From News and Observer
BY TAMMY GRUBB
HILLSBOROUGH — Seven people arrested in connection with a police raid on the Yates Motor Co. building last fall will avoid jail time if they stay out of trouble. An arrest warrant is out for the eighth after she failed to show for court.
Judge Charles Anderson awarded four deferred prosecution verdicts and three prayers for judgment Monday for charges filed in the Nov. 13 occupation of the vacant car dealership building on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.
One defendant – Kassandra Ofray, 21, of Pittsboro – did not appear in court to answer a breaking and entering charge. Her attorney, Daniel Hatley, said neither he nor her mother has had contact with her, and they have filed a missing persons report. Anderson issued a warrant for Ofray’s arrest and set bail at $200.
More than a dozen people filled two pews for the hearings, laughing at times in response to attorney questions or witness answers. A protest planned for outside the courthouse did not happen.
The brief building takeover has divided local residents. An internal review upheld the police raid as appropriate, but a town advisory group wants an outside investigator to help compile a factual timeline of events. The Chapel Hill Town Council was expected to vote on that Monday night.
In separate hearings Monday, defendants Ellen Crawford, 23, of Richmond, Va., Eva Jones, 22, of Chapel Hill, David Maliken, 24, of Carrboro and Monica Ganguly, 29, of Chapel Hill received deferred prosecution on a single charge each of misdemeanor breaking and entering. They did not have to admit guilt, and the charge will be dismissed if they are not charged or convicted of another crime over the next year.
Ganguly delivered a short statement to the judge to say she was “entering a plea into a system I have no faith in to deliver justice.”
“The prison system casts an ever-widening net to turn its profit, and the criminalization of dissent expands to terrifyingly broad new territory. But in Athens, in Tunis, in London, in Cairo, in towns that are every bit the same as they are different from Chapel Hill, N.C., people burn with desire to put this system to death,” she said.
Daniel Regenscheit, 27, of Chapel Hill and Jack Jarrell, 24, of Carrboro also were charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering. BecauseRegenscheit already had a deferred prosecution for a charge of property damage in another jurisdiction, Anderson gave him a prayer for judgment until May 21 to complete 48 hours of community service and pay fines from the earlier charge.
Jarrell pleaded not guilty to breaking and entering, as did 64-year-old Sonia Katchian of Chapel Hill, charged with misdemeanor delaying and obstructing a police officer after she asked him several times during the raid why he would have an assault rifle in Chapel Hill.
Jarrell’s attorney, Michael Frickey, argued that Jarrell did not break into the building and officers on the scene could not place him inside the building before the raid. Frickey pressed officers who testified for details about the raid, including what type of weapons were used what their direct interactions were with Jarrell.
Chapel Hill police officer Curt Farrell said he was posted at the building’s garage door and could see both inside and outside. He did not see Jarrell until he arrived at the magistrate’s office in Hillsborough, he said.
Officer David Funk said Jarrell was already on the ground inside the building when he entered. He later escorted Jarrell, who he said was cuffed and vocal but not combative, to wait with other suspects on a curb.
After nearly two hours , Anderson concluded Jarrell was guilty but expressed concern for how it might affect his future. He gave Jarrell a prayer for judgment and told him to return in one year for a review of his record, which already includes a misdemeanor possession charge.
Anderson also found Katchian guilty after hearing testimony from her and from Chapel Hill police officer Scott Taylor.
Taylor testified he was off duty that day but was called in to help secure the rooftop and one side of the building. When a group of 10 to 15 people approached him, he asked them to move across the street, he said. Katchian continued to walk in front of him, so he asked her several times to step away from the scene, but she refused, and another officer stepped in a few minutes later to arrest her, he said.
Katchian said she didn’t think she did anything wrong when she asked Taylor why he would have an assault rifle. Taylor did tell her to step back, she said, but she didn’t hear him ask her to move across the street.
She said she stepped back, watched him and asked about the rifle again. “He was following his orders, but, honestly, there comes a time when you have to call it like it is and say what you have to say,” she said.
Her attorney, Matthew Suczynski, called the act one of civil disobedience not defiance. Anderson disagreed, saying there is a difference between asking a question and defying an officer’s direct order. Katchian received a prayer for judgment, but her court costs were waived.