Occupy LA's legal team demands release of protesters

Grant Slater/KPCC

An LAPD officer warned a protester that he would be arrested if he didn't leave the police cordon in the center of the park.

The National Lawyers Guild has released a statement demanding the "immediate release" of all Occupy LA protesters arrested last night during the LAPD raid.

"The Los Angeles Police Department is deliberately refusing to release anyone arrested in the Occupy raids with a notice to appear," National Lawyers Guild board member, Carol Sobel, said in the statement. "The City is holding them in jail on $5,000 bail until they can be arraigned by a judge, which can take up to 48 hours. This punishes people for exercising their First Amendment rights."

LAPD has confirmed that 292 protesters are being held on $5,000 bail and that all have been charged with some form of misdemeanor.

The CIty Attorney's office refutes the National Lawyers Guild's claim. In an statement, Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the attorney's office, said the code section cited by the Guild is not mandatory.

The police department has yet to refer any cases to be prosecuted, Mateljan said. They will look at each case separately and take into account criminal record, use of force or assaults against police officers and damage to public or private property.

"When any of those cases are referred to this Office for criminal consideration, we will review the facts and applicable law for each and every one separately and independently in exercising our prosecutorial discretion whether to file charges or not," he said.

All of those arrested in the raid are still in police custody. If they do no post bail, the city attorney's office has 48 hours from the time of arrest to decide whether to file charges.

In an interview with the LA Weekly, Mateljan said the LAPD has the option of citing and releasing protesters.

In arresting a person for a misdemeanor violation, the law enforcement agency, such as LAPD, can exercise its discretion, with some limitations, under applicable law whether to, among other things; 1) detain and release the arrestee in the field with a citation; 2) detain, book (i.e., fingerprint and photograph) and release the arrestee with a notice to appear; or 3) detain, book and recommend bail for the arrestee - all depending upon any mitigating and aggravating factors involved.

Earl Thomas, who heads the criminal division for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, also said no Occupy cases from last night's arrest have come across his desk yet. He said law enforcement are following standard procedure by holding protesters on bail while they complete processing paperwork.

“The statements, the narratives that the police have to do, have to be done and have to be completed and have to be packaged up before they even bring those cases to our office for our review. So when there is a mass-arrest situation, it’s a much slower process, but it’s not abnormal.”

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