Defendants Receive Lenient Sentence in Federal Court Today


Attorney Leonard I. Sharon, of Andrucki & King,  with Celia Corey and Jessica Stewart (in Front) Following the Sentencing Hearing This Afternoon.

Another Defendant, Rev. Jodi Cohen Hayashida, (far right) with Her Two Daughters Following the Court Appearance This Afternoon.  The Fourth Defendant, Matt Bear-Fowler Left the Court House Before could Photograph Him.

A $5.00 fine and  25 hours of community service in a non-profit with no time limit was the sentence handed down this afternoon to four defendants who protested the Trump policy that separates children from their parents at the southern border of the US.  The protest took place in June of 2018 at the South Portland ICE offices.  The lenient sentence was handed down by Judge John Rich in his Federal courtroom in Portland late this afternoon following a three hour court session interrupted by several ten minute breaks.

The defendants were surprised at the light sentence handed down because they could have experienced much stiffer penalities – including fines of up to $5,000, each and time in jail.  The Four courageous defendants admitted they broke the law when they refused to obey ICE officials during the protest to remove themselves from ICE property to a nearby parking lot.

Before sentencing, each defendant was given an opportunity to address Judge Rich.  In an emotional defense, defendant Celia Corey said she recently lost her son and she is now raising one of his children.  “I’ll never see my son again,” she said. “Can you imagine being the parent of one of these children who has been ripped from them,?” she asked the court room.  Matt Bear-Fowler who is confined to a wheelchair said:  “I felt a deep and compelling feeling to do something.”   A sentence of jail time could have adversely hurt his health.  His attorney Logan Perkins, of Perkins Law, said that upon entering jail, it was likely that his prescription wheel chair and prescription cushion would be taken from him and substituted with a uniform jail chair. Perkins represented Bear-Fowler and Stewart pro bono.

Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, founder of Moral Movement Maine, and one of the 40 or so in the court room supporting the defendants, said he was speaking from his heart because he had not expected to address the court. “Injustice to anyone is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said quoting the late Martin Luther King, Jr.  “We have a moral responsibility to protect the separation of 5,000 children ripped from their parents.  Consider the motivation behind this policy and give the lightest sentence possible, Rev. Ewing-Merrill implored Judge Rich.

Judge Rich repeated that the law was broken but categorized it as “civil disobedience”  and that the defendants have behaved in a respectful manner as part of the justification for the light sentence.

Following the hearing, members of the audience began giving defendants five dollar bills to pay for their fines.  They were preparing to pay his fine should it be higher than the $5.00.  Then the defendants left for a meal at a downtown restaurant.

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