Sharpton convicted in police-shooting protests

October 8, 2008 5:48:34 PM PDT
A Manhattan judge convicted the Rev. Al Sharpton and seven others Wednesday of disorderly conduct for blocking intersections, bridges and tunnels during protests over the 2006 police shooting of an unarmed black man. Criminal Court Judge Larry Stephen issued the verdict on Wednesday. He sentenced the defendants to time already served - in Sharpton's case, 5½ hours - and ordered each to pay a court surcharge of $95.

"I am of course sympathetic to the underlying issues which gave rise to the protests and demonstrations on May 7," Stephen said.

He said he believed the demonstrators acted for reasons of conscience but they broke the law.

"If you decide to take a bullet for the team, you should not complain about the consequences that flow from that," the judge said.

Police arrested about 250 protesters during demonstrations over the acquittals last spring of three police officers charged in the shooting of Sean Bell, who was gunned down in his car outside a strip club hours before his wedding. Two of his friends were seriously wounded in the shooting.

The demonstrations in May, which paralyzed traffic, targeted bridges and tunnels in Manhattan. Most of the cases were dismissed, but Sharpton and his seven co-defendants had insisted on a trial.

Stephen praised Sharpton for conducting protests that were "civil and orderly." He also said police acted responsibly in giving the demonstrators warnings not to block the sidewalks and streets before arresting them.

Sharpton said when he spoke to the judge, "I would hope the city thinks about how the pedestrians who couldn't walk and the drivers who couldn't drive were no different than the young men who sat in the car that night and were shot at."

Sharpton said the National Action Network - his civil rights organization - will pay the court costs for all the defendants. And he said he would pay with $50 bills to symbolize the 50 shots fire at Bell and his two friends.

The group's lawyer, Michael Hardy, said his clients are considering an appeal.


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