Two Republican Party activists arrested for passing out literature at the party's Salt Lake County convention last month were arraigned on trespassing charges Monday.
Tom Draschil and Ruth Robinson were arrested after an altercation before the convention opened at the Salt Palace on April 18.Both pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Monday before 3rd District Judge Sheila McCleve and attorney Matt Hilton told the judge he intends to file a motion to have the charges dismissed.
The trespassing charge is an infraction, ranked less than a misdemeanor, and carries a maximum jail time of 30 days.
Draschil, of Provo, and Robinson, of Riverton, are members of the Republican Assembly, a conservative GOP watchdog group affiliated with the Eagle Forum.
They were handing out literature before the opening of the convention and, according to witness accounts, were ordered to stop by county GOP chairman Robert Quist.
Convention bylaws bar non-delegates and groups who haven't paid for booth space from passing out literature, according to Quist, and neither Draschil, a former congressional candidate, nor Robinson qualified on either count.
Draschil said Monday after his arraignment that the arrest was ironic because he'd put away his flyers and was discussing free speech and other First Amendment rights with Quist when he was arrested.
Two charges, disrupting a public meeting and interfering with a police officer, have already been dropped, Draschil said, leaving only the trespassing charge, which he labeled "humiliating and embarrassing."
"We're going to fight this," Draschil told a group of about a dozen that appeared in court with him. "We can't allow this kind of police state action to go on. This is offensive to me and it ought to be offensive to everyone."
"They want me to just pay a fine and go away. We're not going to be bullied into paying a fine," said Draschil.
Robinson was advised by her attorney Karlynn Hinman, not to comment, instead handing out a written statement noting, "I am facing a criminal charge. My attorney has advised me to make no comment about the situation other than to say that I am not guilty."
Hinman said Robinson's arrest was unnecessary.
"My client wasn't doing anything," Hinman said. "When she saw Tom being handcuffed she told the deputy something to the effect of, `If you're going to arrest Tom, you might as well arrest me, too.' And, they did."