Charges dismissed against three of RNC 8 suspects

Prosecutors dismissed charges Thursday against three of the seven remaining defendants accused of planning to disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said a jury trial for the group, known as the RNC 8, could have become a "circus" and would have depleted government resources. The joint trial was set to begin Oct. 25. Prosecutors had said the trial could last at least two months.

"We made a very pragmatic decision to dismiss charges against the least culpable defendants in our view, and proceed against the four who we think are most responsible for the alleged criminal activity," Gaertner said.

Monica Bicking, Luce Guillen-Givins and Erin Trimmer had been charged with conspiracy to commit riot in the 2nd degree and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in the 1st degree.

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Gaertner said prosecutors are negotiating plea agreements with the other four defendants.

"Very simply, we trimmed some of the branches so that the rest of the tree is stronger," she said.

Bruce Nestor, the attorney representing Bicking, said he doesn't believe that Gaertner dismissed the charges because of concerns about resources or a lengthy trial.

"This was a political case from the beginning, using charges of terrorism and conspiracy to riot to try and justify the massive police presence and repression during the 2008 RNC," Nestor said, via email. "The fact that all charges have now been dismissed against three leading members of what Ramsey County has for two years labeled a 'criminal enterprise' exposes the reality behind this case."

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office originally charged the eight people with conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism, in addition to other charges. Gaertner dropped the terrorism-related charge in April, saying that the charge would have distracted the jury and complicated the case.

Another defendant, Erik Oseland, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped felony charges against Oseland, and a judge sentenced him to 91 days in jail.

The four remaining defendants awaiting trial are Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, Nathanael Secor and Max Specktor.

(MPR News reporter Jessica Mador contributed to this report.)