The three protesters charged by the University for their role in the January 27 trauma center protest reported to the District 2 Chicago Police Department (CPD) courthouse for the first day of their trial this afternoon.
Eighth-year history PhD candidate Toussaint Losier, Alex Goldenberg (A.B. ’06), and Jacob Klippenstein were charged with trespassing, a Class C misdemeanor, for entering the then-unopened University of Chicago Medical Center’s (UCMC) Center for Care and Discovery, which is private property.
Losier faces a second charge of resisting arrest. As a Class A misdemeanor, the minimum sentence in the case of conviction is 48 hours of jail time and 100 hours of community service.
The defendants went into the trial hoping to convince prosecution to drop the charges against them, according to Joey Mogul, one of three defense attorneys for the protesters. Instead, the University offered a plea bargain at the start of proceedings.
The plea offered the defendants conditional discharge, which means the protesters would not face sentencing for the trespassing charge as long as they complied with a no-contact ordinance at the UCMC for six months. Additionally, Losier would not face sentencing for the charge of resisting arrest. The charges would remain on their records.
According to Mogul, the no-contact ordinance “really” means that the University intends to infringe on the defendants’ first amendment rights to continue protesting the lack of an adult level-1 trauma center on the South Side, by barring them from the site of many previous demonstrations.
The first deal offered to Losier was much broader than the final bargain, he said.
“I was offered a one-year conditional discharge, which means it goes on my record. I was also offered no contact with the University of Chicago....It was with the entire University. Our lawyer went back and pushed them on it. They said I was a student and that doesn’t make any sense,” Losier said.
Both sides agreed to stop the proceedings around 2:30 p.m. to allow the defendants to consider the plea bargain. Losier has already decided to reject the offer and fight the charges because he believes the charge of resisting arrest is baseless. Many witnesses from the protest, including STOP member Jesus Campuzano, claim that Losier did not resist arrest.
A contingent of STOP members, students from SHE, and University faculty have drafted and signed three petitions in total asking the University to drop the charges. They have presented the petitions to administrators of the University and the UCMC.
Goldenberg and Klippenstein are still considering the implications of what taking the plea bargain would mean for them. Goldenberg currently plays a large role in organizing Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), the youth subset of Southsiders Together Organizing for Power (STOP) that has led the campaign for an adult level-1 trauma center at the UCMC. Accepting the bargain could threaten his ability to participate in future FLY protests.
Goldenberg said he’s waiting to hear more about the terms of the arrangement before he makes a decision.
“Can I be adjacent to the building or is it just not inside the building, or is it just the Center for Care and Discovery and not the whole hospital? So I want to know those details,” he said.
Additionally, Goldenberg said he’s considering the broader efforts to fight the charges.
“I want to...make sure that everything I do is consistent with the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Because of prior offenses incurred during last year’s Occupy protests, the plea bargains offered to Goldenberg and Klippenstein did not allow for supervision, an arrangement where a charge is left off the offender’s criminal record in exchange for periodic check-ins with the authorities, Mogul said.
Eight University representatives were present at the trial, including five UCPD officers, several of whom Goldenberg and Losier recognized from the protest and station the night of their arrest. This included Milton Owens, Deputy Chief of UCPD, who declined to comment on the protest when asked on Monday.
Immediately following the hearing, supporters gathered in front of the courthouse. Mogul reiterated what occurred in the courtroom, explained the terms of the plea bargain, and discussed the next steps for the defendants.
“Toussaint was offered a deal if he pled guilty to resisting arrest. He’d get conditional discharge, which means it would be on his record. That deal has been rejected. He was using his first amendment rights… We’re going to fight this charge and we look forward to having our day in court.,” she said.
The trial will reconvene on Friday at 1p.m. at the District 2 CPD courthouse on East 51st Street and South Wentworth Avenue.
-Additional reporting by Ankit Jain