By Kimberly Miller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
A Mt. Graham protester eluded jail time yesterday because of confusion over a Secretary of Agriculture permit issued to the UA in April of 1989.
David Hodges, a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition, was convicted of violating his probation March 29 for being in an area supervised by the University of Arizona. Judge Robert Donfeld ruled that this violated his two-year probation which stipulated Hodges could not get into trouble on the UA campus or on property that is supervised by the university.
But yesterday morning in Pima County Justice Court, Hodges' lawyer, Paul Gattone, presented a document obtained through a public records search that refuted prior testimony stating Hodges was on UA supervised property.
"They (the UA) knew about this document before the hearing," Gattone said. "They refused to give it to us so we had to go through this long legal process to obtain it."
Gattone claimed the prosecution did not present accurate information and intended to confuse the judge with the testimony.
"I think they knew that they did not have control of the area Dave was found on and they presented confusing information to the judge because of this," Gattone said. "They knew where the judge was going with this case and they simply gave him what he wanted to hear."
The document, which was issued to the Arizona Board of Regents in 1989, gave control of 8.5 acres of land on Mt. Graham to the UA. During a March hearing, the prosecution claimed Hodges was arrested on the 150 acres of the mountain controlled by the UA, thus violating his probation.
Yesterday's hearing was initially scheduled for Hodges sentencing but when Judge Donfeld was presented with the document he decided to "start from zero" and give the prosecution time to develop the case in lieu of the document. No new trial date has been set.
"If this permit is the law then there's a problem," Donfeld said. "I may have made my decision under false pretenses."
Hodges, a former UA student who first brought attention to himself in 1991 when he climbed the Student Union clock tower to protest the Mt. Graham projects, said he was relieved by the judge's decision to review the evidence.
"Before we got this document I thought it was a good possibility that I would be serving some jail time," Hodges said.
Hodges said the UA refused to show the document to him in the hopes that he would be sentenced before he could get it through a public records search.
"The UA knew all about the document,"
Hodges said. "They had complete knowledge of it and were trying to hide the information to ensure I would go to jail."
Hodges' two-year probation stemmed from his arrest at a 1992 Columbus Day protest at the Steward Observatory.
Environmentalists and local Indian tribes have been protesting the building of three new telescopes on Mt. Graham since 1985. The Columbus Day protest was staged by about 200 people to protest the telescope projects and Christopher Columbus' legacy as the man who discovered the New World.
Michael Cusanovich, vice president of research and graduate studies, said the UA was issued 150 acres on Mt. Graham to build telescopes and that currently only 8.6 acres actually have telescopes on them.
"I don't know all the legal stuff but I do know we supervise not only the telescopes but everything surrounding the 8.6 acres the telescopes are on," Cusanovich said.
University attorneys were unavailable for comment.
Anne Carl, a SEAC member, said she believes the UA is targeting Hodges because of his history of Mt. Graham protests.
"He has been singled out because the university is under the impression that the Mt. Graham protest is only one or two people when it's a whole movement," Carl said. She said if Hodges does end up serving time it will be just another example of the powers that be trying to keep people down.
"Over the years, in every movement, people have been jailed or even killed but we keep on doing what we're doing because we have to."
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