Game changes for Occupy Tucson - Tucson News Now

Game changes for Occupy Tucson

For the 100 or so people who call Occupy Tucson home, the rules have changed a bit. The penalties are a bit more severe. The chances of going to jail have increased.

Judge Howard Fell lifted the stay which protected the Occupy Tucson residents for the past few days.

Last week, a city magistrate ruled a person who had two or more tickets, as a condition of their release from custody, could not return to the park after the 10:30 deadline.

An appeal stayed that decision until today's special hearing.

"We want the stay to stay," Paul Gattone, the attorney for Occupy Tucson told News 13 before the court hearing.

It didn't.

Judge Fell called Gattone into his chambers prior to the hearing and told him he was going to overturn the stay on procedural grounds.

In a two minute hearing in open court, that's what he did.

"We're disappointed but not surprised," Gattone said.

What it means now is - if a person who has more than two tickets for violating the city code which prohibits sleeping in the park after 10:30 p.m. - goes back to the park after 10:30, they face the more severe crime "interfering with judicial process." 

It carries a maximum fine of $2500. Violating the city code is a maximum $1,000 fine. Both are punishable up to six months in jail and both are Class 1 misdemeanors.

But violating a court order is more serious, a point which the lawyers will convey to their clients.

"I think it is something they should give serious consideration to before they get any more tickets," Gattone says.

Gattone says in light of the re-imposed conditions of release, they face additional penalties, increased exposure and jail time.

But some of the protesters remain defiant.

"I'm very prepared to go jail," Matthew Pence told us. He has received more than 20 tickets so far and plans on getting more.

"I'm going to stand up for my constitutional rights," he says.

One of the guessing games being played in the Pancho Villa Park, home to dozens of tents in violation of city code, is when will the Tucson police department move in to move them out.

Most believe it's coming and with this new court decision, it seems more likely than ever to some.

"If they want to arrest me, I'll go through the system," says Pence.

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