Monday, August 2, 2010

NYC Assistant DA reopens dismissed cases of health care activists, threatens re-arrest

From Healthcare-Now!

Two activists, who were arrested last fall in a peaceful demonstration and subsequently had charges dismissed by a New York judge, are being told their cases will be reopened, and they should turn themselves in to authorities, or risk arrest.

Healthcare Now is asking people to call Manhattan DA Cy Vance to demand that the case against Kate Barnhart and Joan Pleune stay closed, and the judge's decision to dismiss charges against them be allowed to stand. The contact in Vance's office is Erin Duggan, communications director, at (212) 335-9400. When you call, say:

"I'm calling because I'm concerned about ADA Eric Kratzville's decision to re-file charges against healthcare activists Kate Barnhart and Joan Pleune. These activists were already charged, and their cases were dismissed by a judge. The ADA is wasting city resources by pursuing charges against this nonviolent protest. Instead, he should prosecute real criminals, like insurance companies that deny people lifesaving medical treatment. ADA Eric Kratzville should NOT re-file charges against Kate and Joan."

Last fall, Healthcare-NOW! co-founded the Mobilization for Health Care for All campaign. The campaign organized peaceful sit-ins at insurance companies to highlight their deadly practice of putting profits over people, and to demand Medicare for All. More than 200 activists were arrested in more than 20 cities.

In New York City, 17 activists were arrested at Aetna's offices, in the first of four related protests there, resulting in 49 arrests.

The activists were arrested for "criminal trespass" and "obstructing governmental administration" then spent the night in jail. After repeated court dates over six months, all the activists except Kate Barnhart were eventually offered conditional dismissals. Everyone accepted this offer except for Joan Pleune, who opted to stay in the case in solidarity with Kate. Kate alone was asked to plead guilty to a criminal charge and was offered jail time.

The District Attorney's office targeted Kate because of a previous misdemeanor conviction for an anti-war action--despite several other activists also having prior convictions. However, after the activists' attorney Stephen Edwards filed a motion to dismiss Kate's charges on the basis of "facial insufficiency," Judge ShawnDya L. Simpson granted his motion and dismissed all charges on July 19th.

Unbelievably, on July 30th (incidentally Medicare's birthday!), Assistant District Attorney Eric Kratzville informed the activists' attorney that he is planning to re-file "amended charges" against Kate and Joan and that the two of them should either arrange a date to turn themselves in or be re-arrested against their will.

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