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Greenpeace Activists Balk at Plea Deal

July 22, 2014

Face lengthy prison term over P&G stunt.

Despite facing lengthy prison terms, Greenpeace activists refused to cop a plea deal with prosecuters after the protesters staged an eye-catching protest at Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati.

Hamilton County prosecutors said that only one of nine protesters facing charges of burglary and vandalism indicated a willingness to accept a plea offer to avoid possible prison time. Defense attorneys and prosecutors met in Hamilton County Judge Robert C. Winkler's chambers with no major breakthrough.

Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said afterward that with a guilty plea, the activists would agree to perform 80 hours of community service locally and to pay restitution for damage to the consumer product maker's headquarters. They could each face up to eight years in prison if convicted for burglary.

"I'm a little surprised that they're rolling the dice like that, but it's our job to prove it, and if they don't want to plead guilty to something, that's what we intend to do," Piepmeier said.

Piepmeier said prosecutors set a deadline of Monday for plea settlement when the two sides last met earlier this month. He said one activist was ready to accept, with details still being worked out. The activist wasn't identified publicly Monday. Defense attorney Bill Gallagher said that plea agreement wasn't final.

"For the majority, there doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of interest in it," attorney Louis Sirkin, also representing activists, said of the plea deal offered by prosecutors.

Gallagher added that the activists don't believe they should be charged with felony burglary.

No trial date has been set.

Protesters were arrested in March after slipping past P&G's security and displaying huge banners from the company's towers while a helicopter filmed their demonstration, which included a protester in a tiger suit hanging from a zip line. They were protesting P&G's use of a palm oil supplier that Greenpeace links to tropical forest destruction.

Their attorneys have said they were engaging in constitutionally protected free speech, but prosecutors argued that regardless of their political message, the activists committed crimes and caused damage. Piepmeier said Monday that property damage, including broken window locks, totaled about $18,000, not including the cost of emergency response teams called out during the protest.

All of the activists live out of state, some as far away as California. Piepmeier said prosecutors insisted in their plea offer that they perform their community service in the Cincinnati area.

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