April 10, 2007
East Hampton Justice Court
'The People' v. Dan Steiger.
Dan Steiger of Sag Harbor was arrested while protesting the Iraq war on Main Street of East Hampton Village on April 15, 2006. Charges are Disorderly Conduct (2 counts) and Resisting Arrest (1 count). Mr. Steiger pleaded Not Guilty to these criminal charges and so a jury trial was in order. Other protesters arrested the same day were charged with misdemeanors and their cases have yet to come to trial.
On Tuesday April 10 there were more people present (35) in support of the defendant Dan Steiger than there were prospective jurors (21). The attorneys for the defense (Joseph Gianinni and James Henry) and the prosecution (Assistant Suffolk DA John Halverson) rejected all potential jurors except two. Six jurors are required.
The trial was re-scheduled by Justice Catherine Cahill for June 19 when the whole process starts again.
Early in the proceedings Conor Wolfe who was also arrested while protesting last April 15 entered the court room. The prosecuting attorney John Halverson requested that Conor be removed from the Court room for unknown reasons. The judge accepted his request.
In questioning the prospective jurors, attorneys asked them if they were opposed to the war and to war protests while our troops were still in Iraq. The first group of 9 juror candidates were all opposed to the war. The next group had one member who said she was "ambivalent' about it. One prospective juror was against protests as disrespectful to the US troops.
Of course this trial is not about the war. It is about our First Ammendment rights of free speech and assembly. But it is heartening to know that perhaps 90% of the East Hampton jury pool oppose the war.