Attorneys defending Occupy L.A. protesters arrested in this morning's eviction outside City Hall say the LAPD is not playing fair in dealing with their bail amounts. Many remained behind bars and could stay there through Friday morning.
The National Lawyers Guild wants the LAPD to cite and release the demonstrators who allegedly failed to clear out. The defendants, all 290 of them (two others faced more serious allegations), were being held in lieu of $5,000 bail, meaning they could post $500 bond and walk or wait for up to 48 hours so a judge could consider their plight.
The L.A. City Attorney's office responded with a virtual phooey, stating that this is standard procedure:
... The bail schedule for applicable misdemeanor violations is set by the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judicial Council. Specifically, a charge of failing to disperse (Penal Code 409) carries a minimum bail of $5,000.00 and a charge of resisting arrest (PC 148) carries a minimum bail of $10,000.00. In order to post bail, a charged defendant must pay at least 10% of that amount in cash ($500.00 or $1,000, respectively). This the standard minimum bail for all persons arrested under such charges.
But ... City Attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan did acknowledge to the Weekly that cops did have the discretion to "cite and release" or hold these folks on bail:
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.
The Guild's Carol Sobel claimed via City News Service that the LAPD is going against state law that says "anyone charged with a misdemeanor shall be released with a written notice to appear.''
But Mateljan emphasized that "the code section cited by the Guild is not 'mandatory.'"
He said all but one arrestee (who was in county lock-up) was occupying the LAPD's metropolitan jail.
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So, at a time when L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was praising police restraint overnight as "one of the finest moments in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department" and, at the same time, proclaiming that " ... the movement's message of restoring the balance to American society is too important to be lost amid clashes and conflict," is the city being a Grinch?
[Added]: An LAPD spokesman tells us that the department doesn't track how many protesters have bailed out. "Some of them may have bailed out but we don't have that information."