One guilty verdict from RNC protests Pat Pheifer

Prosecution claims victory in the first trial to end with a conviction; defense calls verdict a "miscarriage of justice."

St. Paul, March 3, 2009 — Thirty-four charges, 10 people, one conviction.

The first trial to yield a guilty verdict in connection with Republican National Convention-related activities1 ended Friday when a six-member jury in Ramsey County District Court convicted Sean P. McCoy of public assembly without a permit. The charge is a misdemeanor.

District Judge Edward Wilson fined him $50.

The jury acquitted McCoy, 33, of Missoula, Mont., of fleeing police by means other than a motor vehicle. On Thursday, Wilson dismissed charges of unlawful assembly and obstructing traffic. Those charges also are misdemeanors.

Still, defense attorney Christopher Champagne said outside the courtroom that he felt as though he had failed his client.

"I just think it's a miscarriage of justice," Champagne said. "I apologize to my client. I feel I've failed him. We're talking about an innocent man."

Working as a street medic

McCoy said he was working as a street medic on Sept. 1, the first day of the convention, when he was arrested. He said he handed out water and sunscreen and helped move a protester in the wheelchair away from police after the protester had been sprayed with a chemical irritant.

Champagne said McCoy was "used as a scapegoat for the 200-plus people arrested that day."

Bill Drebenstedt, speaking for the Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure, said it's costing a lot more than $50 to prosecute the RNC trials. "People have to look at the City Attorney's office and ask what are they doing with their resources," he said.

St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said he didn't want to respond to Drebenstedt's statement directly. "That's political spin and justice doesn't operate that way."

Also on Thursday, a jury acquitted two convention protesters of a total of seven misdemeanor charges. Illana Radovsky, 18, of Minneapolis, and Gracia Logue-Sargeant, 21, of Austin, Texas, also were arrested Sept. 1.

Said Choi, "We're really pleased that we got to the jury on both trials. Win, lose or draw we have to respect the jury's decision. We're not going to gloat about the conviction other than to say that the effort on the part of the prosecutors' handling the cases was top-notch. We will continue to handle these cases in a thoughtful way and do the right thing in our role as prosecutors, which is to seek justice."

In a trial in January, District Judge Michael Fetsch dismissed charges against seven people accused of blocking a downtown St. Paul intersection, saying no reasonable jury could convict the defendants.


Pat Pheifer, "One guilty verdict from RNC protests: Prosecution claims victory in the first trial to end with a conviction; defense calls verdict a 'miscarriage of justice'." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), March 20th, 2009

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