52 Arrestees appear in court for G-20 charges

By Lindsay Carroll

Fifty-two people appeared in court yesterday, because they were arrested during the G-20… Fifty-two people appeared in court yesterday, because they were arrested during the G-20 protests, including one Pitt student and a man accused of damaging several Craig Street businesses.

Chris Nielsen, a 28-year-old doctoral student at Pitt, said police arrested him Thursday while he was riding his bike home. His preliminary hearing was today, but Nielsen opted to do community service instead and have his charges dropped.

Nielsen, who is from Madera, Calif., said he attended a protest in Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Park Thursday afternoon. He left when police ordered them to disperse, he said.

Nielson said he and a friend were at the corner of Baum Boulevard and Cypress Street in Bloomfield a few hours later, around 5:50 p.m. They were near a stand-off between police and protesters.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox three times a week.

He said the police told him and his friend to move. Nielsen said he complied and turned to say, “I’m going, but don’t touch me.”

Nielsen said an officer pushed him with a baton into the street as cars were going by while another officer kicked him off his bike when he tried to leave.

“Some officers made threatening remarks, [they were] swearing,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said he felt police presence in general during the G-20 was “excessive.”

“I’m extremely upset,” he said about the charges. “When I was held, I was being treated as if I was already guilty.”

Nielsen said he’s considering pursuing a lawsuit.

Craig Street court case

Pittsburgh Municipal Court judge Jeffrey Manning also heard the case of David Japenga, from California, accused of damaging stores on Craig Street.

A police officer told the court that he watched while undercover as Japenga broke windows at the Citizens Bank, Irish Design Center and Quiznos on Craig Street with a bike lock.

The defense reported that the businesses estimate their damages at $15,440.

District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office is charging Japenga with three charges of criminal mischief, one count of possessing an instrument of crime and one for a false report. Police tried to charge Japenga with conspiracy, but Manning said yesterday that an officer’s testimony in court didn’t warrant a conspiracy charge and thus dropped it.

Japenga, who is being held at Allegheny County Jail, originally told officers his name was Eric Blair.

About sixty years ago, a man named Eric Blair wrote a novel called “1984” about government control and propaganda under the pen name George Orwell.

Japenga’s attorney, Patrick Nightingale, said he thought the defendant’s identification was “in play,” because the officer said he saw a large group of people, many wearing similar dark clothes and covering their faces. Two other people who had preliminary hearings yesterday pled guilty to summary offenses of disorderly conduct for which they have to pay a fine.

The rest had their cases postponed to new dates, because either the defendants didn’t have an attorney or the prosecution wasn’t prepared to pursue the cases. Six of the 49 cases are postponed because the defendants agreed to do community service to have their charges dropped.