Wake DA offers 'Moral Monday' protesters deferred prosecution

ablythe@newsobserver.comAugust 12, 2013 

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Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby makes a point in a Wake County courtroom Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has offered the 924 people arrested during the “Moral Monday” demonstrations an opportunity to have their cases dismissed.

They have to agree to perform 25 hours of community service and pay $180 in court costs, according to his so-called “deferred prosecution” proposal, and charges will be dismissed.

Prosecutors in recent years have made similar offers to defendants in civil disobedience cases. Though the weekly protests have been suspended since the lawmakers went home after their historic session, many of the protesters arrested inside the Legislative Building have been reporting to Wake County District Courts for first appearances.

Some of the protesters, according to Willoughy, have opted for the plea bargain. In doing so, they do not have to accept guilt.

“We’ve had a handful or so,” he said.

Other demonstrators plan to pursue trials – the first of which are scheduled for late September.

In motions filed earlier this summer, some of the protesters asked Wake County District Court judges to dismiss their cases, arguing that their arrests were unconstitutional.

“The North Carolina Constitution says that every citizen has the right to go to the General Assembly and address their legislators and to issue any complaints that they have about the work that they’re doing,” Irv Joyner, a lawyer representing the first protesters to go to court, said.

The protesters, Joyner added, “were protesting against actions that we deem to be improper, untimely, spiteful and mean-spirited toward the poor.”

As the demonstrations swelled in size after April 29 and the number of arrests grew from dozens to hundreds, Willoughby urged Jeff Weaver, the chief of the General Assembly police, to cite the demonstrators rather than arrest them.

The Wake County district attorney cited concerns about the number of cases and the time and costs of prosecuting each one if all chose trials.

Many of the demonstrators and their lawyers have used similar arguments in seeking dismissal of their cases.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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