Elevate court hearings rescheduled

Court hearings for four students charged with misdemeanors during the Elevate Lounge raid at the Morse-Stiles Screw Oct. 2 have been postponed until next Tuesday while the prosecution reviews a new set of eyewitness accounts presented by the defense.

The students’ lawyer, Hugh Keefe, said both he and the prosecutor mutually agreed to reschedule the hearings Monday, when Keefe gave the prosecutor a set of witness statements collected from “various sources” at Yale. Keefe would not comment on the nature or number of the statements. The events at Elevate are in dispute by both students and police, and an internal investigation into police conduct is ongoing.

“Hopefully these cases will have a favorable resolution,” Keefe said.

Zachary Fuhrer ’11, a former Arts and Living editor for the News, and three of the other accused students — Alfredo Molinas ’11, Steven Winter ’11 and Seth Bannon, a Harvard senior who is living in New Haven working on a campaign finance software startup with Winter and other Yale students — declined to comment due to the pending legal proceedings.

According to the state judicial docket, Fuhrer is charged with one count of interfering with a police officer. Molinas is charged with one count of disorderly conduct, and Winter and Bannon are each charged with one count of disorderly conduct and one count of criminal trespass in the third degree.

In a police report obtained by the News last week, New Haven Police Department officer Matthew Abbate writes that officers told Fuhrer and Jordan Jefferson ’13 — who was tasered repeatedly before being arrested and whose charges include three felony counts of assault against an officer — that they were interfering with officers’ ability to perform their duties. After an officer repeatedly warned Fuhrer to stop using his phone, Abbate writes, Fuhrer was placed under arrest. In the report, Abbate claims that the use of cell phones on the scene interfered with police operations.

David McGuire, an attorney with the Connecticut offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Monday that the Fuhrer arrest was “one of the more troubling arrests of the group [of the five students arrested during the raid],” because of the issues surrounding cell phone use and video recording during police operations.

In an Oct. 7 press release, McGuire wrote that citizens have a First Amendment right to record and broadcast police conduct, and that therefore the officers’ orders to put away cell phones at the Elevate raid require investigation.

In order to understand the legal issues surrounding cell phone use during raids, the ACLU of Connecticut has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any documents and procedures from the NHPD related to the prohibition of citizens’ recording devices. The ACLU has also requested a record of the number of citizens arrested for disorderly conduct or interfering with an officer as it relates to cell phone use in 2009.

In an interview Oct. 5, Mayor John DeStefano said that citizens have the constitutional right to videotape officers, but added that there are certain scenarios in which cell phone use may endanger officer safety. But in the ACLU press release, McGuire wrote that citizen cell phone use during police action “protects both citizens and police, and curbs incidents of police brutality.”

Jefferson’s court hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

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