Six religious leaders from the Kansas City and St. Louis areas who were found guilty of misdemeanor trespassing in the state Senate's visitors' gallery in May 2014 were placed on one year unsupervised probation during a sentencing hearing Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court.
Emmett Baker Jr., Lloyd Fields, Riccordo Lucas, Susan McCann, Wallace Hartsfield and Ester Holzendor were among 22 people found guilty by a Cole County Jury last August. The group had been charged after disrupting the Senate's debate on Medicaid expansion by singing and chanting in the gallery following a protest rally in the Capitol Rotunda.
However, in January, Jefferson City ministers William (W.T.) Edmonson and John Bennett were among 16 of these religious leaders pardoned by then-Gov. Jay Nixon after their convictions. The leaders had applied for the governor's pardons.
Besides Bennett and Edmonson, those religious leaders pardoned were Tony Caldwell, Chaunia Chandler, Dawn Hickman, Steve Houpe, Vernon Howard Jr., Tony Johnson, Karlous Kalu, David Kingsley, Sam Mann, Donna McDaniel, Kenneth Mosley, Tex Sample, James Tindall and Rodney Williams. They were mostly from Kansas City and St. Louis.
Only the six who were not pardoned could still be sentenced.
During Thursday's proceedings, Judge Dan Green said he found the jury's verdict — which required the defendants to pay a fine — harsh and excessive, and he ordered defendants to not pay fines. The only condition he imposed for their probation was to not repeat the acts they were found guilty of at trial.
Jessie Fisher, of Grandview, is the 23rd and last member of this group to be charged, facing misdemeanor charges of obstructing government operations and trespassing. Green set a status hearing for the case next Wednesday.
Three Jefferson City lawyers — state Rep. Jay Barnes; his father, Randall Barnes; and Rod Chapel, president of the NAACP's state and Jefferson City organizations — provided the defense for the 22 in last summer's trial.
The group felt they had done nothing wrong and should not have been charged or tried, Chapel said, and he added they are "firm supporters of the expansion of Medicaid and believe that in order for that issue to get the attention that it needs, everyone has got to pay attention to it as an important issue."
Chapel noted these rulings will not keep these individuals from protesting at the Capitol again, and they are still considering how that will be done in the future.