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Rights Fight 

by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & olice wading into a shouting crowd to arrest 18 young protesters having a vegan picnic on Independence Day (OK, OK, a vegan picnic on top of a giant American flag and with signs suggesting violence against police) in Riverfront Park is one of the rare instances where a minor crime is creating major resonance.

Stiley has been organizing a high-profile First Amendment defense for the 12 protesters who are adults charged with trespass and failure to disperse in Spokane County District Court. A 13th is facing a felony assault charge in Superior Court, and those younger than 18 are going through the county juvenile system.

There was nothing high-profile Monday morning when 5 of the 12 went through pre-trial conferences before District Court Judge Annette Plese. The others have conferences scheduled Aug. 20 and Sept. 17, says Jim Bledsoe, the city prosecutor handling the cases. Monday's hearings were routine, he adds.

That's likely to change, as defense attorney John Clark is drafting a Knapstad motion to dismiss the charges, Stiley says. The Knapstad motion, basically says even if everything the prosecution alleges is true... there is still no case.

Unlikely? Consider the exponential growth rate of local attorneys who are said to be willing to sign on as associate counsel:

"We have 15 or 20 attorneys ... including lawyers you wouldn't think would be on it." Pat Stiley, July 23.

"I've got a list of 30 to 40 lawyers -- from criminal defense attorneys to silk-stocking attorneys at the downtown law firms." Pat Stiley, July 26.

"I have a list of 50-some lawyers who want to be associate counsel for these kids." Pat Stiley, Aug. 3.

Stiley, a flamboyant gravel-voiced attorney who spends his non-billable hours in Belize, says it's a powerful message when that many attorneys -- including a bunch from otherwise conservative downtown law firms -- sign onto a motion for dismissal. Even with hyperbole detectors set on maximum, it's clear the rare Spokane mass arrests made a splash, and the city's original position in defense of police actions is flimsy.

City Attorney Jim Craven last month reviewed video of the arrests and summed up, in a report to Mayor Dennis Hession, "It does not show any obviously criminal behavior on the part of anyone, other than resisting arrest once the trouble started."

If the cases go to trial the video would be Exhibit 1 for the defense, attorney Clark told the small crowd at the Center for Justice July 26. "The city attorney said, 'No crimes committed; dismiss the charges.' That's what we're saying."
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