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California man to stand trial for vandalism in Oakland during G-20 October 5, 2009

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California man to stand trial for vandalism in Oakland during G-20
Jill King Greenwood
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
October 1, 2009

A California man whom police blame for much of the vandalism during G-20 demonstrations in Oakland will stand trial on three charges of criminal mischief.

District Judge Eugene L. Zielmanski on Wednesday ordered the trial for David Japenga, 21, following a hearing in Pittsburgh Municipal Court. The judge dismissed conspiracy charges against Japenga.

The case was among 52 scheduled yesterday in Municipal Court, the first appearances for people arrested during protests and other clashes with police during the Group of 20 economic summit.

Two men pleaded guilty and 49 cases were postponed, said Angharad Stock, court administrator. Six people whose hearings were postponed agreed to perform community service to have prosecutors drop charges, Stock said.

During Japenga’s hearing, state police Trooper Boyd Wass testified he was working undercover and watching a crowd of 100 protesters Thursday evening in Oakland when he saw Japenga break away and start smashing windows of businesses with a U-shaped bike lock.

Citizen’s Bank, Quizno’s and the Irish Design Center estimated damage to their windows cost a combined $15,440.

Defense attorney Patrick Nightingale argued Wass could not identify his client because Japenga was wearing a black bandana over his face during the demonstration. The lawyer said he would argue for Japenga’s release from the Allegheny County Jail.

Later in the day, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning agreed to set Japenga’s bail at $15,000.

Others who appeared in court complained about how police handled arrests during gatherings at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

“We tried to leave,” said Luke Rudkowski, 23, a college student from Brooklyn who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $100 fine. He said he was in Schenley Plaza yelling through a megaphone for people to remain peaceful when he was arrested.

“We tried to disperse, but we were surrounded by police,” he said. “We went toward the Cathedral (of Learning), and they were chasing us down like rabid dogs.”

Lee Iovino, 23, of Chicago pleaded guilty to failure to disperse and paid a $100 fine. Prosecutors dropped a disorderly conduct charge.

He said he was filming footage for the Internet-based TV company Reality Reports when police arrested him.

“I wasn’t really paying attention because I was filming. All of a sudden, we were surrounded,” he said. “At first, the police said we could leave, and before I knew it I was face down on the ground getting tear-gassed and then handcuffed.”

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. this week said he would review many of the 190 arrests and drop some cases against Pitt students, as well as cases against Greenpeace activists who scaled two bridges to unfurl banners. He encouraged people to bring evidence to court — video or photos that might show they were improperly caught up in mass arrests.

Chris Nielsen, a Pitt doctoral student who moved to the city from Madeira, Calif., a month ago, said police arrested him Thursday afternoon on charges of failure to disperse and obstruction of a public highway as he was riding his bike on Baum Boulevard. He accepted a plea deal requiring him to perform community service.

“I had marched and protested earlier in the day, but I dispersed peacefully when they ordered me to,” Nielsen said. “I was just riding my bike and they knocked me off, threw me in the street and hit me with their batons. I’m considering a lawsuit.”

More hearings for people arrested during the protests are scheduled for Wednesday and for Oct. 21, 23 and 28.

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