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Journalists covering Greenpeace face April sentencing date

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Newsgathering         Feb 7, 2002    

Journalists covering Greenpeace face April sentencing date

  • A photographer and videographer arrested on conspiracy charges at an air force base in Southern California last July avoided trial by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

Two freelance journalists recently accepted a plea bargain after being arrested last July for interrupting a missile defense test at an air force base while covering a Greenpeace demonstration, avoiding felony charges of conspiracy.

Photographer Stephen Morgan from the United Kingdom, videographer Jorge Torres from Spain and 15 Greenpeace activists who paddled on rafts into a restricted zone near the Vandenberg Air Force base in California will not stand trial. Torres had been hired by Greenpeace to cover the protests; Morgan said he had also been “commissioned” by the group, although he retained the rights to his work. All 17 defendants pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to trespass, a class B misdemeanor. As a result, the two felony charges — including “conspiracy to charge a safety zone” — were dropped.

The prosecution split the defendants in terms of their sentencing. Nine Greenpeace activists, volunteers and employees were sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation on Jan. 18. Morgan and Torres, along with three others, will be sentenced on April 15.

Morgan spent eight days in a maximum security prison in Bakersville, Calif., after his arrest and three months trying to get travel restrictions lifted in order to return to the United Kingdom. Torres, a green card holder living in the United States, spent about four days in prison before being let out on bail, Morgan said.

(State v. Morgan) KG

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