October 21, 2005

On August 15, 2000, Miguel Malo, a student of Hostos Community College in the Bronx, and Vice President of the Student Government held up a sign protesting budget cuts directed at ESL programs. This week, over four years after his one man protest, Malo stood trial at the Bronx Criminal Court facing nine counts of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and third degree assault against CUNY Peace Officers.

Malo's first trial in December of 2003 ended in a mistrial when his attorney at the time, Ronald McGuire, declared himself incompetent to defend Malo. His case was then picked up by renowned radical defense attorney Lynne Stewart but was again put on hold when Stewart was convicted of aiding terrorists she was representing in another trial. In a long delayed second trial, which began on Monday, Malo was defended by Karen Funk who has represented some of the 1,800 defendants arrested in protests against the 2004 Republican National Convention.

The trial opened with a statement by assistant DA Terry Gensler, who argued that Malo's was the case of "a man who went too far." Gensler went on to claim that Malo used his college to "try and create chaos, disruption, and disorder which resulted in attacking and injuring Peace officers." Gensler argued that a space outside the college building had been designated for protest and that Malo had been in violation of college policy by holding up a sign, encouraging students to boycott registration, and passing out leaflets in the third floor atrium.

Defense attorney Funk countered Gensler, stating that Malo, who was a student government leader was fulfilling his obligation to fellow students by providing them with important information that directly affected their lives. Funk went on to argue that no disruption occurred until Peace Officers decided to arrest Malo, and that the charges against him were greatly exaggerated. Funk also argued that any injuries sustained by Peace officers were a result of their own actions not Malo's.

On the second day of the trial four of the nine charges against Malo were dropped as one of the arresting officers was not present at the trial.

In the following days of the trial, student and Peace officer eyewitnesses were called on to testify. Peace officer testimony largely claimed that Malo resisted arrest, by running from custody into a wall, falling face down on the floor and then flipping over on his back and "kicking and flailing" at two arresting officers. Student eyewitness countered by stating that Malo was descended on by a large group of officers who forcefully subdued and arrested him.

The defense also challenged the assumption that Malo was in violation of Hostos policy when protesting on the atrium as Funk argued that the policy had been drafted the night before Malo's arrest and was only conveyed to students through copies of the policy being handed out the morning of August 15th. Funk also pointed out that the policy was written exclusively in English at a school with a majority of native Spanish speaking students (Malo included).

On Thursday, the final day of the trial, attorneys Funk and Gensler made their closing arguments. Gensler largely reiterated that Malo intended to create chaos and disorder on the day of his arrest by (knowingly) illegally protesting and attacking Peace Officers. Funk reasserted that Malo was within his rights to be protesting, that he was unaware of policy changes, and that injuries sustained by Peace Officers were a result of their own actions when arresting Malo.

Jury deliberations will continue on Monday, and are expected to reach a verdict sometime that day.

If interested in showing support for Malo on Monday, the trial location is called "Part 21," Room LM-4A, and it is in the basement of the Bronx County Criminal Court building. The street address is 215 East 161st Street. The nearest subway stop is 161st Street on the 4, B and D. The court opens at 9:30.

CUNY Action to Defend Miguel Malo's numbers are: office, (212) 460-0983, cell (917) 520-5368.