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Student accept court offer

By Reuven M. Lerner

Twenty MIT students agreed at a pre-trial conference yesterday to perform community service instead of proceeding with their trials in Cambridge District Court.

The students were among 26 arrested on charges of trespass after notice and disturbing the peace on Friday, April 6. The arrests came during a protest, sponsored by the Coalition Against Apartheid, against MIT's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

Five of the six other students arrested on that date accepted the court's initial offer of either $200 or 50 hours of community service instead of going to trial. The case of Jennifer Y. C. Huang '90, who was charged with assault and battery on a police officer with shod foot, trespass after notice, and disturbing the peace, will be heard on May 31.

The 20 protesters rejected the original offer mainly because it would have forced them to accept "continuance," which CAA member Steven D. Penn G described as "an odd sort of probation." Penn, who was arrested on April 6, explained, "If you [do not] get arrested . . . then everything is wiped off of your record. If you do get arrested, then they have the right to merely sentence you as guilty for the previous charge."

Yesterday's offer reduced the fine imposed upon the protesters, which resulted in fewer hours of community service they are required to perform. It also eliminated the need for continuance.

Penn said that the entire group accepted the offer. He noted that "we wouldn't have accepted any deal which would have limited our ability to protest."

Protester and CAA member Joshua R. Freeze '92 said that the deal came as a surprise. "The district attorney said that he was ready to accept a dismissal with [a] $100 fine for the people in question . . . this was a sudden change," he added.

Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin denied that there were any differences between the deal struck yesterday and that which the court had offered last month. "It's the exact same choice again, only the judge has lessened the court costs and community service," she said.

According to Freeze, the group suspected that they were offered an improved deal "because we had agreed to continue with the trial, even though it seemed it might go into the summer . . . This would have been a major embarrassment [for MIT]." The DA revised his offer when he "realized that we were all going to stick together," Freeze added.

Penn did not think that MIT had asked for the charges to be dropped. "There were no motions by MIT [and] . . . no formal statement that they were going to drop the charges," he said. The judge simply "decided it wasn't worth the court's time" to continue with the trial, Penn said.

CAA member Ronald W. Francis G thought the protesters were given a better deal because the case against them was too weak. "The commonwealth, with MIT acting as a complainant, was not able to come up with enough evidence," he said.

The judge asked 17 of the protesters to pay a $100 fine or perform 10 hours of community service in return for not going to trial. CAA member Ronald W. Francis G and Penn were asked for double that amount, while Freeze was told to work for 15 hours or pay $150. The additional sums were based on the three students' previous arrest records.