Lawyers for the 88 pro-life protesters who were arrested on the University of Notre Dame’s campus earlier this year will be heading to court today in St. Joseph County, Indiana, to argue in favor of a motion to dismiss the charges against the pro-lifers.
Currently trespassing charges are pending against the 88, who were arrested on Notre Dame property while protesting the commencement speech and honorary law degree given to pro-abortion President Barack Obama in May. If convicted, the pro-lifers could face up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Despite repeated requests from lawyers from the Thomas More Society, who are representing the pro-lifers, that Notre Dame request that the charges be dropped, University President Fr. John Jenkins has continued to refuse to do so.
In response to those who have contacted Jenkins expressing concern about the charges, Fr. Jenkins has responded by saying that Notre Dame doesn’t have the power to drop the charges against the 88. However, while this is technically true, Thomas More Society Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that “it’s almost frivolous” for Jenkins to suggest that Notre Dame’s asking that the charges be dropped wouldn’t have “decisive influence” on whether the prosecutions go forward or not.
Notre Dame’s “own security forces would be indispensible witnesses in these cases,” Brejcha pointed out. “Their active cooperation is required for the cases to go forward.”
“To say that Notre Dame has no power is flatly wrong,” Brejcha stated. “They always have the power to ask. And their asking would, in our view and based on our many years of practicing law in Indiana and elsewhere, would have great weight with the prosecutor.”
Jenkins has also responded to concerned pro-lifers by saying that the university has already requested leniency by offering “pre-trial diversion” to the protesters.
Accepting the offer of “pre-trial diversion” would mean that the defendants would have to pay court costs of several hundred dollars, avoid any trouble with the law for 1 year, and promise to stay off Notre Dame property for a certain period of time, in exchange for the charges being dropped after a year, pending satisfactorily meeting the conditions.
But Brejcha told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that while some of the arrested protestors have accepted the offer “because of the coercive impact of the fact that they have to pay for expenses and have this thing hanging over their heads,” the rest have refused to do so because “they don’t think they did anything wrong.”
Brejcha said that he recently encountered Fr. Jenkins in Chicago, where he asked the priest why he hasn’t asked that the charges be dropped. Jenkins countered that he had already asked for leniency, and asked, “Why won’t they (the protesters) take this pre-trial diversion?”
Brejcha said that he responded, “Well, Father, like Dr. King, whose relation with Fr. Hessburgh you celebrated at the commencement … like Dr. King these folks don’t think they did anything wrong.”
There is also the complicating factor that the offer of pre-trial diversion only extends to those who have had no prior involvement with the criminal justice system. But, “of course, some of these pro-lifers do,” said Brejcha. They “are up in years and were active in the rescue movement back in the 80s and early 90s,” and have been arrested in the past for pro-life activities.
Brejcha also said that, based on his conversation with the university president, the irony of the situation – of the pro-lifers being “arrested by Our Lady’s university which professes to espouse pro-life values” – seemed “to be lost” on Jenkins.
“Jenkins intends to march in the March for Life on Jan 22,” said Brejcha. “Yet, one of the people who is being prosecuted is Norma McCorvey. The whole purpose of that march to advocate for the overturn of Roe v. Wade regime. And of course Jane Roe is Norma McCorvey and she’ll be facing prosecution in St. Joseph County before an Indiana jury for marching on Notre Dame. So the irony of that is also lost on him.”