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Biting testimony at day two of Wheeler hearings

By David Scharfenberg
Saturday October 05, 2002

Bites, attempted bites and legal skirmishes over evidence were at the heart of the second day of student conduct hearings for UC Berkeley pro-Palestinian protester Roberto Hernandez. 

University police officer Billy Brashear testified that Hernandez, one of 79 activists arrested in the April 9 takeover of the Wheeler Hall foyer, bit him on the hand during his arrest. 

“It hurt really bad,” said Brashear, who added that Hernandez admitted to the bite during a conversation several minutes after the arrest. 

But lawyers for Hernandez, who faces penalties ranging up to expulsion, emphasized during cross-examination that there is no evidence on police videos of the alleged bite or Hernandez’s alleged confession. 

They also noted that there are no photos of bite marks on Brashear’s skin. 

The officer said there were no marks because he was wearing thick leather gloves designed to protect against sharp objects. 

Hernandez faces five student conduct charges, ranging from disturbing the peace to assaulting an officer. His hearing began Monday and continued Friday. Testimony was not complete by Friday evening and is expected to continue sometime in the next three weeks. 

Hernandez, who has not yet testified, is the first of 32 students who will face conduct hearings. Nine students chose to skip hearings and accept a one-semester probation.  

The remaining 38 protesters who took part in the Wheeler Hall takeover, demanding that the nine-campus UC system divest from Israel, were not students. 

All 79 activists faced criminal charges in the wake of the protest, but the Alameda County District Attorney’s office dropped the charges in June. 

University police officer Ken Torres testified, before Brashear, that Hernandez attempted to bite him, pointing to a police video as evidence. 

The video shows Hernandez head moving toward Torres’s arm, but the view is blocked at the last moment. Defense attorneys contended that Hernandez’s head movement was simply an instinctive response to pain holds used by police officers during the arrest. 

“You don’t know that Mr. Hernandez attempted to bite you,” said defense attorney Noreen Farrell, addressing Torres. 

“From what I saw on the tape, I believe he did,” Torres responded. 

University officials and defense attorneys spent much of the hearing wrangling over an attempt by Hernandez to invalidate police videos, police reports and other key pieces of evidence. 

Hernandez’s lawyers contend that the Alameda County Superior Court, under the terms of the June deal to drop all criminal charges, sealed the videos and police reports on Hernandez and the other 78 protesters. That evidence, lawyers contend, cannot be used in student conduct hearings or in any other forum. 

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Stuart Hing testified Friday that defense lawyers are misinterpreting the June agreement. 

“They’re trying to undo the agreement I agreed to,” Hing said. 

Defense lawyers said Hing is misinterpreting the agreement and they are pursuing the matter in court. 


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