On June 1, 2011, an Oakland jury acquitted 25 year-old Peralta Colleges student Jesse Trepper of resisting arrest during a student demonstration at the Peralta Community Colleges District Headquarters. The judge granted the defense motion for acquittal to a second count of disturbing the peace at the close of the prosecution's case.
Jesse's journey through the criminal justice system began when she attended the demonstration at Laney College as a student and a member of the LGBTQQ group "Queers Fighting Back". After delivering a speech in support of transgender students at Peralta Colleges, Jesse marched along with other over a hundred other students to the district headquarters to voice their concerns to the administration.
Students took turns speaking about how the distribution of the cuts inordinately fell on the backs of the most vulnerable students and also about how they were individually being affected by the cuts. When it was her turn to speak, Claire Keating, Jesse's girlfriend took to the megaphone and began to speak about the issues transgender students were facing and prepared to present hundreds of signed petitions to the administration.
One young man became agitated and began to shout her down, stating that the rally had nothing to do with Queer concerns. Other demonstrators asked the student to "let her speak" and Claire attempted to continue with her statement. The young man moved closer and tried to prevent Claire from speaking, at one point attempting to grab the microphone out of her hand.
Jesse, concerned for Claire's well-being, tried to step between two sheriff's deputies to get closer to Claire. Within a few steps, she was tackled to the ground, and forcibly dragged from the Peralta District Headquarters lobby. Once outside she was handcuffed, and according to the deputy sheriff who testified, she slammed her own head into the wall.
The deputy also testified that he grabbed the young woman because he believed she was going to attack the administration officials present. However, on cross-examination, the deputy admitted that Jesse had been quiet, courteous and respectful during the protest and had never directed any animosity or hostility towards the administration.
The prosecution built their case on the testimony of the President of Laney College and the Chancellor of Peralta Community Colleges, along with the sheriff's deputy. The President testified that the police officers only "touched" Ms. Trepper, causing her to fall to the ground, and that she struggled once on the ground. The Chancellor was unable to provide any specific acts of resistance, testifying only that she "resisted".
The defense presented testimony of two students who had been present at the demonstration, in addition to the testimony of Jesse Trepper and Claire Keating. While having different vantage points, the students all agreed that the officers had taken Jesse to the ground with excessive force, and that she had cried out in pain as the officers wrenched her arms behind her back. One student testified that she had twisted her body when she was on the ground, but only in response to one of the officers jerking her arm up behind her.
Jesse testified that she was simply trying to get through the crowd to Claire, when she was brutally taken to the ground. Jesse stated that she never willfully resisted, but had only moved in response to pain inflicted by the deputies. She also testified about the injuries she had sustained in the incident and the continuing medical treatment she had received. Jesse disputed the deputies claim that she slammed her own head into the wall, stating that she had been handcuffed and leaned against a counter when one of the officers grabbed her and struck her head against a bulletin board, breaking her glasses.
After a four day trial, the jury deliberated for half a day before returning with a verdict of not guilty to the sole remaining count of resisting arrest. "Jesse should have never been arrested, much less dragged through the criminal justice system for simply trying to stand up for her girlfriend," Jesse's lawyer, John Hamasaki stated. "The deputies had no right to put their hands on her in the first place, and thankfully the jurors came to the right verdict after careful deliberation."