Chase 5 found not guilty of trespassing in Broadway bank protest — UPDATE

A jury returned a verdict of not guilty Thursday afternoon in the trespassing case against five Occupy Seattle protesters who chained themselves together inside a Capitol Hill Chase bank in November.

Danielle Simmons, Sarah Svobodny, Liam Wright, Michael Stevens, and Hudson Williams-Eynon were found not guilty by the three-man, three-woman jury after a three-day trial.

Attorneys Braden Pence and David Douglas Hancock successfully argued that the “Chase 5” had carefully planned their effort and believed that they were on property that should be considered public during what Pence called in his opening statement the group’s “intentional actions” of protest. Judge Edward McKenna presided over the case presented by city prosecutor Marc Mayo.

On Wednesday, the issue of jury nullification was raised during testimony by the defendants and discussed in a sidebar session with the judge and attorneys. Jury nullification refers to a jury’s decision to acquit even though jurors believe that a defendant may have violated the law. UPDATE: Pence tells us the sidebar came after some testimony ranged into political terrain and the judge became concerned about possible nullification issues. The judge instructed the jury that their decision should be based solely in the law and not emotions or political beliefs in standard remarks presented at the start and the end of municipal court trials.

The legal process related to Occupy’s activities on Capitol Hill will continue as the case against the 16 people arrested for trespassing inside the 10th/Union warehouse will re-start with a pre-trial hearing in April.

UPDATE 3/16/12 9:00a:
We talked briefly with Pence Friday morning about the verdict. He credited the defendants with making the case an easy one to defend. 

“I think we had really outstanding clients, really thoughtful,” Pence said. “In their act of civil disobedience they were really intentional in taking into consideration the safety of everybody else including Chase employees.”

Pence said he and co-counsel Hancock were also able to raise question about the way in which Chase attempted to trespass the five. Beyond the technicality, Pence said the jury seemed most swayed by the fact that the Chase 5 believed what they were doing was just even if they would be arrested. He also said that a jury of peers helped.

“We’re in Seattle,” Pence said. “This could look real different if we were in Everett.”

Below is a statement sent out by the defendants:

Thursday, March 15th, five occupiers who shut down a Chase Bank in the city of Seattle on November 2nd of 2011 heard their verdict: Not Guilty. When the unanimous decision by the jury of six was announced today the shock, and elation, of the five occupiers and their supporters swept the room. “This sets a totally new precedent,” said one young woman.

The verdict was read at 4:15 of the third day of trial, having come after days of argument, examination of witnesses and cross examination. The City, having brought the charges, put the manager of the Chase Bank branch on the stand as well as three members of the Seattle Police Department. One had been working as private security for Chase Bank that day while wearing a police uniform.

Danielle Simmons, one of the defendants, after trial said, “I am in shock. The jury decided that our actions were justified and whether this is because they thought it was somehow lawful or just the right thing to do, something is changing, and I think it’s beautiful.”

On the day of November 2nd the five, now innocent occupiers, chained themselves together inside of the Chase bank using what is commonly known as a “lockbox.” When a march of about 200 arrived the branch was finally locked down and customers were informed that they should leave. The branch remained closed for the rest of the day.

“This is a huge victory for the Occupy Movement,” added Liam Wright, another defendant. “Every step of the way this bank occupation and the follow up has been more successful than we could have ever hoped for. We wanted to make clear to everyone that we don’t want a world defined by banks, we don’t want to live under them. We want to be human beings living together, free from the dead weight of financial profiteering.”

Liam Wright concluded, “They act like we will live under the rule of banks and money forever. But they can’t stop us. They can’t jail us.”

One of the occupiers, Michael Stevens said, “Right now the American political and corporate establishment is headed for another election. If anything, candidates might disagree about how much they want to limit birth control or how long the military should put off bombing Iran. This is so horrifying it’s ludicrous. Meanwhile, we are determined to end the rule of banks and billionaires — over us and over this whole planet. This doesn’t even appear on the radar of ‘official politics,’ yet millions agree with us.”

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36 thoughts on “Chase 5 found not guilty of trespassing in Broadway bank protest — UPDATE

  1. I guess one man’s “trespassing” is another man’s — or in this case, six jurors’ — free speech.

    P.S. Tough patooties, calhoun, umvue, and the other Capitol Hillbillies! You too, “Truthful.”

  2. No, punishing people for demonstrating in the manner these five did inside of a JP Morgan “too big to accept the consequences of our failure” Chase property is unjust. These five didn’t deny what they did. The jury chose not to convict them of it. They were technically guilty, but the jury indicated that they did not deserve punishment.

    The jury is a final check on abuse of power.

    “Too big to fail” means above the law, and having businesseses as powerful as Chase operate above the law frightens me. I wish people would do what these five did — legally, according to a jury of their peers — every day at branches of every bank we were forced to bail out and of every bank involved in mortgage fraud. I don’t know what it will take to get people to stop doing business with these crooks instead of with more community-focused, honest alternatives, but if five people laying down in the lobby will get them to close up shop for the day, I’m all for an exemption in the trespassing law to allow it.

  3. Begone, Chase, and don’t darken our towels again! We don’t want your phony local marketing & your bogus presence in the Great Northwest. Exit, stage left! Immediately, if not sooner!!

  4. Hey, es, how soon will you engage in your right of free speech? If you’re free this afternoon may I suggest you visit someplace on the Hill (maybe even Chase), chain yourself to a fixture, and have a swell time. It is your right, after all. I’d join you but I’m gonna be watching my NASCAR and fighting’ my cocks.

  5. Yeah, private property laws are bogus. Chase became public property when they took public money for the bail out. I’m glad the jury understood that. If they want to pay that money back, then they again can consider it private property. Until that day though, I hope these people continue to fight to try and force chases hand to do the right thing. Nicely done Chase 5 and 6 jurors! For once, justice was served!

  6. “Chase became public property when they took public money for the bail out”

    Except Chase Bank repaid 25 billion in TARP funds, plus 795 million in interest.

  7. and that’s about half the price they should have paid for WaMu. Let’s not forget that Chase has gotten a lot of passes. They acquired a $45 billion business for something like, $1.6 billion. They nearly doubled their workforce, acquired 2,200 branches and expanded into the western states. $25 billion is nothing. The FDIC looked the other way with Chase, forced the unemployment of 3,400 Washingtonians, and gave this horrible institution massive amounts of power/40+ million potential new customers. They could have and should have paid much more.

  8. Look, I hear a lot of different things coming from the comments below but what was actually discussed was whether or not they “Chase 5” unlawfully remained in the building knowingly. Sure they stayed, sure they knew they would be arrested, but by the evidence and deliberation of the jury we could not determine a critical component of the 4 elements of criminal trespass instructed.

    And there were some on the jury who didn’t even like nor were sympathetic toward the occupy movement.

    And lets not forget the “cloak of innocence” we all have even if we are arrested for something. It is what makes this country great!! Innocent until …

  9. Michael: Thanks for your service on the jury, and thanks for providing some information about your deliberations. What were the four critical elements to which you referred, and which one of them were you unable to determine?

  10. Did you ever take a tax deduction? Did you ever get a tax refund? So, since you took money from the feds, it’s OK then if I come over and hang out at your place anytime I want and do whatever I want there? I think I’ll come over and chain myself to your girlfriend. Surely you don’t have any objection to that, since you took money from the government.

  11. I am proud that the jury saw this as a reasonable and safe practice of civil disobedience. I also appreciate that the five were so thoughtful in their planning of this intentional action.

  12. @Phil, There were 4 elements to criminal trespass in the judges instructions about how we were to deliberate the facts of the case. The 1st was were the defendants there, yes. And, allow me to skip ahead the 4th.. did it happen in Seattle, easy enough to prove, yes. The real meat of deliberation was the 2nd and 3rd elements of what constitutes criminal trespass (you have to meet all four beyond a reasonable doubt to be guilty) in the 1st degree. So, the second was we had to know if at some point the defendants were not then invited, licensed, or privileged to remain in the building. Jury had trouble agreeing on this one. However, the 3rd of the 4 elements was did they unlawfully remain in the building knowingly. That is what we had doubt about. The distinction being that one being arrested for remaining is NOT the same as unlawfully remaining knowingly. God, I sound like a lawyer…

  13. If you are defending Chase, you are an asshole. Nothing you can say could justify their wrong doing. The courts disagree with you, the judge upheld the decision. Now just go count your money and shut the fuck up!

  14. Maybe I’d feel differently in the box but in the relative calm of my home I’d think that someone who wasn’t drooling and/or wallowing in their own piss and shit – well, I think I could reasonably assume they’d kinda think that just being asked to leave and not doing so is unlawful trespassing.

  15. How could you have any doubt about parts 2 and 3? It is quite obvious that they were not “invited, licensed, or privileged” to be in the building. And do you honestly think that the defendants did not know exactly what they were doing, and that they remained chained up knowing exactly what the consequences would be?

    It is laughable that part of the defense was that Chase Bank is “public property.” The members of this jury had to be predisposed to acquitt. This is jury nullification, pure and simple. For shame.

  16. @Calhoun,
    I appreciate you asking and hope you’re willing to hear my answer. That said, lets keep things in perspective and remind ourselves the defendants did enter the building lawfully. No one disagrees with that. As per the judges instruction, which we received after hearing all the evidence and testimony, we had a clear set of guidelines to follow. The questions came down to this, did they unlawfully remain in the building knowingly. All this of course being clear beyond a reasonable doubt. When you say “they remained chained up knowing exactly what the consequences would be” your assuming that being arrested means guilty. Flat out, it does not. That is part of what makes america great. The jury didn’t think there was substantial proof, based in fact, that they knowingly thought they reaming in the building was unlawful.

  17. And then again, they ARE free and you ARE wrong, as the Occupy “movement” scores a big win!

    Looks like we can’t make it through an entire comment stream on an Occupy story without one of the fecalphile anti-Occupiers tossing in a shit reference. What is it with you guys and excretory functions?

  18. I was there at the college before the march. We all marched to that branch together. It was explained at a GA before the march that we would protest outside the bank, which is what most of us did.

    I overheard several Occupy folks say the door to the back of the Chase branch was open. ASo some how the “Chase 5” were able to get into the back of a bank avoiding security posted at the front of the bank.

    We then heard reports of what was going on inside the bank from those looking through the window. The paddy wagon showed, our side began blocking police and lay down in front of the PD vehicle.

    This turned into a pushing match with the police. Our side began rocking the PD vehicle. Then it moved into the street, where our side got into a shoving match with PD.

    This was an embarassment for #Occupy. They will brag of their victory, but the entire situation was sickening. If it is your intent to “protest planning to be arrested” you don’t throw yourself in front of the PD vehicle, get in a shoving match with cops, and celebrate in the streets as if it is a high school football game.

    All this does is encourage more stupid, ill planned actions by #occupy. The “Chase 5” was not discussed with the other protestors until we were at the bank.

    Occupy Seattle is a joke.

  19. The PI reported “Demonstrators linked themselves together inside the Chase bank at Broadway East and East Thomas Street using a device that looked similar to PVC piping. One demonstrator said the five were planning to stay inside the bank until they were arrested.” That doesn’t count as “unlawfully remaining knowingly”?

    If they were planning to stay until they were arrested, then they kind of “unlawfully remained knowingly”.

  20. Six people in Seattle figure five people in Seattle are too ignorant to understand trespassing is a big big win for Occupy! Now the military industrial complex is on its knees! ON ITS KNEES!

    As for scatology, of course me and the CH hillbillies all commute via the same ass-cart. Duh.

  21. Thank you for your calm response (as opposed to others by hysterics on this board). We’re going to have to “agree to disagree.” I still cannot believe that these protestors did not “knowingly” stay in this private business illegally. I’m sure the bank staff asked them to leave, probably several times, and apparently it’s a fact that one of the protestors stated that they would stay in the bank until arrested (see Chris Lawson’s comment above).

  22. “Hey SPD in the audience, we’re about to go occupy the Chase on the 300 block of E Broadway between the hours of 1 and 3p.m.! Oh, and when you shove your bikes into our faces, we’re *actually going to defend ourselves*!”

    Good plan, Chris. You’ve exhibited a strong understanding of a) security culture, b) solidarity, c) the difference between arrestable and lawful, and d) the need to defend oneself in the face of an oppressive state that directly protects corporate interests.

  23. The jury did not follow the law in making their decision. The jury panel is charged with deciding the case base upon law not sympathy or prejudice. The jury had simply to apply the elements of the crime to the facts at trial and nothing more.

    The jury box was never intended to make legislation or changes to the law just interpert the facts at trial. Case law is the gray area where factual circumstances don’t match with the elements of the crime.
    The elements of the crime “trespassing” were abundant in this case the jury disregarded the law and took punishment into consideration. Punishment is for the judge to apply based on totality of the circumstances.

    John Facchin

  24. In costing the city endless thousands in clean up costs for their MASSIVE amounts of vandalism, their assaults on officers (yes, Henry, we all watched the video posted on the stranger and you punched officers repeatedly), and trials Occupy is taking money away from social services. Like it or lump it, you’re taking money out of an already nearly empty pot. Good job.

    This verdict is jury nullification at its best by a friendly group of peers. How sad. What a terrible message. If a homeless man goes in to Chase and puts down his sleeping bag, is all of Occupy going to rally their legal defense team behind him? Nope. Because the homeless are prosecuted every day and I have yet to see occupiers at those hearings or trials.

  25. you do realize that whether or not you THINK it should be public property or not, the fact of the matter is that it isnt, and more importantly, WASNT at the time of infraction.

    furthermore, that building is NOT OWNED by Chase Bank, as well as the majority of other banking retail locations. They are leased by, get this, PRIVATE owners. therefore, whether you believe it should be public property or not because Chase accepted money from the govt (which was required by law), and paid it back (right after, plus interest!) is null and void.

    this trial was a waste of time and resources that could have been directed towards better, more progressive things