Friday, January 17, 2003

Racine Caves Before the Ravers - WWW.STOPTHEDRUGWAR.ORG

The city of Racine, WI, has dropped all charges against more than 400 people slapped with $968 tickets for "inhabiting a disorderly house" at an electronic music benefit concert there in November ( City prosecutors admitted they couldn't prove their case and agreed to dismiss all of the citations. Persons who earlier pleaded guilty or no contest to receive a reduced fine will also get their money back.

The agreement, reached between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, promises the city only that the ACLU will now not sue. The city also agreed to change its policies on policing raves and to erase all records indicating that the citations had ever been written. The news came late Thursday night, too late for DRCNet to seek comment.

Police had also arrested three people on drug charges at the concert held to benefit a local community theater group, but also outraged ravers and civil libertarians across the country by ticketing the hundreds of other attendees.

Faced with a strong and largely unified resistance from those ticketed, Racine prosecutors offered early on to drop the fines to $100 in return for guilty pleas. That didn't work. Neither did the offer to remove any mention of drugs from the charges. Most of the ticketed ravers pleaded not guilty and demanded trials, a move that would cost the city untold dollars in legal expenses and untold hours of police time as officers would be called to testify.

Last week, the city blinked for a third time. During a status conference before the court, Racine prosecutors and attorneys representing the electronic music fans agreed to cancel court appearances set for the following today and enter into negotiations to resolve the matter. According to Racine attorney Erik Guenther, who is volunteering with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, he and Racine officials were seeking an "amicable resolution" of the matter. Negotiations were ongoing, Guenther told DRCNet, but he declined to provide details. In the meantime, "individual pretrials set for January 10 have been cancelled, as have all other appearances," Guenther said. "We are now able to also instruct those people who have pled guilty or no contest, but have not paid their fines, not to do so for the time being."

Or ever, now that Racine has backed down.


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