Sunday, January 12, 2003


Racine - Court proceedings for hundreds of people who were ticketed and accused of attending a rave party here have been canceled while attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Racine hold negotiations, an attorney working with the ACLU said Friday.

Racine attorney Erik Guenther, who is volunteering with the Milwaukee-based American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, would not say whether the negotiations are aimed at reaching a settlement involving all of the cases still pending. But the city has been attempting to resolve the cases with various plea-bargain offers, which have been rejected by most of the people who were issued citations.

The resistance of the rave-goers has left the city facing the potentially costly prospect of holding hundreds of Municipal Court trials.

About 75 people had been scheduled to meet with city prosecutors Friday in Municipal Court to discuss their cases. But those proceedings as well as court trials, which had been scheduled to start Jan. 28, have been canceled for the time being.

Guenther said any rave-goers who have pleaded not guilty will be notified if any proceedings are rescheduled.

Guenther also said people who had pleaded no contest but not yet paid a fine should not pay the fine and should await further instructions.

Police issued $968 citations to more than 440 people who attended the Nov. 2 party at a bar, which had been billed as a fund-raiser for the Uptown Theatre. The citations were for being an inmate of a disorderly house. Police had said drug activity was obvious to all attendees, but only three people were arrested on drug charges.

The Racine City Attorney's Office offered to reduce the fines to $100, but most of the people cited pleaded not guilty and demanded trials. The City Attorney's Office could not be reached Friday for comment.

Municipal Court Clerk Michelle Bellaire said that precise tallies had not been done, but that most of the rave-goers ticketed had pleaded not guilty and demanded a trial before a Municipal Court judge.

Bellaire said 62 people pleaded no contest in court to an amended citation for disorderly conduct. Unlike the original citation, which mentioned controlled substances, the amended citation has no reference to drugs. But the actual number of people who pleaded no contest might be higher because some changed their pleas by mail, Bellaire said.


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