“We're going to try to get the charges dropped on the basis that we shouldn't even be in court,” Aresheh said.
The Cal State Fullerton Student was arrested when he and three others set up tents in the Santa Ana Civic Center. It was an act of civil disobedience–in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street–aimed at drawing attention to banking malfeasance.
The Civic Center has long been home to tribes of area homeless, many of whom sleep nightly along the brick walkway and between county-owned buildings exposed to the elements. The city ordinance, passed in 1992 prevents anyone from erecting tents or storing property in public areas.
When asked why he's insisting on taking his case before a jury, Aresheh says its a matter of free speech.
“I got into a tent to show my solidarity with the Occupy movement,” said Aresheh who has also implied the case could potentially draw attention to the plight of area homeless.
Aresheh claims deputy city attorney Melissa Crosthwaite offered him the chance to accept four infractions instead of two misdemeanors, but he declined.
“She really thought the judge wasn't going to let me object to lesser charges,” said Aresheh. “But the judge said, 'You want higher charges; you got them.'”
By going to trial, Aresheh risks up to 90 days in jail versus paying a few hundred dollars in fines for the infractions. “If I had just taken the infractions, I wouldn't have had the chance to argue this in front of a jury of my peers,” he said.
Tomorrow he'll appear in Orange County Superior Court for an arraignment hearing. If the charges aren't dropped, he'll face a preliminary hearing. Calls to Deputy City Attorney Crosthwaite haven't been returned.