Philadelphia jury to resume deliberations Monday in Occupy protesters' trespass case

Posted: March 03, 2013

A Philadelphia jury will resume deliberations Monday in the trespass trial of 12 Occupy Philadelphia demonstrators charged in a 2011 foreclosure sit-in at a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Center City in 2011.

The Common Pleas Court jury deliberated for three hours Friday before telling Judge Nina N. Wright Padilla it wanted to break for the weekend.

The demonstrators were arrested Nov. 18, 2011, when they staged a protest in the bank, 17th and Market Streets, and refused to leave.

They wanted to get public attention for what they called Wells Fargo's "racist predatory lending" policies that caused a disproportionately large number of foreclosures in African American neighborhoods.

In July, Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender, agreed to pay $175 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Justice Department that independent brokers originating its loans charged higher fees and rates to minority borrowers than they did to white borrowers with similar credit risks.

This was the second trial the 12 have had on the charges. In June, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield found all guilty of the trespass charge and fined each $500 plus court costs.

Under Philadelphia court rules, people found guilty in Municipal Court have the right to a new trial in Common Pleas Court.

The current trial began Monday. Defense lawyer Lawrence S. Krasner, one of seven defense lawyers who provided free representation to the protesters, said the defense argued the sit-in was protected by the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee.

Krasner said the defense also argued that the protest served a "greater good" for society that outweighed the trespass charge. The defense introduced media coverage about Wells Fargo's settlement with the federal government.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Stinsman argued in his closing to the jury that the Occupy protesters' First Amendment rights did not apply once they went inside the branch because they were then on private property, not a public sidewalk.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow @joeslobo on Twitter.

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