Occupy Denver: Charge against plaintiff in David Lane lawsuit dropped days before court date
Update: Two of the charges incurred by supporters of Occupy Denver in recent weeks were dropped over the weekend when the city attorney's office decided against officially filing in both cases. The most notable of the two instances is that of Natalie Wyatt, who has since enlisted as a plaintiff on the side of David Lane in his legal team's pursuit of an injunction against the Denver Police Department for restrictions against the group's First Amendment freedom of expression.
Wyatt was cited for disturbing the peace over the use of an air horn from the passenger seat of a car. As she was receiving her ticket, fellow protester Robert Schultz earned one of us own -- for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk to meet her.
Both cases have since been dropped, according to Vince DiCroce, the director of the prosecution section of the city attorney's office. He sent both Occupy Denver supporters letters revealing that "the charges would not be filed and they don't need to appear in court," he says. "Upon review of the file, it seemed we would not be able to successfully prosecute either case in court. Those two were brought to my attention before they were filed with the court, but there are numerous cases filed that we're going forward on. "
Photo by Kelsey Whipple An Occupy Denver protest.
Wyatt and Schultz's cases are the only two to have been dropped before being filed, and the timing, several days before Monday's hearing on the injunction, seems significant. DiCrose says there is no connection between the decision to drop Wyatt's charge and her role as a plaintiff in the case, but Occupy Denver's internal legal working team remains suspicious.
"The city attorney's official position was that they've never targeted anyone specifically in relation to Occupy Denver, but the same week, we get these dismissals for some of the charges," says protester Rob Piper, who is also a plaintiff in the case. "They're trying to mitigate their loss, and I would do the same if I were rapidly approaching a court date. I find that incredibly disingenuous."
Could the city use the dropped charge as an argument that Wyatt's role in the case be diminished? Piper argues that the specific charge is not a central issue here. "It was my guess that the city is trying to eliminate standing for the suit, but the petition for injunctive relief doesn't speak specifically to charges," Piper says. "It speaks more to the effect that pattern has had on freedom of expression. The city has offered no guarantee of non-prosecution in the future. Nothing stops them from, starting today, writing the same tickets again."
In the past few weeks, Occupy Denver has experienced a noticeable decrease in donations and participation that Piper believes is a direct result of a crackdown on attempts to support and donate to the group. Occupy Denver's Facebook page warns potential donors against stopping or slowing down in front of Civic Center Park, and the number of people who stop down the street to walk their donations to the occupation is considerably fewer than those who used to pull over and greet protesters between 14th and Colfax.
"I think that's directly correlated to the way the police are treating this," Piper says.
Continue for Westword's previous coverage of the group's injunction and open-records requests.