FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 13, 2015
Contact: Sandra Steingraber, 607-351-0719
video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCamtUgHaIU [reaction statement of Sujata Gibson, defense attorney]
Catharine Town Judge Dismisses Trespass Charges “in the Interests of Justice” for Eight More Seneca Lake Gas Protesters
Hearing Brings Some Defendants to Tears; Richard Koski of Trumansburg, Widower of Recently Deceased Protester Lisa Koski, Is Among Those Whose Charges Are Dropped
Odessa, NY – In a short but emotional hearing on Monday morning in the Town of Catharine Court, Judge Richard J. Lewis granted a motion to dismiss all charges “in the interests of justice” brought by eight We Are Seneca Lake protesters. All had been arrested as part of a sustained civil disobedience campaign at the gates of Crestwood Midstream. The eight protesters—who reside in seven different towns in four different Finger Lakes counties—were charged with violations of trespass.
Catharine is the fourth Schuyler County court to grant such dismissals. On March 18, charges were dismissed for 42 protesters in the Town of Reading Court; on March 25 in the Town of Hector Court, charges were dismissed for 11 protesters; and on April 9, in the Town of Dix Court, charges were dismissed for 5 protesters.
The We Are Seneca Lake campaign opposes the expansion of gas storage in abandoned lakeside salt caverns owned by Crestwood.
About 75 additional civil disobedients, also charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct relating to protests at Seneca Lake, still have cases pending.
The defendants who appeared before Judge Lewis submitted an oral motion asking for dismissal of their charges. As did defendants in Reading, Hector, and Dix, they read from a statement that said,
We only have this planet. We must safeguard it for those who follow. Would that it not be necessary, but sometimes citizens of good conscience must engage in non-violent acts of civil disobedience to protect that sacred trust. As long as Crestwood Midstream Partners, or any other corporate or public or private entity, continues to threaten our way of life by the proven dangerous storage of highly compressed gas in the crumbling caverns at the Salt Point facility, I reserve the right to act as my conscience dictates in order to protect Seneca Lake, its citizens, and the surrounding environment. I reserve all rights to protest further at the Crestwood facility, although it is not my intent at this time to break the law in doing so.
District Attorney Joseph Fazzary expressed his willingness to accept a motion to dismiss. Judge Lewis granted the motion and dismissed the charges “with prejudice.”
“It felt like being in church,” Fazzary observed after the hearing concluded, referring to the ceremonious group recitation of the motion to dismiss brought by the eight protesters.
Defense attorney, Sujata Gibson, a member of the legal defense team, said in a short statement after the hearing, “Justice is far better served, with these law-abiding citizens just doing their ethical duty, by dismissing these cases than it is fighting out hundreds of cases about whether they stepped over the line and trespassed ….There were people crying as they read the statement aloud today … It’s quite moving in the courtroom when people are speaking their hearts. Everyone was touched.”
Among those whose charges were dropped was Richard Koski, 71 of Trumansburg, whose wife and fellow protester, Elizabeth “Lisa” Da Cunha-Koski, 80, died last month. Lisa’s obituary noted, “In her final days, she was proud to have demonstrated to save her home area from the dangers of gas storage at Seneca Lake.”
Protesters whose charges were dismissed this morning were:
Daryl Anderson, 61, Hector, Schuyler County
Kerry Angie, 62, Aurora, Cayuga County
Pete Angie, 34, Ulysses, Tompkins County
Katie Barrett, 55, Syracuse, Onondaga County
Shirley Barton, 66, Mecklenberg, Schuyler County
Richard Koski, 71, Trumansburg, Tompkins County
Margaret McCasland, 68, Lansing, Tompkins County
Cathy Middlesworth, 49, Syracuse, Onondaga County
Read more about the arrested protesters at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.
Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas-storage-plan-near-seneca-lake.html?_r=0