MADISON, W. Va. – October 15, 2009 – In the second jury trial of the Climate Ground Zero campaign, Mat Louis-Rosenberg appeared before Boone County Magistrate Byrneside to plead a necessity defense on counts of trespassing and conspiracy.
On May 23, Louis-Rosenberg and seven others were arrested after locking themselves down to rock trucks on Kayford Mountain, halting work for four hours. Appearing before a jury, Louis-Rosenberg faced the risk of up to 18 months in jail.
Despite hearing evidence that Louis-Rosenberg was never asked to leave the site, the jury convicted Louis-Rosenberg on both charges and, while not incarcerated, he was sentenced to the maximum penalties of $1,500 plus court costs which brought the total to over $2,700. Six other activists that participated in the lockdown plead no contest and received maximum fines and court costs of $1844. After trial, Louis-Rosenberg returned to Rock Creek to appear on a panel at the Mountain Justice Fall Summit, a weekend of service and education focused around ending the devastation of mountaintop removal.
In a statement before his trial, Louis-Rosenberg explained why he wished to appear before a jury. “This campaign, just like the civil rights movement and many other struggles for change, is founded on a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience. And just like the civil rights movement, it draws its strength and its power from the willingness of ordinary people to take extraordinary risks and sacrifices because of the strength of their beliefs.
“My conscience demands that I stand up in that court room and explain to the people of Boone County why I did what I did. I will not contest the facts of what happened, but rather assert my belief that what I did was right, that I was stopping a far greater crime than I was committing. And if I go to jail because of it, I know that I go as many have gone before me, in defense of my friends, this land and my convictions.”