Criminal charges filed against a Penn State graduate student accused of damaging several university buildings with chalked anti-sweatshop messages were dropped yesterday afternoon.
Centre County District Judge Jonathan Grine cited lack of evidence as a reason for dismissing the criminal mischief charges involving tampering with private property against Olivia Guevara (graduate – labor studies and employment).
The university alleged that Guevara and six other students wrote anti-sweatshop messages in chalk on six university buildings Sept. 27. University spokesman Bill Mahon said Sunday that the chalk scratched the doors of the buildings.
After viewing clips from a surveillance tape taken at Old Main that night, Grine said Guevara was only clearly identifiable in one instance. Grine said he recognized Guevara writing on a column in front of the building.
Andrew Shubin, Guevara’s attorney, argued that there was no evidence indicating actual damage to the column and there was no evidence proving that Guevara was involved in chalking of the other buildings.
Roxanne Snider, a Penn State University police officer, said she did not have pictures of the column in question because a janitorial service was washing away the chalk by the time she arrived at Old Main. No video footage or pictures of the students chalking the other buildings was presented.
Shubin also argued that the court was selectively prosecuting Guevara because other groups that had advertised by chalking university property had not been charged. He showed pictures of chalked messages on campus from MTVU and Lionmenus.com.
Snider said she did not pursue the other incidents because they were not reported to the police department.
Guevara, an activist who has in the past petitioned the university to adopt an anti-sweatshop policy, has already been fined $450 by Penn State’s judicial affairs for damage the university said she caused to the doors of Old Main. Guevara said she also received a citation on her academic record.
The decision of judicial affairs would stand regardless of the decision of the court. Guevara has already exhausted her appeals through the university.
Mahon said judicial affairs and criminal court are two separate entities and a discrepancy in rulings is not unheard of.