SANTA CRUZ -- Jurors on Friday found a woman guilty of illegally lodging outside the Santa Cruz County Courthouse during a 2010 demonstration.
Linda Lemaster was convicted of a misdemeanor for unlawful lodging. The longtime homeless activist was cited on Aug. 10, 2010 along with others as part of the Peace Camp demonstration, which was aimed at protesting the city's anti-camping ban.
Demonstrators began sleeping outside the courthouse on the Fourth of July of that year, and later moved to the Santa Cruz City Hall before the protest eventually ended in October.
Lemaster argued that she wasn't actually sleeping and had no intention to do so, nor to break the law. She said that when she was cited, she had stayed at the courthouse to look after a protester who was sick. She has disabilities and cannot sit for long periods of time without discomfort, so when deputies arrived, she was at least partially lying down.
Prosecutor Alex Byers said unlawful lodging does not require sleeping, and that Lemaster knew she was breaking the law. She was warned by deputies that she could be cited for unlawful lodging about 15 minutes before she received the citation, he said. She could have left but chose not to.
Byers said the county respects people's right to protest, but not when it infringes upon the rights of others. By the time citations were issued, he said, the Peace Camp demonstration was causing health and safety issues for others in the
Lemaster's attorney, Jonathan Gettleman, in closing arguments Friday, rejected Byers' contention that county authorities weren't trying to break up a protest. He also argued that deputies refused to actually explain to the demonstrators what constituted illegal lodging.
Lemaster faces up to six months in County Jail when she is sentenced Dec. 3.
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