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Fracking protesters vow to fight charges in court

Wire • Dec 2, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Seven people opposed to the fracking process had to come up with cash to get out of jail after being charged in the blocking of a water-disposal truck at a city business this week.

Anne Lukins, 21, of West Virginia; Lindsey Schwartz, 20, of Pennsylvania; Benjamin Shapiro, 26, of Cleveland; Benjamin Marks, 19, of California; Jackson Kusiak, 19, of Massachusetts; Jeremy Bingham, 20, of Massachusetts; and Sean O'Toole, 61, of Warren were each taken into custody and issued a summons Wednesday for disorderly conduct outside D&L Energy Inc. in the 1000 block of Ohio Works Drive.

The seven defendants, most of whom are Oberlin College students, were accompanied by Atty. Sean Buchanan of Kent. They appeared Thursday morning in Youngstown Municipal Court asking Magistrate Anthony Sertick to allow each defendant to remain free on their own recognizance until a future trial date. They pleaded not guilty.

Assistant city prosecutors, however, asked the judge to hold the defendants on bonds as high as $10,000 each.

Prosecutors told the court a bond is necessary on the out-of-town defendants to assure their appearance in what will likely be a series of court dates.

Buchanan said his clients are looking forward to appearing in court and being involved in the process. He said the defendants with out-of-town addresses are students at Oberlin College and believe they will show that they were exercising their rights when the case comes to trial.

"My clients plan to protest these charges. They believe they were peacefully exercising their rights. ... We plan to take this case to trial," he said.

Sertick set bond on each of the five defendants with out-of-state addresses at $7,500. He also ordered that none of the five was to have any contact with any business on Ohio Works Drive.

The magistrate set bond on the two Ohio residents at $2,500 and ordered them not to have contact with any business on Ohio Works Drive. All seven defendants were out of police custody by Thursday afternoon.

Police arrested the seven during a protest on Ohio Works Drive against fracking near D & L Energy, which operates a brine-injection well site -- not a fracking site.

Other protesters assembled downtown near the Covelli Centre during the Youngstown Ohio Utica and Natural Gas conference and expo with no arrest and no major problems.

According to police, the group on Ohio Works Drive blocked industrial trucks from entering a business. Chief Rod Foley and several police department lieutenants asked the group to move for the trucks, but that request was refused.

Jonathan Sidney of Oberlin was part of the protest, but not one of those arrested. He said the group was there to stop an assault on the environment by the company hauling wastewater full of contaminants.

"We have a responsibility to take a stand. If these companies are poisoning our water supply and our air, they are real criminals, not us," he said.

Sidney asked that anyone interested in donating to the bond fund or the group's mission to visit the website www.ohiofracktion.com.

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By John W. Goodwin Jr. - Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio

(c)2011 Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio)

Visit Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio) at www.vindy.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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