Judge Donald Kohl ruled Brent Stafford not guilty of trespassing after the March 17 at Francis Howell North.
Kohl approved by defense attorney David Roland, of the Freedom Center of Missouri. Roland cross-examined prosecution witnesses, but had not yet presented defense witnesses.
“Those in authority can’t trespass unless they are specifically ordered to leave,” Kohl said while giving his ruling. “And then they have to be given an opportunity to leave.”
The St. Charles County Republican Central Committee had rented out the building, and Brent Stafford was a committee member. Roland said the city had not shown that Stafford, a Central Committee member, understood he had to leave the grounds, had been ordered to leave the grounds, or was given opportunity to leave after being ordered to do so.
Roland said the city of didn’t show either that Stafford was specifically ordered to leave or was allowed to leave.
Stafford was arrested for trespassing after the first St. Charles County Caucus was abruptly closed down. Three officers testified during the hearing that the crowd got threatening, but most dispersed after being asked to leave.
Stafford remained in the parking lot, trying to reconvene a meeting he said was improperly shut down, standing on a chair.
However, he was arrested by St. Peters Police Officers.
St. Peters Prosecutor Lorna Frahm said in rebuttal to Roland’s motion for acquittal that it wasn’t reasonable for 30 police officers to give specific orders to more than 1,000 people in the crowd. However, most of them obeyed by leaving, she said.
“Once they arrested Mr. Stafford the crowd disbursed,” Frahm said. The officers were concerned only with public safety, she said.
After the trial, Roland said, “It sounds like the judge focused on him not knowingly remaining where he was not allowed. He wasn’t given a specific order, and then he wasn’t given an opportunity to leave."
Officers said that they did not order him to leave as he was standing on the chair, but arrested him for disobeying orders to leave, and they felt everyone knew they were to leave the area.
Stafford said he felt vindicated, but wished he didn’t have to go through the trouble.
“It wasn’t my actions that put me in this situation,” Stafford said after the ruling. "It was the and Brian Spencer that put me in this situation. They weren’t following the rules and that put me in this position.”
Stafford said Dokes and Spencer tried to control the outcome of the March 17 Caucus, thus angering the crowd and necessitating his actions.
Dokes said he was happy for Stafford.
“If he feels like his rights were violated, I’m glad that he won,” Dokes said.