Sunday, September 9th, by our count, was the day that Caroline Bninski should have been released from jail, and yet that event is not yet being reported in the Denver papers.
That made us do a Google Search on "Bninski." We had written most recently about Bninski on schaffer v udall in an essay called "Four Days to Freedom." That essay was based in part on this article in the Denver Post:
A war protester who occupied U.S. Rep. Mark Udall's Colorado office and refused to leave was sentenced Friday to a month in jail.
Bninski, 57, had rejected a plea deal of 60 days in jail to stand trial in Westminster municipal court.
"I don't regret that I participated in this action. It's a small thing to do, compared to the suffering of Iraqis," said Bninski, who also must pay a $500 fine.
Another report had her entering jail on August 10th. Normally, "a month in jail" is actually 30 days, meaning that she should have been out on September 9th. But, where is she?
It turns out that the Metro Denver Greens had a very thorough report on their site on July 28th. It tells a very different story:
After hearing the case, the six jurors deliberated for twenty minutes before rendering their decision. They found Ms. Bninski innocent on the charge of unlawful assembly, but guilty of trespass for refusing to leave her Congressman's office when asked.
The City of Westminster, where Congressman Udall's office is located, sought a jail sentence for Ms. Bninski, instead of community service. In responding to the prosecutor's appeal that she serve jail time, she turned to look him in the eye and said that she'd accept whatever was ordered, and that whatever it would be would be insignificant compared to what the Iraqi people are enduring.
Associate Judge Randall J. Davis openly stewed prior to announcing his decision over Ms. Bninski's fate, and said that his order had "nothing to do with the war in Iraq" but was about Ms. Bninski's actions alone, though calling the event which led to her arrest "innocuous" and one which caused "no substantial disruption of Congressman Udall's office."
He ordered that 330 days of her 365 jail term be suspended, and half of the $1,000 fine. Ms. Bninski was given two weeks to prepare for her jail time and ordered her to appear at 4:00 August 10, to the Adams County jail.
That report is supported by this one from Voices for Creative Non Violence:
Before a packed courtroom yesterday, a municipal judge in Westminster, Colorado sentenced long-time peace activist Carolyn Bninski to 365 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for actions stemming from a March 8th, 2007 visit by her and others to Colorado Congressman Mark Udall’s office.
This reporting suggests that the Denver Post thought the sentence excessive and didn't want to embarrass Congressman Mark Udall's office with the results of its handiwork.
There's more. Mark Udall issued a press release:
Rather than insist that the protesters leave immediately, members of my staff accommodated the protesters every day for three weeks. My Chief of Staff met with Ms. Bninski and a delegation of the protesters for a two hour conversation about American policy in Iraq. In the interest of allowing my staff to properly and professionally provide service to the other constituents of the Second Congressional District, my Chief of Staff then informed Ms. Bninski that if the protesters insisted on continuing to inhabit the office after their petitions and letters had been received and after their views had been heard, then they would be asked to leave. When some members of the group refused to leave after being told we would need to call the Westminster police, the police were called and those who refused to disperse were arrested, including Ms. Bninski.
Note that Mark Udall fails to mention that the two hour meeting resulted in ground rules being set for the protest and that those ground rules were followed for three weeks. His statement implies that the protesters refused to leave for three weeks, which is not the case. Police were called after one thirty second violation of the agreement.
Recently, a purported Bob Schaffer poll was leaked showing Mark Udall with a 5 point lead. 7% of the vote in that poll was going to the Greens.
Isn't it convenient that Caroline Bninski has been put on ice for a year? Isn't it convenient that the Denver Post doesn't report that she is on ice for a year? Does anyone not think that Mark Udall saw an opportunity to eliminate a road block to his "easy path to election" with this ploy? He is the one who should have gone to jail.
You can bet that there were high fives in the Udall offices after this verdict was rendered. It stinks to high heaven, as does the Denver Post's reporting of it.
Note also that our favorite observation about the Denver Post and its affinity for an unethical judiciary applies once again. This time they not only didn't report the judge's name, they disguised the nature of the sentence he handed out.
Gregory Moore, the editor of the Denver Post, is on the committee that awards the Pulitzer Prize. This kind of reporting besmirches that award.