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Appeals court upholds sanctions against Santa Cruz Co. DA's Office

Published On: Apr 15 2014 07:09:00 PM CDT
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

A state appeals court has upheld a Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge's decision to issue sanctions against the District Attorney's Office in a case involving the takeover of a vacant bank.

Four people still face trial on charges stemming from the three-day takeover of 75 River Street, a former Wells Fargo bank, in Santa Cruz in 2011. Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, Brent Adams, Cameron Laurendeau and Franklin Alcantara face a felony charge of vandalism and a misdemeanor for trespassing.

The bank was taken over for nearly 72 hours by a group claiming to be acting "anonymously and autonomously but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz" in late 2011. The group remained inside amid numerous negotiations with Santa Cruz police before finally leaving without incident nearly 72 hours later.

After the preliminary hearings, Judge Paul Burdick took the rare step of fining the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office $500 for what he said were then-Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young's continued delays in turning over the evidence to the defense. Young is no longer a prosecutor in Santa Cruz County, but the sanctions were imposed against the office itself.

District Attorney Bob Lee appealed the sanctions, but the San Jose-based 6th District Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling in a decision released Monday.

"We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the challenged sanctions," the appellate court wrote, adding that it found that the District Attorney's Office failed to timely comply with a lawful court order.

Click here to read the entire appellate decision.

Eleven people originally were charged in the case, but Judge Burdick dismissed charges against seven of them, citing a lack of evidence in five of the cases. Charges were dismissed against two others who Burdick determined were acting in the capacity of independent journalists.

Burdick ruled previously that in holding Ripley-Phipps, Adams, Alcantara and Laurendeau on the felony vandalism charge, he was using the theory that it was a “direct and natural consequence” of the trespassing.

Their trial is still pending.