[Alanis Morissette: "Ironic"]
Occupy LA protesters who have been arrested are being offered a deal that would allow them to avoid court trials. For $355, protesters can pay a private company for lessons in free speech. American Justice Associates offers the educational program taught by an attorney - Neil G. Anderson - a former police officer and Supervising Deputy District Attorney for Sacramento County, and his partner attorney Deborah Bryce McKinley of Atlanta, GA.
Los Angeles Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city won't press charges against protesters who complete the educational program offered by American Justice Associates.
He said the program, which may include lectures by attorneys and retired judges, is being offered to people with no other criminal history and who were arrested on low-level misdemeanor offenses, such as failure to disperse.
Carter said the free-speech class will save the city money and teach protesters the nuances of the law.
"The 1st Amendment is not absolute," he said, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled government can regulate when, where and how free speech can be exercised.
American Justice Associates, and it’s founders include Neil G. Anderson, previously a police officer and Supervising Deputy District Attorney for Sacramento County, and Deborah Bryce McKinley, a lawyer currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. Anderson, who lives in Newcastle, is currently listed as “inactive” by the State Bar of California and therefore ineligible to practice law in the state. McKinley is currently licensed to practice in the state.
In a 1997 interview, Anderson told the Los Angeles Times that "We run defendants through a comprehensive approach to keeping a job and maintaining self-esteem, so we don't have to see them back here again."
The majority of Occupy LA protesters, those who were arrested the night of the LAPD's eviction of the encampment, were already held for at least two days with a bail of at least $5,000.
A civil rights attorney who has worked with the protesters called the free speech class "patronizing," and said the demonstrators who were arrested are the last people needing free-speech training.
"There they were exercising their 1st Amendment, their lawful right to protest nonviolently," said attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker.
[Hat tip to Alternet]