Jury Finds 12 Philadelphia Protesters Not Guilty for Wells Fargo Sit-In

Search form

Jury Finds 12 Philadelphia Protesters Not Guilty for Wells Fargo Sit-In

Jury Finds 12 Philadelphia Protesters Not Guilty for Wells Fargo Sit-In
Wed, 3/6/2013 - by jackiews
This article originally appeared on InterOccupy

In the matter of The People v. Wells Fargo the jury has found 12 Occupy Philadelphia protesters, arrested in November 2011 for a sit-in against the banks’ predatory lending practices and mafia-like policies, not guilty.

One of the only Occupy-related trials in the country to be argued before a jury, Tuesday also marked the first civil disobedience free speech case in recent Philadelphia memory. Defendants included a non-profit housing counselor, a Wells Fargo mortgage holder, a local teacher, an activist who participated in Civil Rights era struggles, and Temple and Penn graduate students.

During testimony, they pointed to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s report on Wells Fargo’s prejudicial lending practices and investigations by the Pennsylvania State Auditor General’s Office to draw connections between Wells Fargo’s profiteering and the defunding of Philadelphia's communities and school district.

The group was defended by seven local lawyers working pro bono: Leo Mulvihill, Jr., Marni Snyder, Paul Hetznecker, Mike Lee, Michael Coard, Larry Krasner, and Jon Feinberg.

“Today the people of Philadelphia defended the First Amendment,” said Defense Attorney Marni Snyder, one of seven lawyers who volunteered to represent the protestors. “We sent a clear message to the District Attorney’s Office: prosecute the real criminals at Wells Fargo. These twelve defendants stand on the side of justice.”

“If this jury has found us innocent then it must mean that Wells Fargo is guilty,” said an elated 71-year-old Willard R. Johnson, one of the 12 on trial.

Judge Nina N. Wright Padilla asked all 12 of the acquitted to approach so she could shake their hands. ”I hope you continue your work in a law-abiding way,” said Padilla. “I must say you are the most affable group of defendants I’ve ever come across.”

The protesters were on trial with charges of defiant trespass and conspiracy to commit defiant trespass, stemming from a sit-in conducted at Wells Fargo in the center city on November 18, 2011. During the action they "foreclosed" upon Wells Fargo, a bank known to engage in racist predatory lending, unjust foreclosures, selling and profiting from bad loans to the Philadelphia school district, and playing a significant role in orchestrating the mortgage debt crisis which contributed to the country's current recession.

The seven pro bono defense attorneys argued in court that the protesters had a 1st Amendment right to conduct the sit-in in the bank lobby, and to demand to speak to someone from Wells Fargo who could change the unfair policies. They also argued the protesters were compelled to speak out and that they refused to leave the bank lobby to prevent further harm being done to the public, known as the justification defense.

The greater harm they were referring to was the continuation of unlawful business practices that led the city to pay out millions to Wells Fargo, and the continuing home foreclosures happening to families all over the country.

The group of lawyers, defendants and their supporters returned to court several times to hear questions from the jury which required an oral response from the judge in front of all parties. First, the jury had asked to be excused because of its inability to come to a unanimous decision, as no one willing to change his or her vote.

But the judge instructed them to further deliberate. The jury came back and asked a question about the "justification defense," an indication that they might be considering nullification of the misdemeanor charges of criminal conspiracy and defiant trespassing.

The defense successfully argued that the sit-in was protected by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee. They also contended the protest served a “greater good” for society that outweighed the trespass charge.

Article Tabs

Black Lives Matter, pepper spray cops, Cleveland police incidents, police brutality, police violence, Ferguson protests, Baltimore protests

The incident occurred Sunday during protests against the arrest of a 14-year-old.

economic inequality, wealth inequality, income inequality, $15 an hour, Fight for $15, worker strikes, worker occupations, Taft-Hartley Act, Communist Party USA, McCarthyism, fast-food workers

The Oakland-based activist and performer says workers need to look beyond city councils and form a radical new labor movement – through strikes, stoppages and occupations of the workplace.

Endangered Species Act, animal protections, Federal Land Freedom Act, Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, National Defense Authorization Act, Common Sense in Species Protection Act, Clean Energy Act

A spate of bills attached with riders are moving through Congress that would dismantle the historic law by transferring authority from the federal level to the states – inaugurating an era of unrestrained development.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, investor-state dispute settlements, ISDS, corporate tribunals

So much public concern and controversy has been raised over investor-state dispute settlements that the E.U. suspended talks on the rules in order to open a public consultation.

Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, economic injustice, Tia Oso, Patrisse Cullors, white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan, #BernieSoBlack

The recent Black Lives Matter protest at the Netroots Nation conference was a teachable moment for everyone – forcing progressives to pick a side as they shape next year's electoral agenda.

The Yes Men, The Yes Men Are Revolting, Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonnano, Occupy Sandy, climate activism

The prankster activist duo are back at it again, now directing their comical creative theater at the climate crisis and the earth's worst offenders.

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago

The call for a ban follows controversial legislation allowing E.U. member states to opt-out of GM cultivation, even though it has been approved at the European Union level.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Act Out!, Eleanor Goldfield, Taylor Swift, Fox News, funny or die

This week let's go ahead and debunk that myth of being “a-political” with a little help from Taylor Swift and Fox “News."

Posted 5 days 22 hours ago
$15 an hour, Fight for 15, federal minimum wage, minimum wage increase, Bernie Sanders

The bill, proposed by the presidential candidate and Democrats in the House, goes far beyond the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and makes it easier for federal workers to join a union.

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago
bank bailouts, fraudulent bank practices, mortgage backed securities, illegal foreclosures, Lanny Breuer, Eric Holder, FDIC, securitized loans, due process, whistleblowers, robosigning, mortgage fraud, revolving door

"The system is largely gamed, broken and corrupted by money, influence peddling and a revolving door."

Posted 1 day 14 hours ago
Greek debt crisis, Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, predatory lending, cross-currency swap, Mario Draghi

CEO Lloyd Blankfein and his Goldman team helped Greece hide the true extent of its debt – and in the process almost doubled it.

Black Lives Matter, Department of Homeland Security, DHS National Operations Center, First Amendment rights, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Ferguson protests, Baltimore protests, Black Panthers

The reports confirm social media surveillance of the movement and related events in Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York – including watching over vigils, parades and other benign gatherings.

Fight for $15, $15 minimum wage, increased wages, fastfood workers, Wage Board, Andrew Cuomo, Save NY Restaurants Coalition

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Wage Board exercised its power to set the new minimum for the fast food industry's 200,000 workers in the state – without requiring approval of the legislature.

child poverty, children in poverty, Kids Count Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation

Poverty rates have nearly doubled among African-Americans and American Indians since 2008, and hardship is most severe in the South and Southwest.

Act Out!, Eleanor Goldfield, Taylor Swift, Fox News, funny or die

This week let's go ahead and debunk that myth of being “a-political” with a little help from Taylor Swift and Fox “News."

Sign Up