FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2014
For More Information: Laurel Ashton, Field Secretary, 828 713 3864
Atty. Jamie Cole, Public Policy Coordinator, 919 682 4700
The Collapse of the State’s Case Against Moral Monday Protesters
RALEIGH – This morning, January 22nd, in Wake County District Court, after failing to get a conviction on any of the defendants it accused and tried, the District Attorney’s office announced it was dismissing all charges against 57 protesters who were arrested and charged with three separate offenses on May 20, 2013, when they tried to petition the government and instruct their representatives about their grievances against the cruel and unconstitutional policies that the NC General Assembly was putting in our state law books.
The volunteer lawyers representing the Moral Monday arrestees are working with the District Attorney’s office this afternoon to be sure all 57 of those who were arrested will have their cases dismissed and their records expunged.
Since the District Attorney has begun trying the Moral Monday cases, the record of conviction has cast doubt on whether any of these cases should have been tried in the first place. The first trial, against labor activist Saladin Mohammed, resulted in the Court finding him guilty on all three charges. The Court sentenced him to a $100 fine and court costs of $180. Since then, over the past several months, 43 more people have been tried. Ms. Vicki Ryder and her husband Doug Ryder were acquitted. The DA’s office tried 13 out of the 17 defendants who were arrested during the first Moral Monday, including NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, under antiquated and ambiguous rules that even the Chief of the General Assembly police department has repeatedly testified he is not sure what they mean. The Court dismissed two of the charges against them and found them guilty of trespassing. They received the same sentence as Mr. Mohammad, who was found guilty of three charges.
As of today, there have been approximately 31 acquittals and 13 more convictions. The specially-appointed Judge, former chief District Court Judge for Wake County has ruled that portions of the legislative rules, specifically the rule prohibiting political signs in the General Assembly, are unconstitutional. This means that one third of all the charges are no longer prosecutable. And today the Wake County District Attorney announced their office is dismissing the charges against all 57 of the Moral Monday defendants who were arrested at the General Assembly on May 20, 2013.
"The NC NAACP wants to publicly thank the more than 120 triangle area lawyers who have volunteered their time and expertise to be sure the North Carolina Constitution is respected in these important cases," said Rev. Dr. Barber. "This Saturday night, we will be honoring all of these volunteer attorneys for their great work at our Annual Winter Conference at 7:00 p.m. at 4400 Old Poole Road, Raleigh NC. They will each receive a part of our annual Humanitarian Award." The media is invited.
The more than 940 Moral Witnesses, who were handcuffed and bused off to jail, and then made to sit in courtrooms for hours along with their lawyers, will be honored guests at the 8th Annual Moral March on Raleigh HKonJ People’s Assembly, on Saturday, February 8th. Everyone who wants to see what democracy looks like is invited to meet us at Shaw University at 9:30 a.m. and march to the State Capitol as part of the Forward Together Moral Movement. We will go Forward Together, Not One Step Back.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes the more than 150 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Peoples Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.