Friday, August 29, 2014

Santa Cruz Eleven Defendants Follow the Money from Bob Lee to Wells Fargo at Latest Parade

On August 22, another energetic parade was held in support of the final four Santa Cruz Eleven defendants, who are still facing criminal charges in relation to the 2011 occupation of the vacant bank building located at 75 River Street. The course of the parade "followed the money" from District Attorney Bob Lee, who is prosecuting the case, to Wells Fargo Bank. Community members dressed in green and carried large, gold dollar signs. They followed a suit-clad parader wearing a Bob Lee mask who lead them to the Wells Fargo branch located at 74 River Street. Wells Fargo is the so-called plaintiff in the case, and defendants have recently discovered Lee has a financial relationship with the bank.

Bob Lee in front of 75 River Street

The visit to Wells Fargo felt much like the 2011 occupy protests that occurred there, and many of the other locations visited along the parade also recalled the occupy era. The court house was visited, as was San Lorenzo Park, and the parade traveled the length of Pacific Avenue twice. The parade also made its way past 75 River Street, where the building still sits empty and unrented, as it has for six years now.

Since June, defense attorneys have been attempting in court to obtain information related to a 2010 campaign disclosure form filed by District Attorney Lee with the county that indicated he received a campaign loan from Wells Fargo in the amount of $34,000, with zero interest having been paid on it from February to March of 2010.

When confronted by activists in 2012, Lee claimed that charges were still being pressed against the Santa Cruz Eleven defendants in order to recover financial damages Wells Fargo said it incurred as a result of vandalism that occurred during the occupation.

Though there has been no evidence presented that any of the defendants committed any acts of vandalism, they are being held to felony vandalism charges under a theory that their alleged involvement in relation to the occupation "aided an abetted" the damage to the building done by others. Additionally, the remaining four defendants will be responsible for paying the $20,000 in damages claimed by Wells Fargo if they are found guilty.

Many who participated in the parade wore shirts that read "I was in the Building," which is a reference to the large number of people who participated in the 2011 occupation.

Hundreds if not thousands of people entered and exited the bank during the three day occupation of 75 River Street in 2011, but when charges were filed in 2012, only eleven individuals were targeted for prosecution by District Attorney Lee. By 2013, seven of those had their charges dismissed by Judge Paul Burdick, all due to insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution.

The District Attorney's office has been responsible for many delays in the case, and at one point was sanctioned and fined $500 by Judge Burdick. One defendant estimates the case has required nearly 50 visits to court.

75 River Street

Wells Fargo

Santa Cruz Courthouse

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