Before going to Criminal Court this morning, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez drove his daughter to school. As he drove, Councilman Rodriguez told The Politicker he always tries to make time to drive his daughter in the mornings. On November 15, he missed their daily trip because he was in jail after being arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest during the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park that occurred in the wee hours of that morning.
Today was his first court appearance stemming from that arrest.
After dropping his daughter off uptown, Councilman Rodriguez made his to the Criminal Court building near City Hall. Outside the stone court building, several other people arrested at the Occupy Wall Street protests waited in line to go through security. Several of the former occupiers knew each other and hugs and high fives were exchanged throughout the crowd.
Jason Robledo, who wore a knit hat shaped like Hello Kitty came up to Councilman Rodriguez.
“Good to see you again sir,” he said shaking the Councilman’s hand.
Mr. Robledo told us he was arrested during Occupy Wall Street’s Day of Action in Duarte Square December 17, but he wasn’t due in court today.
“I’m here in solidarity with my comrades,” he said.
After making his way through two metal detectors, Councilman Rodriguez arrived outside the courtroom where there was a large contingent of protesters accompanied by representatives from the National Lawyer’s Guild. One of the lawyers, Elena Cohen, said there were sixty Occupy-related cases on the court calendar today.
“It’s a fairly average day for returns on Occupy Wall Street,” Ms. Cohen said. “Actually, we usually have a little more than sixty.
Councilman Rodriguez was joined by his attorneys and made his way into the courtroom where his lawyer, Andrew Stoll, argued the prosecution failed to explain why the police closed the sidewalks during the raid.
“I did want to point out to the court, there is no disorderly conduct here,” Mr. Stoll said. “The complaint is completely void of any reason the sidewalks were closed.”
Assistant District Attorney Alyssa Gunther presented a response to the defense that included allegations Councilman Rodriguez “made physical contact” with a female officer at a police barricade while shouting “I want to get through … You can’t stop me from getting through.” As he was arrested, the prosecution claims Councilman Rodriguez yelled, “I’m Council, 99 Percent.”
The prosecution also presented information indicating they have audio or video footage to present at the trial.
Mr. Stoll also asked the court to allow him to present personnel records for the two arresting officers in the case.
“We’re aware that at least one of the police officers named in the complaint has had at least two lawsuits filed against him. We’re aware of other information in the public record about the other officer that would suggest that disclosing their personnel records from the CCRB, from internal affairs and from the NYPD would yield info that would reflect very negatively on their credibility,” Mr. Stoll told us after the hearing.
The judge declined to make a ruling about the personnel records, because he said there were many similar motions in the Occupy Wall Street cases and it wouldn’t be expedient to deal with them one by one.
Afterwards, Mr. Stoll said he’s “disappointed the case hasn’t been dismissed.”
“I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. I hope that the Manhattan D.A.’s office will come to their senses and dismiss this because there’s no middle ground here,” Mr. Stoll said. “This case is either going to be dismissed or it’s going to go to trial with a jury trial. They cannot reduce these charges.”
Mr. Stoll also said the councilman had not been offered an ACD.
“There’s been no offer,” he said. “I have had discussions with the D.A.’s office about their position on the case. I would not go into any detail about what those discussions were because it simply wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Since Councilman Rodriguez claimed he was injured during his arrest, we asked Mr. Stoll if they were considering a civil suit.
“We’re considering doing anything that is necessary here to clear council member Rodriguez’s name and see that justice is done,” Mr. Stoll said.
Councilman Rodriguez also gave us his take on the case.
“The reason why I’m here today is because I’ve been participating in all the rallies and protests that the Occupy movement has organized. I’m here because I was falsely accused on November 15 when I went to–when I was planning to get close to Zuccotti Park only with the intention to be an observer,” Councilman Rodriguez said. “As the chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, I know that thousands of students from CUNY have been engaged in this movement and I feel that it was also my responsibility to observe what was going on that day.”
Though he believes his arrest was illegitimate, Councilman Rodriguez said he’s still actively working with the police “to continue improving the relationship between the NYPD and our community.”
“I have explained to Commissioner Kelly that we are here to work together to be sure that we keep our city safe and I am proud of the work that most of the police officers in the NYPD have been doing in our city,” Councilman Rodriguez said. “However, the way that particular member of the NYPD dealt with those arrests on that day was unfair. It should not happen. We are taking this case all the way.”
Councilman Rodriguez is due in court next March 9.