Four members of the so-called “Orange County Five,” a group of elected officials arrested during a Moral Monday protest at the General Assembly in June 2013, showed up in Wake County District Court today for an administrative hearing on trespassing charges.
The problem was, the judge didn’t show up.
“It turns out that the assistant district attorney did not coordinate schedules very well today,” said one of the defendants, Carrboro Alderperson Damon Seils. “So the judge apparently didn’t know that she needed to be there. So, that was a little frustrating, because it was the D.A.’s Office that insisted that we appear at this routine administrative hearing in the first place, which is not ordinary.”
Fortunately, another judge was located, and pleas of no contest were entered. The goal today for the defendants was to plead no contest and move the cases on to Superior Court for trial by jury.
The Orange County Five includes former Carrboro Mayor and now Register-of-Deeds-Elect Mark Chilton; Carrboro Alderpersons Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Sammy Slade; and Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell
All showed up in Wake County District Court today except Chilton, who was unable to appear.
Attorney for the Orange County Five Mark Dorosin – who’s also an Orange County Commissioner representing District 1 – says the defense will be based on an article of the North Carolina Constitution.
“North Carolina’s Constitution is actually much more specific than the U.S. Constitution on the issue of the right to assembly,” says Dorosin. “And Article 1, Section 12 of the North Carolina Constitution says the people have the right to assemble together, to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for the redress of grievances.”
A trial won’t happen any time soon, though. The administrative hearing in Superior Court set for July 7 will also be fairly routine, Dorosin says.