UC seeks fines and legal fees from tree-sitters

The University of California, Berkeley, is seeking thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees from protesters who were sitting in a grove of trees near UC-Berkeley's football stadium for 22 months, an attorney for the university said Monday.

The university estimates that it spent more than $1.5 million on police and other security measures during the time the sitters were up in the trees to protest the construction of a new sports training facility, according to Michael Goldstein, the university's attorney.

Goldstein said, “There's nothing the university can do” to recover all the money it spent, but it wants to send a message that the tree-sitters should pay for their actions, which the university contends were illegal.

Referring to the tree-sitters, Goldstein said, “They created a very serious safety and security issue which the university couldn't ignore.”

He said the university wants to make clear that it doesn't tolerate activities such as tree-sitting so that it can minimize the chances
of them happening again.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Cecilia Castellanos ruled recently that Michael Schuck, 26, who was one of the final four tree-sitters who came down from their perches on Sept. 9 to end the lengthy protest and were arrested, and four ground supporters violated an order issued by Judge Richard Keller last October.

Keller's order banned people from sitting in the trees or assisting protesters already up in the branches.

Goldstein said Castellanos found Schuck, chief ground supporter Eric Eisenberg, also known as Ayr, and fellow ground supporters Gregg Horton, Terri Slanetz and Matthew Taylor in contempt of court and fined them $1,000 each.

Castellanos also ordered two of the protesters to serve five additional days in jail.

Goldstein said the university recently filed a motion seeking legal fees of approximately $8,550 from Schuck, $5,100 from Slanetz, $4,900 from Taylor, $4,100 from Eisenberg and $3,750 from Horton.

Goldstein said five more protesters are scheduled to go on trial on contempt charges on Oct. 1.

According to Goldstein, Keller today granted the university permission to seek contempt citations against the others who were in the last group who lived in the trees: Raul Colocho, 27, Armando Resendez, 20, and Ernesto Pena, 18. Keller also said the university can seek sanctions against two additional protesters, Goldstein said.

Schuck, Colocho, Resendez and Pena also face misdemeanor criminal charges of contempt of court and lodging illegally in the trees.

Attorneys for the tree-sitters couldn't be reached for comment.

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