One of three charges against former Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas stemming from a June 2011 protest was dropped Tuesday during the first day of his trial in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Navickas faced two charges of interfering with police and one charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly resisting arrest during a protest against expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area held on June 28, 2011, on the Ashland Plaza.
Judge Tim Gerking dismissed one of the interfering-with-police charges after Ashland police Sgt. Hector Meletich testified he never attempted to place Navickas under arrest. He said Navickas moved the march out of the street and onto the sidewalk when asked — but only after other protesters urged Navickas to do so.
Prior to Meletich's encounter with Navickas, police Officer John Perrone had asked Navickas and other protesters to clear East Main Street and remain on the sidewalk. When the officer's requests were ignored and Navickas encouraged marchers to carry on, Perrone attempted to arrest Navickas, but he resisted and continued to march, Perrone testified.
Perrone said he used his own discretion and decided not to pursue Navickas and finish the arrest.
Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Paul Moser argued that protesters did not have the proper permits and were marching illegally in the street, blocking traffic.
Navickas' attorney, public defender Justin Rosas, countered that police have allowed citizens to peacefully march down the street without permits in the past.
Rosas said the city of Ashland was fully aware of the planned march and did nothing to stop it, though it could have.
Meletich, Perrone and Officer Matthew Carpenter testified Tuesday that they heard about the protest by word of mouth but could not remember who told them.
The officers testified that protesters were blocking traffic in at least one lane of East Main Street without the proper permits.
Chief Terry Holderness said at the time that Perrone responded to the protest after a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus driver complained protesters were blocking access to a bus stop. Rainy weather and increased traffic during the late afternoon rally created a potentially dangerous situation for drivers and the protesters, Holderness said.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday. Rosas said he plans to call four witnesses to the stand today.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Talent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.