Over 400 people were arrested while protesting at the 2000 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Philadelphia, PA. This website provides information on their legal situation and the issues they are protesting.


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Justice Delayed... and Delayed... and Delayed...

10/22/03 - by Gwen Shaffer - Philadelphia Weekly

Three activists accused of attacking John Timoney during the Republican National Convention still await their day in court.

More than three years after three political activists were charged with assaulting former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney and two other officers, their jury trial has again been postponed. The men were arrested during the Republican National Convention, and of the 420 activists picked up that week, the "Timoney 3" are the only protesters with criminal charges still pending.

As more time slips away from their Aug. 1, 2000, arrest date, observers wonder if the defendants can get a fair trial.

"Certainly, the length of time that has passed since the alleged incident calls into question the ability of the defendants to be fairly tried," says Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the R2K Legal Collective, an advocacy group that helped defend many of those arrested.

"It would be crazy to claim that witness' memories hadn't faded," says attorney Howard Popper, who represents defendant Eric Steinberg, 25. "Timoney is going to look at the preliminary hearing transcript and parrot what he said back then."

The district attorney's office contends that its case is as strong as ever, despite the unusual lag time.

"I don't think this is an incident Commissioner Timoney or our other witnesses have forgotten," says Assistant District Attorney Mark Winter, who will argue the case for the commonwealth.

Timoney resigned from the Philadelphia Police Department in January 2002 and spent the next year as the well-paid CEO of a private security firm. He took over the Miami Police Department at the beginning of this year. Timoney declined to comment on "an upcoming trial."

Popper suspects political motivations are driving the district attorney's tenacious pursuit of this case.

"One reason they refuse to drop the case is because it involves a high-profile city official," he says. "Secondly, there's a lot of shame over the fact that the vast majority of the charges against RNC demonstrators failed, and the DA's office is hanging its hopes on this case."

The city ultimately dropped charges against 96 percent of the RNC protesters, according to the R2K Legal Collective.

"I'm not sure why the city chose to pursue the hundreds of cases that they eventually lost, but it's clear they did it--and continue to do it--with zeal," Hermes says. "You'd think that after a few hundred tries, they would give up and drop the remaining cases." He characterizes the district attorney's decision to prosecute the Timoney 3 as "mind boggling."

Common Pleas Judge Renee Hughes was scheduled to hear the Timoney 3 case on Oct. 27. Now that she's presiding over homicide cases exclusively, this lingering RNC case has been assigned to Judge William Mazzola. He's expected to assign a new jury trial date next week.

"When the case will be heard depends upon the availability of the judge, the witnesses and the defendants," Winter noted. "Obviously, Timoney has a police department to run."

The three defendants have journeyed down a long and winding path through the Pennsylvania court system. Following a pretrial hearing on Oct. 12, 2000, Municipal Court Judge Pamela Dembe tossed out charges of reckless endangerment and possessing an instrument of crime. But the district attorney's office appealed the case to Superior Court, where a tribunal of judges restored the charges.

Defense attorneys appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which opted not to hear it. New trial dates have been scheduled in Common Pleas Court on at least three occasions, only to be postponed each time.

Camilo Viveiros, now 33 years old and an organizer for the Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, faces at least 15 years in jail if he's convicted of the felony charges-- including aggravated assault and inciting a riot. Not surprisingly, he's frustrated by this most recent delay.

"I want to move on with my life," he says, "but the arrest is always in the back of my mind." Viveiros estimates that he's already racked up more than $40,000 in legal expenses.

"The biggest irony of this whole thing is that I came down to Philly to make sure the Republican Party recognized the need for economic justice," Viveiros notes. "Now, not only is the Republican Party slashing its funding to cities, but Philadelphia taxpayers are picking up the tab for the city to bring these unbelievable charges against me."

Viveiros says he couldn't endure the "emotional drain" without committed friends. His supporters convinced Boston City Council to pass a resolution on his behalf. They also scored a letter of support from Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.

Darby Landy, 24, is now working in Minnesota to earn some cash before the trial. "As you are probably aware, this has been a very expensive experience for him," noted a friend, explaining that Landy preferred not to comment on the case. "He's a quiet and private person, especially after the traumatizing events of the RNC."

Steinberg, meanwhile, is a University of the Arts graduate who still lives in Philadelphia. "He had been planning to move to London after school but couldn't leave because of this legal ordeal," Popper says.

Certainly, having a high-profile accuser put the Timoney 3 defendants in the hot seat from the beginning. Following their arrests, Viveiros, Landy and Steinberg had their bails set at $450,000 (Municipal Court Judge Louis Retacco reduced Viveiros' bail to $150,000 after he'd spent 11 days in jail).

Timoney testified during an Oct. 12, 2000, preliminary hearing. He said he and two other bike cops spied a group of about 10 protesters rocking a car--in an attempt to overturn it--at the corner of 17th and Latimer streets. Timoney said a melee erupted when he and his colleagues rode over to make arrests.

Patrolman Clyde Frasier testified that he grabbed two men by their shirt collars. As he attempted to cuff them, Steinberg charged at him with a bicycle. (Popper claims his client hoisted his "antique bike" in the air to protect the frame from damage.) Frasier said he punched Steinberg in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Timoney testified that he was wrestling with another protester when Viveiros snuck up from behind and tossed a bike.

In an interview with The Boston Phoenix, Timoney recalled grabbing Viveiros by the heel and muttering, "This son of a bitch is going nowhere."

The police commissioner also testified that after arresting Viveiros, he noticed Landy trying to steal a police bike.

Timoney clutched the bike, he alleged, but Landy yanked it and tossed it at his knee. Landy darted down the street. But he wasn't fast enough to escape another officer who chased him down.

Officer Raymond Felder suffered a concussion after he was hit in the head. Timoney walked away with minor scrapes.

Activists, including Hermes, hold a different perception of what happened during the Republican Convention. "Timoney's strategy during the RNC was to arrest as many people as possible, look good in front of the TV cameras, and deal with the Constitution later."

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Please help support our Legal Fund for Camille and the Timoney 3 cases. To make a donation, contact: info@r2klegal.org


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