Jury Selection and Trial Postponed Until January 29 for Three Gay Catholics Arrested at Bishops’ Conference Last Year

Soulforce Press Release: January 25, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592

(Washington, DC) – The jury trial for three gay Catholics who were arrested in November at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was postponed until Wednesday, January 29, 2003. The trial was originally scheduled for Friday, January 24, but a prospective jury was unavailable.

Rather than having jury selection begin on Monday, the defendants have to wait two additional days because the government (prosecution) obtained a continuance based on the argument that their witnesses were not available on Monday or Tuesday.

"Given that the defendants willingly traveled across the country to appear before the court, it is terribly inconvenient that they now have to wait almost a week for the trial to take place," commented Mr. Joe Cosgrove, a nationally known civil rights attorney assisting on the case. Mr. Cosgrove has represented activist Dan Berrigan and actor Martin Sheen when they have been arrested.

Kara Speltz, Ken Einhaus, and Mike Perez, the defendants in the case, had been denied the Eucharist (Communion) during the Bishops’ Mass on November 11, 2002 at the National Shrine for no apparent reason. They entered the lobby of the hotel the next day to ask any bishop present to serve them the Eucharist. No bishops came forward.

Because they allegedly refused to obey the order by the District of Columbia police to leave the hotel, Kara, Ken, and Mike were charged with "unlawful entry," a criminal misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a $350 fine.

"I flew in from Seattle for the trial, and I am so exhausted and stressed out from all of this. I am willing to wait until Wednesday for the jury trial we are entitled to under the law because I know we are doing the right thing," said Mike Perez, one of the defendants in the case. "If only the church had done the ‘right thing’ and served us communion when we asked the first or the second time, none of this would be taking place."

Kara, Ken, and Mike were all in Washington D.C in November with Soulforce, a national movement committed to ending spiritual violence committed by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce was at the Conference of Catholic Bishops for the third year in a row to protest of the churches anti-gay policies and teachings, and exercise their Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

Jury selection begins at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, January 29, 2003, at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, (Moultrie Courthouse), at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W. The trial will be in Courtroom 211, on the second floor, before the Honorable Judge Robert Rigsby, and is expected to continue through Thursday. The charge of unlawful entry is a criminal misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and fines of up to $350.

MEDIA: Media are welcome in the courtroom, and pictures can be taken outside after the proceedings. Press packets containing pictures and additional information are available by calling 717-278-0592.

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

For more information, see www.soulforce.org