Couple's protest charges dismissed
RALEIGH — A Wake County judge has dismissed charges against a husband and wife who were among more than 900 people arrested during the mass protests at the N.C. General Assembly.
A week after District Court Judge Joy Hamilton found a retired factory worker guilty of misdemeanor charges, she dismissed similar charges against 66-year-old Douglas Ryder and 71-year-old Vicki Ryder of Durham on Friday.
Hamilton didn't give a reason for dismissing the charges at Friday's hearing. She dismissed trespassing charges and failure to disperse charges at the close of the state's case. The judge waited until after the defense put on its evidence to dismiss charges accusing the Ryders of violating building rules.
Hamilton was brought out of retirement to handle the massive load of cases.
The Ryders, who were tried together on Friday, each took the stand and elaborated on why they were part of the demonstration in early May.
Douglass Ryder, a Vietnam veteran who moved to North Carolina almost two years ago with his wife, said he joined the demonstrators May 6 because he was concerned about new policies and laws adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly.
"I went to bring voice to the voiceless," Ryder said, rejecting prosecution assertions that he went inside the Legislative Building on May 6 with the intention of being arrested.
So far, only about two dozen protesters have taken Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby up on his offer to defer prosecution in exchange for community service. Charges against a journalist swept up in the police dragnet were dismissed.
That leaves more than 900 people with charges still pending, potentially setting the stage for months of trials.
About 30 protesters were in court with the Ryders on Friday awaiting their trials, but because the Ryders' case took all day, those trials were rescheduled for Oct. 28.