Updated: Berkeley's People's Park Knife-Slashing
in a Tree Gets Seriouser and Seriouser
as Midnight Matt Held Over For Trial
Describing knife wounds to the fingertips of Austin D. White, 35, allegedly inflicted by Matt Dodt, 54, as "serious," and later "very serious," Alameda Superior Court Judge Rhonda Burgess refused to lower his $100,000 bail, declined to release him on his own recognizance, and set Feb. 17 for a pre-trial hearing on an assault with a deadly weapon charge.
Dodt pleaded not guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and to aiming a laser at an officer a week before the alleged stabbing. He had been previously accused by U.C. Berkeley police of attempted murder, but the Alameda County district attorney charged him with assault, a lesser offense, in a hearing January 31, as reported in the Planet.
Just how serious those wounds are could be contested by his attorney, C. Zadik Shapiro, if he argues self-defense at a pre-trial hearing February, 17th.
Dodt's continued confinement at Santa Rita Jail, Dublin, seriously affects the hopes of the organizer of the People's Park tree-sit, Zachery Running Wolf Brown, 47, to get Dodt back to work in the tree. Running Wolf organized the longest urban tree sit in America at U.C.'s Oak Grove, 2006-08.
White told U.C. police that when he climbed Dodt’s tree, he was met by Dodt, who had descended to a lower branch. White alleged that Dodt kicked him in the throat, and then grabbed him from behind. He said he covered his neck with his hand to protect it from Dodt's knife when he was stabbed, according to the UCPD report.
Reached in his tree by this reporter the night of the alleged stabbing, Dodt claimed he only "grazed" an attacker.
White says it was clear that Dodt was aiming with a knife for his throat, which he tried to protect with his hand, saying, "You're going cut me over a tree? Really?"
Matt Dodt has a long bay area history of community service and lives in a shared house in Oakland. He worked more than 12 years for the Coalition to End Homelessness, San Francisco, before it was de-funded, where he managed their databases, according to a longtime friend. White is described by university police as a "nomad."
Before the hearing, Dodt's supporters gathered outside the court to ponder the news that a key prosecution witness, Michael Schiarone, 30, A.K.A. Sasquatch, might not testify. Sasquatch was among park west-enders who allegedly joined White at the tree, but did not go up. Talk outside the courtroom turned to conciliation among park regulars. "I can understand what he (Dodt) did," Sasquatch is reported to have said. "I might have done the same thing."
Although tempers in the park, which had peaked prior to the incident at 9 p.m. Thursday, may have cooled, the university's case has not.
Dodt could be fined up to $10,000 and be sentenced 3-12 years in state prison. According to on-line sources, the outcome of the case will hinge on how seriously White was wounded.
On the night of the alleged stabbing, an officer at the scene commented that the wounds were "serious; serious enough to require emergency room treatment."
This reporter has seen the bandages on White's fingers. The bandages were thick.
Officers found him in the park near the basketball courts Thursday night heavily bleeding after they received a call from the park for help. An ambulance was dispatched to treat him, according to the University spokesperson.
White refused treatment for 20 hours to tend to his dog who was seriously freaked out by the incident. According to the UCPD report, Drayco’s “dog was agitated and
barking," The report states that further surgery was needed.
According to Tim Lawlor, a retired Highland emergency room doctor, a deep wound could have been unintended or accidental. In an exclusive interview with the Planet, Jan. 31, White said, "one of his fingers was cut to the bone." Further surgery, according to Lawlor, could involve sewing together cut tendons or setting broken bones.
White told university police that he had been "invited" up the tree. Witnesses say White and other “Westenders” in the park had taunted Dodt for hours.
"I can't hear you from the ground," White recalls hearing the tree-sitter say by way of invitation. Dodt was the inviter, according to White.
White was not armed. But he did have the support of three others. who were also there to challenge Dodt.
Dodt said something in anger to which White replied,” you wouldn't say that if you were down here," as reported Jan. 30 in the Planet. This could have been White's idea of an "invitation."
Throughout the long siege of the crime-scene tree, Thursday, involving nearly a dozen officers and multiple squad cars, a command vehicle, and an additional police van, the northwest end of the park was lit up until 3:30 a.m. and caused Hillegass Ave. to be closed.
A steady stream of students passed by on the periphery of the crime scene Thursday and late Friday. When informed of the incident, they all sympathized with the alleged slasher and expressed admiration for his tree-sitting endurance--90 days.
Ted Friedman has covered the tree-sit in People's Park since October. This is his sixth piece on it.
Editor's Note: Corrections to this updated version including spelling of names and legal references to the charges filed.