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Reading court dismisses cases ADVERTISEMENT

Reading court dismisses cases

READING--In three hearings held Wednesday, March 18 in the town of Reading court, Judge Raymond Berry granted a motion to dismiss all charges "in the interests of justice" brought by 42 Seneca Lake protesters. All had been arrested as part of a sustained civil disobedience campaign at the gates of Crestwood Midstream. The campaign, "We Are Seneca Lake," opposes the expansion of gas storage in abandoned lakeside salt caverns owned by Crestwood.
Further, attorneys for the defendants announced an agreement had been reached with the Schuyler County District Attorney's Office to accept identical dismissal motions from the roughly 100 other civil disobedients also charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct relating to protests at Seneca Lake and whose cases are still pending. At least 20 cases have been transferred to other area courts in Schuyler County. Ithaca attorney Ray Schlather, member of the legal defense team advising the protesters, negotiated the mass dismissal agreement.
Individually and in groups, the defendants who appeared before Judge Berry Wednesday night submitted an oral motion asking for dismissal of their charges. After each request, Assistant District Attorney John Tunney expressed his willingness to accept a motion to dismiss. In each case, Berry granted the motion and dismissed the charges "with prejudice."
To one group of defendants, Berry said, "I'm very proud of you. You had a cause and you fought for it to the best of your ability. Congratulations."
To another, he said, "I've grown to admire you people."
"This is a big moment in history to have this many cases dismissed in the interests of justice," said defense attorney Sujata Gibson, who has worked with the protesters since December. "It affirms the importance of this cause and the ethical motivations of the protesters. I'm sure the court and district attorney's office were in a very difficult position, and they should be applauded for the thought they put into looking for outcomes that promote justice. We've seen a sea change in the way the court and the prosecutors have reacted to our cases -- from maximum sentences for jail terms for trespassing violations to large-scale offers to support dismissals in the interests of justice."

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