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An attorney for hundreds of war protesters is seeking to have the charges against them thrown out, and it doesn’t look like the district attorney’s office will put up much of a fight. Roughly 2,300 people face infractions stemming from anti-war demonstrations earlier this year. Criminal defense solo Bobbie Stein said that because many of the defendants’ citations were altered after they signed them, the documents are insufficient formal complaints. Stein said she isn’t expecting the DA’s office to argue against her motion at a hearing scheduled in traffic court today before Commissioner Paul Slavit. She’s right, said Assistant District Attorney Michael Menesini, because prosecutors don’t fight anything in traffic court. “The DA’s office does not and has not for years had the manpower to put prosecutors in traffic court,” Menesini said. “I’m sure attorneys make all kinds of motions in traffic court, which is what this is, and the commissioners generally sort them out.” Most of the people arrested at the demonstrations were given citations for misdemeanor offenses, according to Stein’s demurrer. When the DA’s office decided to reduce many of those misdemeanor charges to infractions, prosecutors crossed out code sections on those citations for the original offenses and wrote in different ones. In Stein’s demurrer, she cites penal and vehicle code sections that discuss when a copy of a written notice to appear may be used as a complaint. “She can say what she wants,” Menesini said. “I think that they’re properly filed.” He pointed out that the court’s traffic division sent the affected defendants a letter reflecting the new offenses. A team of volunteer attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, including Stein, is representing most of the people facing infractions from the demonstrations, and Stein said she is arguing the demurrer on behalf of nearly all of the guild’s clients. Exceptions include about 60 people whose cases were dismissed in court last week and those whose citations were not altered, she said. Among a sampling of about 300 citations, only a couple had not been altered, Stein said, but defense attorneys still have to go through the rest. If Slavit sustains the demurrer, Stein said prosecutors would have 10 days to file new accusatory pleadings. “I can’t imagine they would do that for 2,300 citations,” she added. “It would be absurd.” That would be up to DA Terence Hallinan, Menesini said, “but my guess is that there will be significant concern about throwing good money after bad.” The protesters’ cases are difficult because “the commissioner is probably going to want to know what each individual was doing,” Menesini said. But to maintain order, police “made arrests of 200, 300 people at a crack, and they wrote mass arrest reports.” Stein said when the National Lawyers Guild defended hundreds of people who protested the Gulf War, the district attorney’s office “just folded” on many of the cases because police couldn’t specifically identify who was there or what they did. The DA’s office is also prosecuting about 20 misdemeanor cases stemming from this year’s protests, Menesini said.

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