One of four anti-abortion activists facing misdemeanor conspiracy charges in San Diego Municipal Court stemming from clinic blockades this spring agreed to a plea-bargain Monday as his case was about to go to trial, prosecutors said.
Three other activists also scheduled to go to trial Monday on the same conspiracy charges decided to waive their right to a jury trial and let Judge John M. Thompson decide whether they were guilty according to an agreed-to description of the facts, lawyers on both sides said.
The four activists were among eight originally charged with conspiracy, as well as a variety of other misdemeanor counts, in connection with arrests at demonstrations April 8, April 29 and June 10 at San Diego clinics. Prosecutors alleged that the eight "assumed active leadership roles" in the protests.
Conspiracy Charge Dropped
Terry Macrae, 32, of Santee, agreed Monday to plead no contest to a charge of trespass, said James M. Bishop, head deputy city attorney. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the conspiracy charge, Bishop said.
After Macrae agreed to the deal, Thompson sentenced him to three years' probation, a $300 fine and five days of community service, Bishop said.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys settled on the procedure for the three other activists after Thompson barred the three from using various defenses, including a contention that the protests were necessary to stop abortions.
Under the procedure, which attorneys call a "slow plea," lawyers on both sides said they fully expected Thompson to issue a decision later in the week finding the three--Dean Mesa, 30, of Vista; Joseph L. Foreman, 34, of Montreat, N.C., and Chet E. Gallagher, 39, of Las Vegas--guilty of conspiracy.
Thompson indicated Monday in court, Bishop said, that he would then offer the three a choice of jail or community service--90 days for Foreman, 90 days for Mesa and 65 days for Gallagher.
The defendants agreed to the procedure because it keeps alive for appeal their contention that Thompson improperly excluded the various defenses, said Timothy Rutherford, attorney for Foreman and Mesa.
Shifting the Battle?
"The fact is, I think the case was resolved in the way that made the most sense for everybody," Rutherford said.
"There's already been one battle. The battle has now shifted to another field," he said, referring to the appeals process. "There's no reason sitting around for this one."
Two of the eight other protesters were convicted Sept. 13 by a San Diego Municipal Court jury of conspiracy and seven other misdemeanor charges in connection with the April blockades. Thompson sentenced both Constance V. Youngkin, 41, of San Diego, and Frank B. Smith, 56, of Oceanside to 65 days in jail, but both plan appeals.
Conspiracy charges against William Moberly, 29, of San Diego, were dismissed, prosecutors said.
William R. Lehman, 29, of Vista, pleaded no contest Aug. 24 in San Diego Municipal Court to a charge of violating a court order, an injunction issued by a federal judge in Los Angeles barring clinic blockades. In return, prosecutors dropped the conspiracy charge.
Municipal Judge Gale E. Kaheshiro gave Lehman a suspended 90-day jail sentence, put him on three years' probation and ordered him not to take part in other blockades. He also was ordered to complete 180 hours of community service.
Last week, in an unrelated case, El Cajon Municipal Judge Elizabeth Riggs sentenced Lehman to 450 days in jail on charges stemming from the July 3 blockade of a medical clinic in La Mesa.
In all, 134 protesters arrested at the April 8, April 29 and June 10 demonstrations face misdemeanor charges in San Diego Municipal Court, prosecutors said. More trials are set to begin Oct. 2, Bishop said.
Thompson said in hearings in August that the trials will run consecutively and, in all, could take as long as a year.