More than 180 Occupy LA arrestees released

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More than 180 people were released without an arraignment or paying bail today, according to an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, who has been advising those arrested. All 292 people jailed after an LAPD operation to clear the Occupy L.A. encampment around City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles will have been released or arraigned by the end of today, officials said Friday.

The LAPD jail watch commander reported that the two jails Occupy LA arrestees were being held in were empty today, and buses had taken people to court this morning, said Officer Sara Faden, a spokeswoman with the LAPD. "Nobody is at their facility any longer," Faden said.

A person must be arraigned within 48 hours of their arrest or otherwise released. Occupy LA protesters had alleged police were planning to keep people arrested in jail through the weekend.

Twelve people will be arraigned this afternoon and are likely those who have outstanding warrants or a parole or probation violation, said NLG executive vice-president and attorney Carol Sobel. It is possible that, however, that those who are arraigned will return to jail if they cannot, or decide not to, post bail, Faden said.

About 240 people remained in jail Thursday night, police said. On Thursday, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against 19 people arrested. Their bail was set at between $5,000 and $20,000 depending on the charges, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Sobel, who has advised the protesters, was not sure what the details of their release were. She said protesters had been presented with a pre-plea deal Thursday that included a “stay-away order,” and several had accepted, though many were resistant to such a condition.

The City Attorney's office could not immediately confirm the exact numbers or details of their release. Of the 19 people arraigned Thursday, all but two had their bail lowered to zero and were released, Sobel said. One woman had her bail raised to $5,500 because she had restitution she had not made on a prior case, Sobel said.

Tyson Header, 35, of Valencia, had his bail raised to $10,000 for allegedly spitting on an officer and resisting arrest, Sobel said. He was charged Thursday with three counts: battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Another person was arrested for interfering with police operations, said Officer Karen Rayner, a spokeswoman for the LAPD.

On Thursday, about 50 people were released from custody after either being arraigned, posting $5,000 bail or for medical reasons, Rayner said.

LAPD's raid of the Occupy L.A. encampment early Wednesday resulted in the arrest of 292 people, primarily for failing to disperse from the area around 1st and Broadway once police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly.

The National Lawyers Guild has criticized the handling of the Occupy L.A. arrests and court processing.

“It’s the most chaotic, inefficient process we’ve ever seen in a situation like this,” Sobel said, “because they want to punish Occupy. They want to punish people who engage in civil disobedience.”

She said unlawful assembly is a misdemeanor charge that was resulting in harsher treatment than people facing other misdemeanor charges, and was therefore a violation of the protesters' First Amendment rights.

“The bottom line is you could get released a whole lot faster if you shoplifted or did prostitution,” Sobel said.

LAPD spokeswoman Faden said police did not set bail amounts and that officers were enforcing the law.

“Our objective is not to punish anybody other than for the crime they have committed,” Faden said. “Once they’re found to be guilty, of course, that moves forward accordingly. But we don’t establish the punishments. ... We just want the community to be safe.”

Tyler Lyle, 26, a musician from Georgia, was arrested early Wednesday and described his experience in a write up. In his write up he described a very uncomfortable and stressful bus trip to the Van Nuys jail.

"Even typing this right now, my rational brain thinks 'this could not have happened,'" he wrote. "But it did....I had my hands tied behind my back, urine on my shoes, people screaming in pain, my wrists throbbing..."

On Friday, he said he was still tired and that his wrists still hurt. Lyle posted bail after nearly 20 hours in custody and was released at 8 p.m. Wednesday, he said. He had food in Santa Monica, and went straight to bed, Lyle said.

"I don't consider myself a part of Occupy LA, just someone in the doorway," Lyle said Friday. "I wanted to be there because I support people's rights to support people's rights, and I felt that it was an important moment of history..."

Mike Prysner, 28, got out of jail Wednesday night after posting a $5,000 bail and spending 22 hours in a two-person cell at the downtown jail. Prysner, an activist who works for Answer Coalition, is also an Iraq war veteran who served in the U.S. Army for about four years and was honorably discharged in 2005.

He has been a part of the Occupy movement since the early planning stages for the L.A. encampment and has traveled to, and helped organize, encampments in Washington D.C. and Chicago.

“There’s only one narrative out in the press right now,” Prysner said. “That narrative is from the mayor, the LAPD and the city, which is nothing but self-congratulatory, patting themselves on the back, saying the LAPD is reformed and this is a great example of how well they are treating people ... but people who were inside, people who experienced it will tell a very different story.”

Prysner said he witnessed many people being beaten by police batons during the raid on their encampment. He said everyone was taken into custody and put in zip ties with their hands behind their backs and loaded into buses to go to the jail. It was about seven hours before his hands were freed, he said.

“Once we got booked, we found out we were all slapped with a $5,000 bail,” Prysner said. “This is preposterous, because under California law misdemeanors are always released on their own recognizance, which means no bail. It’s near impossible for most of these people to pay.”

The Los Angeles County Superior Court Judicial Council sets the bail schedule for misdemeanor violations, and failing to disperse (state penal code 409) carries a minimum bail of $5,000, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office. A charge of resisting arrest carries a minimum bail of $10,000, he said.

In order to post bail, a charged defendant must pay at least 10 percent of that amount in cash. Bail can be higher if the defendant has been charged with aggravated conduct, such as assaulting a police officer or a prior criminal history, Mateljan said.

At arraignment it is possible to have the bail amount raised or lowered, and to request no bail and release on a person’s own recognizance, depending on the specific charges and background of the defendant, said Mateljan.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, the LAPD can exercise discretion, with some limitations, when arresting someone for a misdemeanor violation. Depending on the situation, officers have the choice to detain and release the arrestee in the field with a citation; detain, book (for example, fingerprint and photograph) and release the arrestee with a notice to appear; or detain, book and recommend bail for the arrestee.

Prysner said the city was trying to intimidate people by making their experience more harrowing so that they will not protest again. Men were held in the Downtown Metropolitan Detention Center. Women were held in the Valley Jail Section in Van Nuys, police said.

When he got out of jail at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Prysner headed straight to the steps of City Hall to join other Occupy L.A. protesters and talk about next steps. He has a court date set for January.

“The movement isn’t going anywhere because the reasons people came onto the street have not been addressed, those conditions have not gone away,” Prysner said.

“Thousands of people in this country aren’t doing this because they want to go camping, live in a park and get shot at with rubber bullets. They’re doing this because of the conditions they’re living under: severe student debts, people are unemployed, people have been foreclosed on, they’ve had their social services cut ... those conditions have not gone away.”

The City Attorney’s office is screening arrest reports to determine if people are eligible for a pre-filing diversion program that would allow those who committed nonviolent offenses to complete rehabilitation or educational programs instead of going through criminal prosecution and sentencing.

As of Thursday night, about 50 people arrested appeared eligible for the program, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Tami Abdollah can be reached at tabdollah@kpcc.org and http://www.twitter.com/LATams.

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