"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
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
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,