By Kimberly Miller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The controversy over the Mt. Graham telescope project continued yesterday in a downtown courtroom when a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition was found guilty of violating his probation by being in a restricted area on the mountain.
The violation, which was decided by Judge Robert Donfeld in Pima County Court, could lead to a jail term of more than 330 days.
"I think there's a good possibility that I could be going to jail for a while," said David Hodges, a former University of Arizona student who first brought attention to himself in 1991 when he climbed the Student Union clock tower to protest the Mt. Graham projects.
The two-year probation stemmed from Hodges' 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.
Hodges, 34, was one of two people arrested at the protest and given, in lieu of 30 days in jail, two years probation with the stipulation that he not get into trouble on the campus or on property that is supervised by the university.
He was convicted in January of being in a restricted Mt. Graham Red Squirrel Refugium area that is patrolled by UA police. Hodges said he was in the area, which he claims is not university-supervised, to gather information
about vegetation regrowth.
Hodges' lawyer, Paul Gattone, said that Hodges has been the target of the UA and the county attorney's office because of his extensive involvement in Mt. Graham protests.
"I think the university has been really hard pressed to pin jail time on Dave because he's been such a strong opponent of the Mt. Graham telescopes," Gattone said. "I think the powers that be often work together to stifle the descent and opposition to Mt. Graham."
Many SEAC members agree with Gattone and think the UA and attorney's office are trying to make an example out of Gattone.
"They know that Dave's an activist and they really want to shut him down," said Daniel Patterson, a Michigan State alumnus and SEAC member. "One day the UA will realize that just because you have all the money and lawyers doesn't mean you can terrorize people."
But Michael Cusanovich, vice president of research and graduate studies, said he does not think Hodges has been made a scapegoat at all.
"The UA has no influence in the court system," Cusanovich said. "We didn't target him, I didn't even know he was going to go to court today. If the judge found him guilty it has nothing to do with us."
Hodges is scheduled for a disposition hearing April 10, where Gattone said the judge can either send him to jail or extend his probation.
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