UVA Rape Protest Trial
I have always wanted to hang a jury. I have been fortunate that all my court appearances (except the Acorn Arson) have been elective – I chose to get arrested. But I have never had a real chance to hang a jury, until today. I have been guilty of dozens of trespass charges against me and I have never argued that point. To hang a jury I need to get at least one positive answer to the question “Has the injustice I am fighting directly impacted at least one member of the jury intimately?” For nuclear power or a pending war the jury is usually quite removed from these issues.
Today I was on trial for our highly publicized arrests at the UVA fraternities last November protesting their support and participation in rape culture. Someone on this jury has been touched by this crime. Some sister or daughter or dear friend has been sexually assaulted and this juror has watched helplessly as their loved ones’ life unraveled.
I desperately wanted to remind this juror of their pain and their frustration with the broken legal system which oppressed their intimate and generally ignores this crime. I wanted to beg them, in the name of their friend, to see past the trivial trespass and instead see how this court, police and culture helps perpetuate this problem. I wanted to call for the system to be put on trial, not me.
Tragically, the odds would be heavily in my favor. Statistically, with twelve jurors, my chances that at least one of them would have gone through this ordeal are nearly 100%. Sexual assault is endemic in the US and the powers that be are mostly uninterested in addressing it in any meaningful way.
Sadly, I did not do it today. Fighting in the courts is a long and time consuming process. Judges are quite resistant to cases looking outside the specifics of the charges before them. And the court fees associated with a failed not guilty plea would exceed $1000 because the defendant must pay the jury stipend. This is a chunk of change on the commune stipend. Instead, like my co-defendants I plead guilty and was given 44 hours of community service. At the trial I read the following statement:
For our non-violent protest against rapes at UVA we were swiftly arrested. Yet repeated reports of sexual assaults on campus are ignored by the university and Charlottesville police department. I plan to do my community service for an organization which is working to address this injustice.
The first time i got arrested I made friends with an impressive man named Louis Corn. He was in his 70s and had been arrested many times for protest. When I asked him why, he said “Well, this body is not much good for hard work no more. But I can still throw it onto an unjust state.” I don’t do that much hard physical work, but I am looking forward to the day when I can take the chance my inspiring old friend did regularly and try to hang a jury and embolden others to fight for justice.