On August 27, Erik Oseland, one of the RNC 8 protestors charged for activities surrounding the 2008 Republican Convention, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit damage to property in the 3rd degree, a gross misdemeanor. He will serve his 91-day sentence in the Ramsey County Workhouse beginning on October 20. With credit for time served, and good behavior, it’s likely he’ll complete the sentence in 58 days.
The RNC 8 were originally charged with conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism, under the provisions of the Minnesota Patriot Act. The terrorism enhancement was dropped in April 2009. At the hearing, Oseland acknowledged plans to block streets by pushing over newspaper boxes. A 3rd degree charge includes damage to property worth between $251 to $500 said Oseland’s attorney Ted Dooley.
The prosecution of the RNC 8 resulted from undercover investigations in the year preceding the event. The groups were infiltrated by CRIs (Confidential Reliable Informants) paid by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.
For Oseland, the protests ended and the prosecution began with what he called a “Judas kiss” – a hug in front of the Franklin Avenue LaundroMax. It was Saturday, August 30, 2008, two days before the start of the Republican National Convention. Several members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group with which Oseland was loosely associated, were already under arrest. “It was scary.” Oseland recalled, “The police were doing crazy things.”
A guy he knew as Panda had called Oseland a few minutes earlier, “It’s not good to be alone right now,” Oseland remembered being told. At Panda’s suggestion, they met in front of the coin laundry. First came the embrace, then police leaping from vehicles and then Oseland found himself in Hennepin County jail contemplating his betrayal. Panda was FBI informant, Andew Darst.
When I spoke with Oseland on June 9, outside the Ramsey County Courthouse, the sting of Darst’s duplicity clearly remained. He described Darst as a “slime ball,” a fiery personality who often bragged about breaking into buildings. “He was always in the center of things,” Oseland said of Darst, “turning seemingly innocent – turning their sh*t talk into inflammatory stuff.”
Oseland’s case ended in Judge Teresa Warner’s courtroom almost two years after his arrest. Two conditions were critical to his plea agreement. His sentence would be considered “executed,” with no parole required, so when his time is served, he’ll be done. The other essential condition: Oseland cannot be called to testify in any RNC-related criminal matter.
CORRECTION 9/11/2010: Panda was FBI informant, Andew Darst.