6 Jailed, 9 Arrested in Ongoing Fight Against Methane Gas Storage
New York’s Town of Reading courtroom was full Wednesday night when 19 people were arraigned after being arrested for blockading the gates of Crestwood Midstream in an ongoing “We Are Seneca Lake” campaign protesting the storage of fracked gas along the shores of Seneca Lake.
Nearly four hours in the courtroom resulted in jail terms of wildly different lengths for six of the defendants and a mix pleas. The court hearing took place after a rally outside the courthouse in blustery, cold conditions with more than 100 supporters. Former Schuyler County legislator, Ruth Young, 77, and current Town of Caroline council member, Irene Weiser, led the rally and later pled not guilty to their trespassing charges and were given April 15 trial dates.
Yesterday, nine more people were arrested for blockading Crestwood’s gates, bringing the total number of arrests to 92.
All of the defendants who pled guilty before Justice Raymond H. Berry Wednesday night petitioned the court for reduced fines or minimum sentences. Those who refused to pay the fine and accepted jail sentences said they did so on ethical grounds.
Many defendants gave impassioned pre-sentencing statements in order to petition the court for less-than-maximum sentences—a $375 fine or 15 days in jail—on the grounds that they did not seek to impose ruinous costs on Schuyler County for jailing them and that, as civil disobedients, their motivation in breaking the law was to protect, rather than cause, harm. Their appeal was echoed throughout the evening by attorney Sujata Gibson, of Ithaca, New York who acted as legal advisor to the group.
So far throughout the six-week campaign, Justice Berry has consistently meted out maximum sentences to all protesters who appeared before him and pled guilty.
“I would like to know why the trespass violations are being pursued so vigorously by Reading Town Court with maximum sentences handed down, while Crestwood seems to be in violation of the Town of Reading’s own land use law of 1992 and nothing is being done about it,” said John Dennis, a 64-year-old environmental planner and consultant from Ithaca.
Dennis received the maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and was transported by deputies to Schuyler County Jail as the arraignments continued.