Cecily McMillan has been sentenced to three months in prison. The Occupy protester was found guilty of assaulting a police officer earlier this month and the sentence could have seen her spend up to seven years behind bars.
In March 2012, McMillan was part of an Occupy protest in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, as the protestors sought to reclaim the area in order to mark six months since the beginning of the movement. It was there that the peaceful protest turned ugly – McMillan claims she was sexually assaulted by the officer, Grantley Bovell, hence her retaliating with elbow to his face.
At Manhattan criminal court, Judge Ronald Zweibel said that she must "take responsibility for her conduct", but added: "The court finds that a lengthy sentence would not serve the interests of justice in this case."
Earlier this month, nine of the 12 jurors who found McMillan guilty wrote to the judge pleading with him not to incarcerate her. In a letter obtained by The Guardian, they said: "We feel that the felony mark on Cecily's record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.” The jurors were banned from researching the trial while it was taking place and were apparently shocked at the potential severity of any sentence. It was their guilt and concern that led them to take the unprecedented step of writing to the judge to call for leniency.
Today McMillan received a three-month sentence to be followed by community service. She will have time removed from her sentence to compensate for her time spent detained at Riker's Island, a correctional facility where she has been held for the past two weeks, during which she was visited by fellow political activists Pussy Riot.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington earlier this month, Pussy Riot said: "We were appalled and saddened to hear about that. We have sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and we honestly believe no country should have political prisoners.”
After McMillan was guilty by the court, we spoke to the organiser of the Justice For Cecily support group, her housemate Bex Kuuleipoinale, about America's justice (?) system, McMillan's mental state and the future of the Occupy movement. Read it here.
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
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