Olympia residents won't be charged in Tacoma protest, prosecutor says

by christian hill

the olympian

Three Olympia residents arrested Monday at the Port of Tacoma won't face charges stemming from a protest there, their lawyer said Tuesday, but one of them was arrested again during a Tacoma City Council meeting Tuesday.

Walter Cuddeford, 28, was arrested after he refused repeated requests to wrap up his remarks during the meeting's public-comments forum, a Tacoma Police spokesman said. Cuddeford decried Monday's arrest in his remarks before he ran over his allotted three minutes, said Rob McNair-Huff, city of Tacoma spokesman. He was asked twice to sum up his comments but refused, McNair-Huff said. After the third warning, police arrested him on charges of trespassing and disrupting a city council meeting, police spokesman Mark Fulghum said.

Jeffery Berryhill, 22, Caitlin Esworthy, 24, and Cuddeford, 28, were arrested by Tacoma police after they allegedly pushed their way through a line of officers who were ensuring the road was unobstructed for military cargo heading into the port.

They were released from jail Monday night after being booked on investigation of third-degree assault, a felony, and posting bail.

The legal assistant and wife of the lawyer, Larry Hildes, will not be prosecuted after she was arrested later that night while observing a subsequent protest.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sorenson said during their first court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court that he wouldn't file charges, Hildes said. The Tacoma city attorney's office still has the option of pursuing the case, he said.

Neither Sorenson nor a representative from the city attorney's office could be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

"We're very happy," Hildes said of the prosecutor's decision. "It's justice. While justice wasn't done the night before, that was a just result."

Hildes' wife, Karen Weill, was arrested late Monday evening during a subsequent protest for allegedly obstructing the roadway.

Weill said she arrived at the protest as a legal observer after police had instructed some of the protesters not to cross the roadway. Weill said she was arrested after following a group of officers in an attempt to get the name of one she thought was videotaping the protest illegally.

She was booked for investigation of obstructing traffic, a misdemeanor, and released.

Lawsuit considered

Hildes said the four arrested are considering filing a civil claim against Tacoma police for false arrest and use of excessive force.

Hildes represents four of the 17 people who await trial on a second-degree trespass charge stemming from a May 30 protest at the Port of Olympia over an earlier military shipment. The trial is scheduled to begin March 26 in Thurston County District Court. Berryhill and Cuddeford are among the co-defendants.

A Fort Lewis combat brigade began moving its equipment to the Port of Tacoma late Friday night for shipment to Iraq, touching off protests.

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or at chill@theolympian.com.