Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Last two convicted protesters to serve time"

"Last two convicted protesters to serve time" The Times News - April 30, 2012




GRAHAM — Protesters charged after a 2009 demonstration at the Alamance

County jail appeared in court for the last time on those charges this

week as two of them pleaded guilty to violating their probation.


Patrick O’Neill of Raleigh and Francisco Javier Risso of Morganton

appeared before Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith on Thursday, saying

they willfully didn’t pay the $200 fine and court costs associated

with their March trial.


Along with Audrey Schwankl of Pittsboro, O’Neill and Risso were found

guilty March 8 of failing to obey a lawful command while demonstrating

against Alamance County’s 287 (g) immigration program outside the jail

in April 2009. The program trains and authorizes local law enforcement

and jailers as federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

officers for the purpose of deporting people in the country illegally.


 Smith placed them each on 18 months’ unsupervised probation and

ordered them to pay the fine and court costs, suspending a 10-day

sentence in jail.


They surrendered to Graham police on charges of violating their

probation earlier this month. Risso and O’Neill each spent a night in

jail and were bailed out earlier this month. Schwankl remained in jail

and was released April 16 on credit for time served.


O’Neill told Smith he wanted to serve time in solidarity with

immigrants held in the jail under the ICE program.


“I think our actions brought a lot of attention to an injustice (we

feel strongly about),” O’Neill said.


Risso said he weighed his options before paying the fine. A full-time

divinity student at Wake Forest University, Risso also has a family to

support and couldn’t afford the payment, he told the judge. Risso also

said he and his wife have had a number of friends who have been

arrested and deported under the 287 (g) program, which he believes is



Smith gave them credit for time served, ordering Risso to spend seven

days in jail and O’Neill to spend six days in jail.


Earlier Thursday, a visiting superior court judge threatened O’Neill

with confinement for contempt of court. Judge Andy Cromer was sitting

on another case as Risso, O’Neill and several others waited for their

case to be heard.


Members of the party were whispering to one another. The judge ordered

them to be quiet or face 30 days’ jail time. O’Neill then whispered

something to Risso.


“I’ve just warned everyone about talking and that applies to you,

too,” Cromer said. “Sir, I’m getting ready to leave this county and I

don’t want my last act here to be to put you in jail.”



For more info contact: Patrick O'Neill, Garner Catholic Worker House,

124 Perdue St., Garner, NC 27529 ph: 919 779 1912 e-mail




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