Sixel: SEIU's imported lawbreakers not catching any breaks
The Chronicle's L.M. Sixel had an interesting story last week that took a closer look at the treatment of law-breaking protestors who were shipped in by SEIU last year:
Last month, a Harris County criminal courts judge gave six out-of-state protesters found guilty of blocking an intersection a choice: spend seven days in jail and pay a $2,000 fine or serve probation this summer in Houston.
The protesters opted for the fine and the jail time, which they had already served when they were initially arrested.
After that sentence, the next group, which blocked the intersection near the Galleria in November, opted for a plea deal, $250 each in court costs and credit for their two days in jail.
Other groups also accepted the plea deals, and the last group, which took over the conference room at Transwestern's Galleria-area offices, is scheduled to go before a judge next month.
"The state took a hard stance, a very unreasonable one," said Christian Capitaine, a criminal lawyer with Capitaine, Shellist and Warren who was hired by the SEIU to represent the protesters.
Capitaine, a former Harris County prosecutor himself, said the county wouldn't even offer the protesters deferred adjudication, which allows offenders who successfully complete their sentences to have the charges wiped from their records.
Breaking the law should have consequences, and organizations that ship in outsiders to make trouble in our city ought to know that it doesn't go over very well.
There's a bit more on the sausage-making aspects of the matter:
Ted Wilson, chief of the professional development bureau for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said he and representatives of the Police Department made it clear in a meeting with two SEIU officials the day before the downtown protests that they'd be facing a class B misdemeanor if they blocked a road.
The union officials, who laid out their civil disobedience plans, were seeking less onerous class C misdemeanors and traffic-like tickets as the only penalty, said Wilson, who oversees the misdemeanor division and is the point man on protests.
Prosecutors rejected the request and suggested the union warn the protesters of the consequences.
"That's the price you pay," he said. "We did exactly what we said we'd do. Why should people get on a plane from Wisconsin or Illinois with the intent and purpose to violate our laws here and get a break?"