Thursday, August 03, 2006
Rainbow Family fines, cases settled
By Steve Lipsher
Denver Post Staff Writer
About 100 people cited for petty offenses while attending the Rainbow
Family gathering near Steamboat Springs last month had their fines
paid by an unnamed benefactor and their court records cleared.
An attorney for several participants who had been ticketed himself
called the federal-court settlement a legal victory, but a spokesman
for the U.S. attorney's office in Denver said the group of Rainbows
received the same deal as others who previously pleaded guilty.
Those cited were ordered to pay $15 in fines and $25 in court fees
to resolve their cases even though they never showed up for court,
and someone identified as "a local philanthropist" paid
the bills, according to officials.
"The fact that the U.S. attorney did not want to prosecute
any of these cases shows how frivolous the charges were to begin
with," said Don Wirtshafter, an attorney from Ohio who received
court permission to practice in Colorado to represent fellow participants.
But Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, termed
that description a mischaracterization, saying that each of the
defendants in essence pleaded guilty to the minor citations as part
of the collateral forfeiture, regardless of who paid.
"There is nothing different or unusual about this," Dorschner
Offenses, including drug charges and interference with law enforcement,
were not included in the settlement, both sides reported.
The annual Rainbow gathering, a fortnight-long counterculture bacchanal
that this year took place in the Routt National Forest's Big Red
Park, attracted as many as 15,000 modern-day hippies.
Law-enforcement officials issued more than 500 citations, the majority
for "illegal use and occupancy," a legal catch-all based
on the fact that the leaderless group never obtained a special-use
permit to gather in large numbers.
"It's clear that (the) incident command's intention was simply
to harass and intimidate legitimate forest users and chill the momentum
of the growing Rainbow Family," Wirtshafter said.
Staff writer Steve Lipsher can be reached at 970-513-9495 or firstname.lastname@example.org.