CHICAGO, May 5, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After nearly two years, the trespassing charges pressed against dozens of pro-life protesters at the University of Notre Dame graduation ceremony featuring pro-abortion U.S. President Barack Obama have been dropped.
On Thursday, Michael Dvorak, St. Joseph County, Indiana prosecutor, dismissed the criminal trespass charges that he has pressed against almost all of the pro-life protesters, known as the “ND88.”
The individuals were arrested for trespassing when they entered Notre Dame’s campus in peaceful and prayerful protest against the University’s bestowing honors on President Barack Obama at the 2009 Commencement. Dvorak dropped the charges as part of an agreement between the Thomas More Society and the University.
“This is a big step forward and a victory for the pro-life cause,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society and a 1965 Notre Dame graduate.
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins had outraged pro-life leaders across America by refusing to request leniency for the pro-lifers. Legal experts said that the leniency request likely would have been heeded. Each convicted trespasser faced up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
One investigation raised further concerns about the university’s handling of the affair by revealing that, contrary to Jenkins’ assertions, the school had previously treated other trespassers, including pro-gay protesters, with more lenience. In addition, pro-Obama protesters witnessed “trespassing” the campus on the same day were not arrested.
Brejcha noted, “We are appreciative of the steps that Notre Dame has taken, including successive visits by University President John Jenkins, C.S.C., and other campus leaders to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., both in 2010 and 2011, to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the creation of new and significant pro-life initiatives on campus.
“Those who share pro-life convictions may differ on tactics and approaches, but they best serve their sacred cause when they work together to secure the common good for all human beings, born and unborn alike, rather than carrying on as courtroom antagonists.”
Tom Dixon, South Bend, Indiana attorney and Thomas More Society special counsel, had led the defense over the last two years, during which the parties engaged in vigorous litigation, including extensive discovery proceedings.
According to a Thomas More Society press release, the parties remain in “profound” disagreement over the 2009 Commencement, but have decided to put their differences behind them, to cease battling in court, and “to affirm a commitment to the fundamental proposition that each and every human life is sacred, from conception until natural death, no matter whether rich or poor, humble or exalted, wanted or ‘unwanted.’”
The press release also said: “both parties have pledged not to rehash the events of the past, but on the contrary, to recognize each other’s pro-life efforts and to work together to find ways to increase those efforts and maximize their impact on the nation’s contentious, ongoing debate over abortion policy.”