the moral case for our work,” Said Ben Joldersma, one of the defendants.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your stand and your risk, I’m honored to have been a juror in your case,” said Karen Swan, one of the Jurors who refused to convict. “I can very much relate to you in regards to the emotional pain I feel about our world and the destruction of people and the environment.”

"I want to honor the two jurors who stuck by their convictions and voted to acquit our clients, that takes courage," said Karen Weil, a legal assistant to the defense. "People see what's at stake, they see the defendants standing up, and they rise to join us. That's the heart and soul of this kind of action,"

Friday’s trial was the fifth group of Break Free protestors to appear in Skagit County Court, the sixth trial is scheduled to begin on May 18th and a seventh has yet to be scheduled. In total over 40 people will go to trial for this act of civil disobedience.

In an unusual move prosecutors asked for a retrial immediately following Friday’s failure to deliver a verdict. A scheduling hearing is set for May 2nd.

“Asking for a retrial in a misdemeanor trespassing case is unusual, and a worrying waste of taxpayer money,” said Cooper Brinson an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center. “The state had nearly a year to prepare its case, and at least according to some jurors it still failed to meet its burden of proof. It was a privilege to represent these courageous activists,”