Syracuse Activists Harassed and Jailed
from No Compromise Issue 4
 

On August 1st, Animal Defense League activists David Agranoff, 22; Nicole Rogers, 20; and Chris Tarbell, 20; were sentenced to 6 months, 2 months, and one month in jail respectively. They were also fined between $1,000 to $500 each. Dozens of supporters, twelve police officers, five TV stations, 2 newspapers, and 2 radio station reporters packed the courtroom as Judge Brian DeJoseph handed down the heinous sentence. The activists' charges resulted from their participation in a peaceful act of civil disobedience at a local fur salon on February 17th.

On that day, dozens of members of the Animal Defense League (ADL) protested Georgio's Furs in downtown Syracuse. Four of the activists pulled down the security gate on the front of the store, and locked on to the inside of it, effectively preventing customers from entering.

Outside of the stores activists were conducting a peaceful protest chanting, holding signs, and distributing leaflets. One of these protesters was David Agranoff. Officer Walter Paczinski walked through the throng of protesters straight up to David, grabbed him and said, "You're under arrest!"

PACZINSKI'S VENDETTA

Officer Paczinski has a vendetta against David Agranoff. Last August, David and his friend Tom Ranger were simply leafleting Georgio's Furs. Because this is on Officer Paczinski's "foot beat" he happened by.

Paczinski told the activists, "You have to get out of here."

They responded, "No we don't. We have a first amendment right to free speech and peaceful protest."

Paczinski responded, "You don't have any rights" and forced them to leave the area.

David and Tom did the only reasonable thing and filed a complaint against the officer for violating their civil liberties. During that February 17th protest, Officer Paczinski wanted his revenge!

DAVE'S ARREST

When Paczinski told David he was under arrest, David again asserted his first amendment rights. Paczinski yelled to David, "I'm not here to listen to you! I'm the cop and you'll do what I say!" He then motioned to other officers to help him drag David away. Three other cops jumped on David. David was trying to walk with them, but found it difficult when three officers -- Paczinski, Kellogg, and Nappy had his hands pulled tight behind his back and were pushing and pulling him. The officers, not content with David's behavior, held a can of mace right into his face. In fear, David rapidly pulled his head back and closed his eyes. His sudden jerking action caused one of the cops to fall down and strain a muscle. David was subsequently charged with "unlawful assembly" and "resisting arrest."

The four activists who were locked onto the security gates were also arrested and charged with "unlawful assembly" and "criminal trespass in the 3rd degree."

TO JAIL

Of the four activists who locked on, two were juveniles. The other two, Nicole Rogers and Chris Tarbell were taken to jail, along with Dave Agranoff. Bail was set at $1,000 for all three of them. They refused to pay bail and went on hunger strike. On the third day, they went before an arraignment judge who lowered Nicole and Chris' bail to $500, while against all reason, raised Dave's bail to $5000!!!

Nicole and Chris were released on their own recognizance on the fourth day. Dave's attorney paid $500 for him to be released.

JUNK JURORS!

The three activists trial was a total farce. Jurors are supposed to represent an unbiased panel of peers. On their jury were two hunters, the alternate was a former furrier, and another juror was a long-time friend of officer Paczinski whose husband and son were both New York police officers. Anther juror stressed how her brother was a hunter and she had absolutely no problems with that. Another juror stared into space, at the ceiling, looked at his watch, or sat in a daze during the entire trial.

During the week-long trial evidence was introduced proving that no one ever told the activists to leave, meaning trespass was not committed. People took the stand and explained previous altercations between Officer Paczinski and David. They talked about the history of police harassment of activists in Syracuse (which includes the police arresting activists who went to the public safety building to file a complaint against the police. They were arrested for Trespassing in the Public Safety Building -- A building open to the PUBLIC!!). Videos, leaflets, and Pictures of the incident were also introduced into evidence.

Officer Paczinski also perjured himself on the stand when he said that he had never has problems with David before arresting him. The Defense lawyer introduced Officer Paczinski's police report which stated he had arrested Dave because he had "problems with him in the past." When asked, Paczinski could not even tell the court the exact offense he arrested David for.

Jury Deliberation began at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, it ended 45 minutes later. The jury never asked to see the evidence, never asked for clarification on the law, never asked to see the transcripts of the trial or anything! In a hurry to get home and enjoy their Friday night, they simply found the activists guilty and were done with it.

SENTENCING AND BACK TO JAIL

Judge Brian DeJoseph then turned to the compassionate activists and said, "You are a Disgrace!" Never mind the fact that he sees rapists, murderers, and child molesters in his courts; these courageous comrades who fight for innocent animals were filth in his eyes! If anyone is a disgrace -- the judge is!!!

At sentencing David Agranoff was given 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Nicole Rogers was given 2 months in jail and a $500 fine. Chris Tarbell was given one month in jail and a $500 fine.

After sentencing, dozens of supporters went and picketed the jail house where the three activists started their sentence and hunger strike. David was granted a stay of execution pending the outcome of the appeal and released on the first day. Prison authorities released Nicole and Chris on the fifth day of their hunger strike, and after numerous protests by local activists on their behalf, including a civil disobedience action at Georgio's Furs -- the original site of the arrest. Like Dave, they received a stay of execution pending appeal.

The Animal Defense League is desperately trying to raise the $6,000 needed to pay for the activists' appeals. Help these activists fight their local police harassment and outrageous convictions by sending as generous a donation as you can to:

Animal Defense League
PO Box 6845
Syracuse, NY 13206