Protestors plead to trafic violation

By Sylvia Phillips

Criminal charges were dismissed for all but seven political activists who were arrested while protesting budget cuts for higher education during last April’s Day of Action highway blackade.

At a status review hearing Friday, 46 demonstrators pled guilty to non-criminal charges of obstructing a highway, wich is a traffic violation. Prior to the hearing, 12 of the participants pled guilty to the traffic offense on Dec. 12, and two pled guilty at an earlier date.

The people who pled guilty to the charge of obstructing a highway must pay a $100 fine by March 17. They also face six months of court supervision during this period, the guilty finding will not appear on their record.

Douglas Engel, associate judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of DeKalb County, dismissed the criminal charges of resisting a peace officer for all cases. However, Michael Coghlan, DeKalb County state’s attorney, has appealed the decision for seven of these cases.

Criminal charges might be retained for “people for whom our records show have had prior criminal activity,” Coghlan said.

Michael Herrmann, DeKalb County assistant state’s attorney, said, “We picked a class of people we felt should be appealed.”

Of the nearly 80 demonstrators arrested, seven might face criminal charges. These include Jim Fabris, Jim Fischer, Todd Kuzma, Dave Stoudt, Paul Crawfod, James Webb and one other whose name could not be confirmed.

NIU student Jim Fabris, who is active in the John Lennon Society, said, “I didn’t resist (arrest) in any way. I was friendly to the police officers. I feel they are persecuting me for my political views.”

Former NIU student David Stoudt said the leaders and most visible participants in Day of Action II were the ones arrested.

Coghlan disagreed. “All the cases are treated the same. I don’t even know what his (Fabris’) political views are. I only know he was sitting in the street.”

Resisting a peace officer is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. However, the case is probationable. Most people who are first-time offenders receive a fine, court supervison, and no conviction appears on their record, Coghland said.

Seven other participants arrested and charged did not appear in court Friday, and a later court date was scheduled.

The NIU students who ere arrested during last April’s Day of Action II had blocked traffic on Lincoln Hwy.