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Argonaut Liquor helped city of Denver jail Caryn Sodaro, the DPD’s most vocal critic of police brutality.


DENVER, COLORADO- On Thursday July 30 in Denver Municipal Court, Argonaut Liquor succeeded with what the City of Denver and its violent policemen have been trying to do for years: take down Occupy Denver activist Caryn Sodaro. Earlier this year, Caryn was attempting to film the DPD as they brutalized a handcuffed detainee in the parking lot of the liquor store on Colfax Ave. When store managers couldn’t block her camera phone with their hands, they authorized officers to arrest Caryn for trespassing. Of course they had to pretend she’d been warned once before.

Yesterday a jury found Caryn Sodaro guilty of trespass, though they heard scant mention of the crime she was trying to document and prevent. It didn’t come up and video evidence was snipped to exclude it. Videos from multiple vantage points were excluded and witnesses were not questioned about the brutality they saw. Protesters were characterized as protesting the police, not police VIOLENCE and not protesting to PREVENT IT.

In one of the trial’s most surreal moments, the city attorneys were trying to admit officer body cam evidence taken of Caryn after her arrest, angrily describing the brutality she witnessed. The prosecutors hoped her coarse language would displease the jury. The defense attorney objected for that reason, even though it would have been the only evidence to explain why Caryn risked arrest, if indeed she knew she was not allowed on the Argonaut lot. The judge disallowed that video in the only ruling she made in favor of the defense.

Caryn’s protesting activity has been given area restrictions before and friends know how strictly she adhered to them, unconstitutional as they were. Drivers giving her rides had to take detours to keep Caryn geographically safe. When a defense witness tried to add this detail, or that he’d returned often to the Argonaut even while the managers had testified that he too had been “trespassed”, the defense attorney cut him off, stopping his own friendly witness with “I ask the questions here.”

I’ve seen valiant public defenders, but this free public servant was determined to give Caryn her money’s worth. No character witnesses, no context of Caryn’s activism, nor even sympathy for her altruism. The argument was restricted to: did Caryn trespass or not, and Argonaut employees perjured themselves claiming that Caryn had been instructed twenty days before that she was “trespassed” from Argonaut’s property. That incident was provoked by Caryn being harassed and humiliated by an in-store Argonaut rent-a-cop who followed her to the checkout stand and told her she was “too drunk” to purchase a bottle of wine. He initiated a shouting match, not she, and that’s another detail the PD declined to exploit.

Did I mention Caryn’s public defender opted to forgo his opening statement! The jury was let to assume the case was about a retailer’s property rights versus a group of protesters’ whim for trespassing.

Even when public defenders are brighter than you expect, it’s important to remember they don’t work for you. Public defenders serve the judicial system, this one determined to preserve law and order even when it is demonstrably racist and violent. Mr. DiPetro, the Judge and the city attorneys colluded to frame Caryn’s prosecution as independent of the DPD’s agenda to target her and bring her down. At moments of the two day trial, the audience was equal parts fellow activists, armed sheriff deputes, and DA attorneys gathered to oversee the exploitation of charges pressed by Argonaut Liquor. The only laugh the audience was allowed was when officer descended on Caryn, eager to put her in handcuffs, before she even had time to sign the paperwork required to imprison her.

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