A judge Thursday sentenced four tree-sitters who tried to save a grove of century-old oaks and sycamores in the foothills above Arcadia to community service.
Each of them pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor trespassing charge, ending a legal battle that began eight months ago when the group known as the “Arcadia 4” occupied trees to block Los Angeles County Department of Public Works crews from cutting down the 11-acre grove to create a dumping site for mud scooped out of Santa Anita reservoir.
John Quigley, a veteran of such protests, and Travis Jochimsen were sentenced on Thursday in Alhambra Municipal Court to 20 days of community service with a nonprofit organization of their choice. In an earlier proceeding, Andrea Bowers and Julia Posin pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor trespassing charge and were sentenced to 10 days of community service.
On Thursday, in a statement read on the courthouse steps after sentencing, Quigley, 50, claimed his actions on Jan. 12 “were out of necessity to defend the public good and our natural heritage,” and that the removal of what he called the “Arcadia Woodlands” was “a crime against nature and the people of Southern California.”
“I’m proud of us,” added Posin, 23.
Quigley’s attorney, Colleen Flynn, said the pleas will be dismissed after one year. “It’s quite a victory in light of the fact that the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office originally wanted jail time and over $20,000 in fines and restitution,” Flynn said.
Prosecutors dropped more serious misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and obstructing, delaying or resisting a police officer in lawful execution of his or her duties, Flynn said.
After the department razed the trees, residents from adjacent neighborhoods organized a community-based organization called the Urbanwild Network, which is dedicated to seeking alternatives to the destruction of woodlands across Los Angeles County.
A week ago, Public Works crews hauled 3,000 cubic yards of sediment out of the reservoir, which was last dredged in 1993. The 83-year-old facility is a crucial component of the county's aging flood-control system and is used to recharge underground aquifers that the cities of Sierra Madre and Arcadia rely on for drinking water.
A river runs through Los Angeles. Seriously.
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-- Louis Sahagun
Photo: A tree is removed from Arcadia after tree-sitters were evicted. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times