Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Legal Battles Drag On

news2More than a year after the 75 River St. occupation, four defendants remain embroiled in ongoing case 

More than a year and a half since a group occupied the former Wells Fargo building on River Street in an act of protest, felony charges linger on for four of the original defendants and a trial may be imminent.

Gabriella Ripley-Phipps, Brent Adams, Cameron Laurendeau and Franklin Alcantara were scheduled to begin trial May 13 in connection with the late 2011 protest. That trial now has been pushed back to September due to scheduling conflicts. The four face a felony charge of vandalism and a misdemeanor for trespassing.

Ripley-Phipps served as a liaison between the group and the police. Transcripts from the preliminary hearing noted that Adams, Laurendeau and Alcantara were seen in the building at least twice. An indeterminate amount of people were present in the building during the three-day occupation, with dozens spotted in surveillance footage and in media coverage.

Complicating the case for the prosecution has been a lack of direct evidence proving that any of the 11 people originally charged in the case actually committed vandalism or trespassing. Nor has the prosecution introduced evidence establishing who committed the vandalism and when it occurred.

Defense attorneys have argued that no such evidence exists against the remaining defendants, and prosecutors have relied heavily upon a theory of aiding and abetting. A large problem with that theory, says Laurendeau’s attorney, Alexis Briggs, is that it leaves someone liable for the most misbehaving protesters.

As such, the prosecution’s case has had a chilling effect on first amendment-protected speech, says Briggs, of San Francisco-based Pier 5 Law Offices.

No one disputes vandalism did occur. Walls were covered were graffiti and several walls were damaged by puncture holes, according to the prosecution. Wells Fargo is seeking approximately $20,000 in restitution for damages and cleaning fees resulting from the takeover, according to court filings.

What began as a march against foreclosures led to entry being made into the long-vacant building by a group declaring themselves to be acting “anonymously and autonomously” in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz. The group remained inside amid numerous negotiations with Santa Cruz police before finally leaving without incident nearly 72 hours later.

The case seemed to take a positive step for the defense earlier this year when Santa Cruz County Judge Paul Burdick dismissed a felony charge of conspiracy against the defendants, ruling there was no evidence of direct collusion or agreement. He also rejected one of two misdemeanor trespass charges and dismissed all charges against Becky Johnson, Desiree Foster and Robert Norse. Previously charges were dismissed against Edward Rector, Grant Wilson, Alex Darocy and Bradley Stuart Allen.

In holding Ripley-Phipps, Adams, Alcantara and Laurendeau on the felony vandalism charge, Burdick said he was using the theory that it was a “direct and natural consequence” of the trespassing.

Of particular note was Burdick’s decision to take the rare step of fining the District Attorney’s Office $500 for what he said were Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young’s continued delays in turning over evidence to the defense. 

Burdick’s holding order was challenged last month by defense attorneys for Laurendeau, Ripley-Phipps and Adams, who motioned the court to dismiss the remaining charges against their clients. No such motion to dismiss was filed by Alcantara’s attorney.

In the 995 motions Judge Timothy Volkmann rejected, attorney Bryan Hackett wrote on behalf of Ripley-Phipps that the government’s case  “fails to establish essential elements of the crimes charged under any one of its three theories.” Those elements include needing evidence that Ripley-Phipps or the other defendants knew a perpetrator intended to commit a crime.

Briggs also takes issue with the fact that far more has been spent on the litigation and defense of this case than the monetary value of the damages, which is estimated to be about $22,000. An exact figure of how much money the litigation has cost wasn’t immediately available. As the case drags on, it’s also had serious consequences for those charged.

“For Cameron, and for all of the defendants, it’s sort of put their lives in a holding pattern,” Briggs says. “Decisions regarding school and employment on are on hold.”

Laurendeau was midway through an academic program and now has a pending felony conviction, she says. Burdick previously dismissed the charges against he and Alcantara, but the District Attorney’s Office later re-filed on them.

As of late April, court records show no evidence that sanctions levied against Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee’s office were ever paid. Lee’s office filed a motion asking for the fine to be stayed, but it was unclear whether the fine was levied against the District Attorney’s Office or specifically against Young, who is no longer with the office.

Alex Calvo, executive officer of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court, says he believes the prosecution is still working to appeal the fine.

The case has been handed over to prosecutor Greg Peinado, who says he received the assignment only recently and couldn’t comment further.

“I’m still reviewing all of the files,” he says, adding that the evidence includes hours of video footage he must view.

Lee was out of town and unable to be reached for comment by press time. 

Photo: Bradley Allen /

Comments (3)Add Comment
Budget Hearings
written by Sylvia , June 14, 2013
County budget hearings start next week. The DA is anticipating more charges and a budget increase is proposed. I'd like to see some cost:benefit data. 30+ court dates to make Wells Fargo whole isn't what I'd prioritize.
Court records show prosecution is ridiculous
written by John Colby, May 02, 2013
Court records posted on Indybay show the prosecution's legal theories are ridiculous. These cases should have died an early death — the prosecution's hand is empty. Their legal theories have been debunked. Court justices deferring to prosecutorial privilege have allowed this buffoonery to continue.

I suggest Bob Lee be more attentive to the Mission Gardens Apartments terrorized by resident criminals. Bob Lee won't explain why his office refused to prosecute a violent criminal there.
this would be amusing if DA Lee wasn't wasting money
written by disgusted, May 02, 2013
Anyone think this is a great use of taxpayer $$? A good use of critically needed court resources?

Maybe Mr. Lee is a stockholder in Well Fargo or perhaps he wants a nice corporate job after his stint as DA ends, but the total alleged damages were $22,000. How much time and money needs to be wasted on this case? Show your evidence of offer a plea bargain but quit wasting resources that could be used on prosecuting the gangbangers that cost our community on a daily basis.

And, what, Wells Fargo doesn't have insurance?

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location