Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oakland Pastor Jailed for Holding Pro-life Sign

Sent in by Bill May from Catholics for the Common Good:

Judge Exceeded Authority
Walter and Lori Hoye Courageous Witnesses for Life

Walter Hoye is supported by Catholics for the Common Good (CCG) Pro-life activist
This afternoon, Friday, March 20, appearing slight and gaunt from his 40-Days-for-Life fasting, Rev. Walter Hoye was calmly led from the Alameda County courtroom to begin a thirty day jail sentence. The judge denied the defense's motion to stay the sentence pending appeal and remanded Walter into custody. Even people convicted of serious felonies facing long prison sentences are routinely granted bail or released on their own recognizance pending appeal. This case involved a simple misdemeanor -- an unjust conviction with no victim or evidence.

Rev. Hoye's crime was standing outside of an abortion clinic with the sign reading "Jesus [God] loves you and your baby. Let us help you." See the background details on the case.

Last month, the judge initially gave Walter three years probation with the condition that he stay more than 100 yards from the abortion clinic where he was arrested. When he told the judge that he would not be willing to forfeit his first amendment rights, Judge Hing added a 30 day jail sentence with the option for alternative community service, and a $1,130 fine. The judge was stymied when both the prosecution and defense lawyers told him he could not impose a condition of probation unless Hoye accepted it. The sentencing was continued until today.

What happened today, stunned everyone in the courtroom. Even though both the prosecution and defense agreed that Judge Hing could not impose a condition of probation on Walter without his consent, he insisted on giving him the same sentence anyway. He said the jail time, the fine, and the conditions of probation are all in effect -- immediately -- something that will surely be overturned on appeal (but unfortunately after Walter has already served his time in jail). This is an outrage.

The District Attorney tried to support the stay-away order with outlandish reasoning that compared it those issued in domestic violence cases to protect victims. Allison Aranda with Life Legal Defense Foundation responded that there was no victim in this case and the judge was asking Walter to stay away from public streets and sidewalks, forfeiting his first amendment rights. In addition, his lawyers made the point that judge did not have authority to impose restrictions on him that are more stringent than those contained in the anti-sidewalk-counseling ordinance under which he was charged.

Before the sentencing, a crowd of about 80 supporters prayed over Walter and his wife, Lori, in the hallway outside of the courtroom. We also prayed lovingly for the abortion clinic owners, staff, and supporters who jeered and mocked as we prayed.

The way Walter has been treated by the DA and the Judge is starting to awaken the African-American clergy in Oakland to the targeting of Black babies for abortion. Additional African-American pro-life leadership is starting to emerge.

It is important to spread the word about this injustice across the nation by forwarding this email. A broad coalition of organizations will soon have "Free Walter Hoye" tee shirts available help publicize this injustice. There will be more information available on next steps over the next few days. Stay tuned.

We continue to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Walter and his family.

For the Common Good,

Bill May, Chairman
Catholics for the Common Good