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Protester sees charges dismissed.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

A judge has ruled that Eugene police overstepped their authority when they ordered Perry S. Patterson to leave Eugene Airport property during a rally held last September for Vice President Dick Cheney, during which Patterson shouted her opposition to Cheney's remark that the war in Iraq had made the United States safer.

But the case is not over.

Last week's ruling in Eugene Municipal Court will be appealed by the city to Lane County Circuit Court, Mark Haight said. Haight is the city prosecutor handling the charge filed against Patterson after she was evicted from the private rally and then refused police orders to leave public airport property.

Officers escorted Patterson away, cited her for second-degree trespassing and released her.

Haight said the decision to appeal is no criticism of Municipal Judge Alan Leiman. Instead, Haight said his recollection of the evidence differs from the judge's, and he noted that the municipal court does not keep a record of all testimony.

An appeal means that the entire case - which embraces state and federal constitutional rights not only of Patterson but also of rally organizers - will be rehashed in Circuit Court, Haight said.

Patterson said the ruling, although welcome, fell short of satisfying her concerns about the fundamental question raised by her case.

"Does anyone really want to live in a country where the president and vice president are so fearful of the public's response that they carefully orchestrate who can and cannot come to their public events?" she asked.

But the case involves more than First Amendment rights of individuals in a political setting, said Lauren Regan, a Eugene lawyer with the Civil Liberties Defense Center who represented Patterson.

"There was strong moral outrage that dialogue was being so completely censored," Regan said. "But it wasn't as clear-cut of a case as some in the public might believe."

Legal experts have said Patterson's case illustrates conflicting interests and colliding constitutional rights against a backdrop of tighter security and increasing political control over campaign events.

The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, ruled unanimously that organizations have the constitutional right to associate with whom they choose, even if their event takes place in a public place.

Whether the Patterson case sorts out those rights and interests remains to be seen.

Leiman's ruling focused on the specifics of Patterson's arrest. In a three-page decision, Leiman did not fault the removal of Patterson from the private political rally.

Instead, he ruled that police were not empowered to order Patterson off of public property near the leased airplane hangar where the private event took place. Since the leasee of the hangar had no authority to order Patterson's removal from the adjoining public property, police had no power to enforce the trespassing statute on behalf of the leasee, he ruled.

The trespassing charge carries a possible $255 fine. No new hearing dates have been set in circuit court.
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Title Annotation:Courts; A judge says the Eugene police were wrong to cite a woman for trespassing at a GOP rally, but the city plans to appeal
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 27, 2005
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