Ryan Cartwright, one of five people charged in connection with an …

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INDIO — One of five people charged in connection with an Occupy Coachella Valley protest in Palm Desert pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Tuesday and was sentenced to three years probation and 40 hours of community service.

Palm Springs resident Ryan Donald Cartwright pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. The prosecution asked that an unlawful assembly charge and two counts of resisting or delaying a peace officer — all misdemeanors — be dismissed, according to court records.

Cartwright told City News Service that his attorney, Mark Foster, and Deputy District Attorney John Rodnick “put in a lot of time and effort to find something that was fair to me, and I really appreciate that.”

Cartwright and his co-defendants — Jack Lee Noftsger III, Mary Elizabeth Walker, Dustin David Powell and Stephen Mark Finger, all of Palm Desert — were arrested last Nov. 1 on suspicion of camping illegally in Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park as part of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement.

Cartwright’s co-defendants, who are free on their own recognizance, are awaiting trial and are due back in court July 6 for a settlement conference. Gale Wheat of Indio, who was also arrested in connection with the protest, pleaded guilty in February to an infraction for staying in a Palm Desert park past curfew and was ordered to pay a $125 fine.

Cartwright told City News that the Occupy movement “is still very active in the community.”

“And as we get through these court cases, we’ll focus more on solution- oriented endeavors,” he said.

Members of the group had been in Civic Center Park since Oct. 24, participating in the nationwide Occupy movement, intended to draw attention to what demonstrators argue is the growing gap between rich and poor. The defendants were arrested by deputies sent to the park to enforce the 11 p.m. curfew on Nov. 1, sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Shouse said.

The group was granted temporary use permits by the city over four days in the last week of October, which allowed them to stay overnight in the park. The city declined to issue another permit at the end of the week, and sheriff’s deputies asked the protesters to leave.

“Most of the subjects relocated to the sidewalk upon our arrival,” Shouse said then. “Seven subjects remained on the park property and were arrested.”

Two more people were arrested an hour later after they entered the park “in defiance of officers who were securing the scene,” Shouse said. Another woman was arrested later that night, he said.

City Attorney Robert Hargreaves previously said the city supports the group’s First Amendment rights, but could not allow the park to be used as a campground for an extended period of time.

“By providing Occupy Coachella Valley with a highly visible, dry, shaded space with 24-hour access to restrooms, the city accommodated the group’s First Amendment rights while protecting public health and safety and the rights of our residents and visitors to continue using Civic Center Park,” according to a city statement.


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