Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 23rd 2014

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The Buzz 5/25/12

Occupy Pensacola Wins One, Loses One A man associated with Occupy Pensacola has been found not guilty of trespassing. A woman with him at the time, however, was found guilty of trespassing.
David Burden and Melody Castro were each charged with trespassing on city property. The pair’s charge is associated with the Occupy Pensacola movement and the organization’s battle with city officials over the Occupy encampment at Pensacola City Hall.

Burden’s attorney, Eric Stevenson, saw the case as being different from most misdemeanor cases coming through the local court system, including other trespassing cases.

“There were a lot of constitutional issues at play,” said Stevenson. “It was more than a trespassing case.”

Burden and Castro were arrested pursuant to an order from Mayor Ashton Hayward that, according to Stevenson, singled out members of Occupy Pensacola from being on city property from 11p.m. to 6 a.m. The rule was put in place in response to the Occupy Pensacola camp set up on the corner of Spring and Government streets, in the shadow of Pensacola City Hall.

“A jogger would be allowed on city property from 11p.m. to 6 a.m., but not a member of Occupy,” said Stevenson.

The point of contention in the Mayor’s decree, according to Stevenson, was that there was no language in the order that told law enforcement how to identify a member of the Occupy Pensacola group. The participants in the demonstration group do not carry membership cards; there is no official registration form to keep track of names and faces.

These complexities and the undertones of profiling are only part of why Burden’s case was assigned to a more experienced attorney. Although the stakes may have seemed relatively low, with Stevenson claiming that his client probably would have not served jail time if he had been convicted, the media coverage was something for the State Attorney’s office to consider in trying this case.

As a seasoned trial lawyer, Stevenson approaches the courtroom with a battle mindset.

“We fought a worthy adversary, and he did a good job,” said Stevenson.

Besides the legal complexities that separated Burden’s case from usual misdemeanor trials, there was the involvement of the Occupy movement. This national protest has been making headlines across the country since last fall, and Burden’s trespassing case—along with Melody Castro’s trespassing case—has been making local headlines since their arrest. Apparently, the State Attorney’s office saw this as a case that needed to be handled with experience, and Stevenson respected that.

“They took it seriously,” the attorney said.

Stevenson sees the not-guilty ruling on Burden’s case as something which will most likely have a positive impact on the Occupy Pensacola group. The camp is still standing in the “triangle” of sidewalks on the corner of Spring and
Government streets.

While Burden was found not guilty, Castro received a guilty verdict. Castro faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

Shipwreck Discovered in Gulf An expedition to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico has uncovered a ship believed to have sunken about the time of the War of 1812, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported. The underwater search was prompted by an unusual sonar contact during a 2011 oil and gas survey for the Shell Oil Co. Using underwater robots and high definition cameras, scientists have recovered numerous items from the wreck site, including anchors, navigation instruments, cannon, and boxes of muskets.

The NOAA-funded 56-day expedition that ended April 29 was exploring poorly known regions of the Gulf, mapping and imaging unknown or little-known features and habitats, developing and testing a method to measure the rate that gas rises from naturally-occurring seeps on the seafloor, and investigating potential shipwreck sites.

“Artifacts in and around the wreck and the hull’s copper sheathing may date the vessel to the early to mid-19th century,” said Jack Irion, Ph.D., a maritime archaeologist with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “Some of the more datable objects include what appears to be a type of ceramic plate that was popular between 1800 and 1830, and a wide variety of glass bottles. A rare ship’s stove on the site is one of only a handful of surviving examples in the world and the second one found on a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Significant historical events occurring in the regions around the Gulf of Mexico during this time include the War of 1812, events leading to the Texas Revolution, and the Mexican-American War, Irion said.