Occupy Wall Street demonstrators arrested at Duarte Square on December 17 squared off in court with the City and Trinity Church today, despite entreaties from the protesters that Trinity not comply with the Manhattan DA's office prosecution. Among the defendants were members of the clergy, including retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, who was the first to scale the fence in December.

Duarte Square is owned by Trinity Church, a major landholder in Lower Manhattan. The church's rector, the Rev. Dr. James Cooper, who had allowed protesters to use the church's facilities before and after the eviction of Zuccotti Park, begged them at the time to not enter the vacant lot.

The prosecution's case rests largely on the testimony of a key witness, Amy Jedlinka, identified as a Trinity Church's general counsel and Duarte Square's custodian. Her testimony was expected to corroborate statements from the three arresting officers called to the stand today.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Langston's opening arguments posited that the protesters were fully aware that their actions were criminal. "The defendants made a deliberate choice to violate private property rights when they returned to Duarte Square, owned by Trinity Church," he began. Bishop Packard was named as the first over the fence surrounding the square. "[The defendants] went over, under, or broke through the fence with signs that clearly stated 'Private Property, No Tresspassing.'" However, throughout the park placards identify the half-acre square as privately-owned public space. For the defense, attorney Paul Mills filed a motion to quash based on the fact that Trinity had no legal standing to close the land, which was leased to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Officer Michael Russo, a nine-year veteran assigned to the Manhattan South Task Force and one of the prosecution's witnesses faced a tough cross examination. Russo arrested defendant William Wallace-Gusakov on December 17 near the corner of Grand and Wooster, several blocks from Duarte Square. "Did you see Mr. Wallace-Gusakov in the square?" questioned defense attorney Martin Stolar. "On video," replied Russo, who maintained that his orders were to arrest any individual inside the park.

Of the three Manhattan South Task Force officers to testify, each claimed to have had a personal conversation with Amy Jedlicka during which they were told the property was private. Yet not one of them was able to recall when they spoke with her, the specifics of their conversation. Nor did they take any notes in their memo book, a major point of contention for the defense. "Was it your custom at that time to speak with a witness regarding facts of a case and to take notes in your memo book?" asked attorney for the defense Paul Mills. "It was not at that time," replied Russo.

During the trial, Judge Matthew Sciarrino, Jr. quickly stifled any outbursts from the protesters' supporters in the gallery with threats of removal, including one from defendant Jack Boyle. Boyle has been on a hunger and medication strike for over three weeks and complained that the tight seating arrangement on the defendants' bench was uncomfortable. Sciarrino ordered a court officer to bring in a chair for the defendant.

The trial ended today with defense attorney Gideon Oliver midway through cross examination of Jedlicka, who stated that her duties as Trinity's General Counsel included managing all legal matters relating to commercial properties in Trinity's portfolio, which includes Duarte Square.

Much of the testimony revolved around Jedlicka's familiarity with Duarte Square, especially the signage that was in the area on and around December 17th, when Occupy Wall Street protesters entered the area, as well as the relationship between Trinity Church and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). In 2009 Trinity and LMCC entered into an agreement in which LMCC was to use the space to promote culture in downtown Manhattan and to be open to the public during the week but not on weekends, Jedlicka stated on direct examination.

In an uncharacteristically light moment, assistant district attorney Ryan Hayward asked Jedlicka when was the last time she had been at “Zuccotti Park”. The courtroom erupted in laughter, and Hayward quickly corrected himself.

Defense attorney Stolar seemed to find a weakness in the DA's case, as upon cross-examination Jedlicka admitted that it wasn't written anywhere that the square was closed on weekends. Stolar held the 2009 contract up for the courtroom to see, asking, “Is there any writing that says [Duarte Square] is closed on weekends?” Jedlicka replied, “Not that I know of, it just was.”

Stolar then moved on to the signs around the square, showing Exhibits E and F to Jedlicka. The signs indicated that the square was open from 7 a.m. until dusk, with no mention of it being closed on weekends.

In the final minutes of the day, defense attorney Oliver questioned Jedlicka on the deed history of Duarte Square, alledging that since the late 1960s there were more than 6 separate deeds that had been issued. Jedlicka stated that she was told by Trinity's archivist that they had been owner of Duarte Square since 1705, but when Oliver questioned her on these other deeds she seemed unfamiliar with them. The day ended with the defense requesting an adjournment until the morning to properly introduce the deeds into the record, which the judge granted.

In the hallway outside the courtroom defense attorney Meghan Maurus stressed that they haven't received information they subpoenaed over a month ago, which at the time the judge deemed relevant. Despite the lack of compliance, Judge Sciarrino is allowing the trial to go forward.

“I'm not surprised,” said an Occupier standing in the hallway. “He's the guy who sent me to Rikers.”

Court resumes tomorrow at 9:30am.

With John Knefel reporting