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The District Attorney’s Office won’t prosecute four Occupy protesters who San Diego police accused of felony conspiracy last week, according to office spokesman Steve Walker.
The decision to not file felony charges follows a week of public backlash over the arrests, including criticism from three high-profile candidates competing against District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to become San Diego’s next mayor.
Instead of filing felony charges, Walker said the cases will be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office for potential misdemeanor charges. The District Attorney’s Office handles most cases involving felony crimes while the City Attorney’s Office handles misdemeanors and lower-level offenses.
As of Thursday afternoon, City Attorney spokesman Jonathan Heller wasn’t sure which charges, if any, would be filed against the four protesters for interrupting Mayor Jerry Sanders’ final State of the City address Jan. 11.
Shortly after Sanders started his speech, a group of Occupy protesters stood up from their seats and began chanting “mic check.” Police officers arrested four protesters on one misdemeanor charge of disturbing a public assembly and one felony charge of conspiracy to commit a crime.
The felony charge gained public attention because people who interrupt City Council meetings and speeches like the State of the City are normally charged with a misdemeanor — if anything. In this case, police said it was clear the group of protesters had conspired to interrupt the speech.
At a mayoral debate last week, three candidates called the felony charges unnecessary. City Councilman Carl DeMaio and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who both attended the speech, said it seemed inappropriate for the level of disruption. Congressman Bob Filner called the charges “ridiculous.”
Dumanis declined to weigh on the arrests at the debate. She said, “I would wait for the evidence and find out what the facts are.” Today’s decision to not file felony charges aligns her position on the case with her competitors for mayor.
Heller, the spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said he would let me know where the case is going next. If I hear back from him, I’ll break the news on Twitter and then update this post.
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