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Oakland protester sentenced for vandalism of police building

An Occupy Oakland protester was found guilty of felony vandalism and sentenced to six months in jail following his arrest at a Nov. 3 Occupy protest. During the trial, a police officer alleged the defendant destroyed six windows and the door of a police building near Oakland's city hall with a metal folding chair. The officer stated the man wore black clothes, goggles and a dust mask at the protest. However, the Sacramento County man wholly denied having committed any such acts of vandalism at the Occupy demonstration.

The judge's stated intent during sentencing was to use the man as an example to others who may consider committing similar acts, and the deputy district attorney claimed the sentence sent a strong message to the city and surrounding communities. In addition to the six-month sentence, the protester was ordered by the judge to pay the city of Oakland $6,654 for the six broken windows.

Although the protester's attorney felt the sentence was just, an appeal is being planned. As this case shows, the difference between peacefully attending a protest and committing felony vandalism may be nothing more than the testimony of one eyewitness. A simple case of mistaken identity at a legitimate protest can have life-altering consequences, and if you are facing criminal allegations.

Speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney may be helpful as you work to understand your rights and options when facing criminal charges. Sometimes judges use certain people as examples to other by giving them a harsher sentence than they might give others. However, it's important that both the trial and the sentencing be fair and unbiased because those are the values our criminal justice system was founded upon.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Occupy Oakland protester sentenced," Henry K. Lee, Sept. 11, 2012.

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