Eight Occupy Wall Street protesters charged with trespassing at Duarte Square on December 17, 2011 were found guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday, and one received a harsher sentence than recommended by the District Attorney. Judge Matthew Sciarrino handed the most severe sentence to Mark Adams, a protester who was additionally charged with criminal mischief and attempted possession of burglar's tools. Adams will spend 45 days in jail, 15 more than the prosecution recommended. The remaining protesters were ordered to complete four days of community service and pay a $200 fine. "I think it's a sad day," said defendant Bishop George Packard. "Trinity didn't have to go forward with this. It is a major disappointment that they sent a gentle soul like Mark Adams to jail." Several of the protesters' supporters in the gallery erupted in tears as the judge offered his verdicts.
Mark Adams confers with his attorney (Tracie Williams)
that conflicting signage at Duarte Square meant that the protesters could not be deemed trespassers, an idea that Episcopal Bishop Packard supported. "Never in 45 years as a religious leader, have I ever heard the phrase 'No Trespassing' having to do with Church property," Packard said. "'Radical hospitality'? Yes. 'Refuge'? Yes. But 'No Trespassing'? Never." Duarte Square is privately-owned public space currently leased to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and though that fact was noted by Judge Sciarrino he did not believe that "any rational person could believe that the square—surrounded by a chain link fence—was open to the public. They used siege equipment to storm a castle," he said. Defense attorney Gideon Oliver was "not shocked, but disappointed" by the verdicts.
Rector James Cooper, star witness for the prosecution and the head of Trinity Church, testified that the use of Duarte Square by OWS was never considered despite generous support from the billion-dollar church. "I informed Bishop Packard that was not a negotiable part of our conversation," he said. Cooper seemed well-coached by the prosecution, and offered little to help the defense. Cooper maintained that he and Trinity Church were "supportive of the movement, but not their occupation," citing health and safety hazards. Upon cross examination, the prosecution objected repeatedly to a line of questioning as to whether or not Cooper had contacted the NYPD prior to December 17.
Bishop George Packard (Tracie Williams)
Bishop Packard said his only regret was that he might have given the impression that the church condoned an attempted occupation of Duarte Square. "I was acting on behalf of myself only and to the degree that others felt encouraged to break the law, I am sorry." His defense attorney asked Packard if he was showboating that day, wearing purple vestments. "I wore the same outfit in Bosnia, in Iraq, on missions—I was not," said the former military chaplain.
Addressing the court before sentencing, soft-spoken Bishop Packard told the judge he would like no special treatment. "Your honor, I am not pleading for leniency," he began," Frankly, I don't think it's dignified to do so." Seemingly unfazed by his own conviction, the bishop saved his ire for Trinity: "Is it a corporation worried about fiduciary interest or a portion of the Body of Christ? Which are they? We have received our answer today by their insistence for this action. In a time when we hope our moral institutions will speak with clarity, this one didn't."