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Group Challenges Arrests
of Notre Dame Protesters

By JEFF PARROTT
 Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Just when Notre Dame officials thought the storm of controversy over President Barack Obama's commencement address and honorary degree had quieted, a new set of dark clouds is brewing in court this week.

A nationally prominent conservative advocacy group is gearing up for a legal battle to defend about 70 of the anti-abortion activists arrested on campus last month on misdemeanor trespass charges.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael DvorackNearly all of them are pleading not guilty in court and say they want to take their cases to trial. St. Joseph County Prosecutor, Michael Dvorak said he expects some to ultimately plead guilty, but their attorney gives no such indication.

Michael Dvorak
 

About 40 defendants filled much of the traffic and misdemeanor courtroom Wednesday as they waited their turn to enter not guilty pleas before Magistrate Brian Steinke, who set trial dates in August. Because the courtroom already was full of other misdemeanor defendants, the protesters had to gather in a basement break room until enough seats opened up.

 

They ranged from 18-year-old college students, to an elderly nun dressed in full habit, to Alan Keyes, the conservative political activist perhaps best known for his frequent presidential campaigns. misdemeanor defendants, the protesters had to gather in a basement break room until enough seats opened up

 
Nearly all of them are from out of state, and all are represented by Osceola attorney Tom Dixon, who is local counsel retained by the Washington-based American Center for Law & Justice. The ACLJ, rather than the protesters themselves, is paying Dixon's fees.
 

Legal arguments

The defendants are making their initial court appearances this week Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe vs. Wade, before she was arrested.and Monday, Dixon said. On Tuesday, he asked the court for 30 days to file written briefs seeking dismissal of the charges based on the law, rather than the facts of the case.

In other words, the defendants won't deny they were on campus and were arrested because they refused to leave. But they might argue that police violated their constitutional rights in kicking them out and having them arrested, Dixon said.

The defendants also might argue that the university does not enjoy all of the private property rights that an individual does, he said. Dixon called the campus a "quasi-municipality" because it invites the public to enter it at any time, and it contains public amenities such as restaurants, a post office and police department whose officers have arrest powers.

Norma McCorvey
the Roe of Roe vs Wade
Now a pro-life activist

The protesters might even argue that the university doesn't truly own the property, but its board holds it in trust for "the body of Christ" and all who believe in him, Dixon said.

 

They might argue against "selective enforcement," a term that blacks have used to challenge the constitutionality of receiving speeding tickets while white drivers who speed did not.

 

Fr. Norman Weslin, 80 year old priest, arrested."Should an institution that calls itself Catholic have the authority to arrest a priest?" Dixon asked. "They arrested Father Norman Weslin (of Council Bluff, Iowa) for praying the rosary. They'll say they arrested him because he wouldn't leave, but there were people selling Obama buttons right next to him. Why weren't they asked to
leave?"

Father Norman Weslin
 

The defendants were given separate court dates and times

Dvorak said he will treat the cases like any other misdemeanors, and he does not believe taking them to trial would waste his office's resources.

Although the 85 protesters he has charged thus far seems like a big number, it's relatively small compared to the roughly 18,000 misdemeanor cases his office prosecutes each year, Dvorak said.

The deputy prosecutors assigned to traffic infractions and misdemeanors tend to be the least experienced. Dvorak said he plans to have two or three deputy prosecutors who specialize in legal research assist them — because they are too busy with their caseloads to research the case law themselves.

"I'm confident that the statute these folks have been charged under and how it's being applied in this situation will withstand any constitutional challenges," Dvorak said.

 

The defendants

Sister Lois Marie Mitoraj, of Livonia, Mich., a Detroit Sr. Lois Marie Metoraj escoted off to jailsuburb, said she is prepared to go all the way to trial. Like the others, the 74-year-old nun was arrested and detained in the county jail.

"I condemn that Father Jenkins and the Notre Dame board of trustees invited Mr. Obama to speak at commencement, and gave him an award," she said outside the courtroom. "I was not expecting to get arrested. I did cross the police line in civil disobedience. I was a conscientious objector. I felt I was not wrong."

It wasn't the sister's first time behind bars. She said she was jailed four other times for blocking entrances to abortion clinics in Buffalo, N.Y., Milwaukee and Livonia.

Sr. Lois Marie Mitoraj
 

Monica Migliorino Miller 2009 Obama Honoring Protest at Notre DameMonica Migliorino Miller 1985 Right to Life Protest in Washington DCThat's nothing compared to Monica Migliorino Miller, professor of sacred theology at Madonna University in Michigan. Miller, who leads a group called Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, to which 16 of Wednesday's defendants belong, said she has been arrested "30 or 40" times dating backMonica Migliorino Miller to the 1980s, most of them outside abortion clinics.

In more than half of the cases, prosecutors have chosen to take the cases all the way to trial, she said.

The above three photos are of Dr. Miller. On the left she is being arrested at Notre Dame. On the top right she is protesting abortion sometime in the mid '80s. On the bottom right she is protesting abortion in 2008.
 

The only defendant to plead guilty Wednesday was 19-year-old Grace Allasio of Detroit. She was ordered to pay $166 in court costs and was sentenced to the 10 hours in jail that she served before posting $250 bond May 17.

"I'm a college student so I have school going on this summer," she said afterward. "Plus I probably was trespassing. I didn't plan on making this a big deal by coming back and forth to court and drawing it out as long as possible."

Alozio, who attends Schoolcraft College in Livonia, said her parents were "stunned" to hear she was arrested and are worried that she now has a criminal record, but they are proud of her for standing up for her anti-abortion beliefs.

Dixon said if prosecutors ultimately decide to dismiss the charges against the others, he will petition the court to vacate her conviction.

Alan Keyes guilty as hell of praying the rosary and protesting child killing.Alan Keyes arrested and hand cuffed.Keyes, who signed autographs and posed for pictures with other defendants in a courthouse foyer, has a Sept. 23 trial date.

He said he never intended to be arrested.

Alan Keyes off to the slammer."I was shocked," he said. "I think the world was shocked. It's sad to see people who were acting in obedience to the church and in defense of its most moral principles being persecuted at the request of officials at a supposedly Catholic university."

The three photos above are of Allan Keyes. All were taken at the Notre Dame protest. Top left is after his arrest, bottom left is during his arrest and the one on the right is just prior to his arrest.
 

 
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