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COURT SETS $5 FINES FOR PROTESTERS SOME WASTE-SITE FOES HAVE CASES DISMISSED

Disorderly-conduct charges against eight nuclear-waste site protesters ended in minor fines or dismissal in Caneadea late Wednesday, while a Cortland County prosecutor flatly refused to take 20 more cases to court.

Caneadea Town Justice Carl Chamberlain dismissed the charges against farm owner Chuck Barnes and levied $5 fines against five other protesters who pleaded guilty during arraignments that drew a crowd of nearly 100 people late Wednesday.

A trial was scheduled for another man who pleaded not guilty, and an eighth defendant will be allowed to submit a plea by mail.

All eight had been arrested for obstructing vehicle or pedestrian traffic, a violation that could have drawn $250 fines and sentences of up to 15 days in jail.

The arrests were made Jan. 16 at Pinkerton and East Hill roads, as the Allegany County Non-Violent Action Group tried to keep members of a state siting commission from inspecting a proposed location for a low-level radioactive waste facility.

Town officials moved Caneadea's fire trucks out of the town building, to make room for the crowd of supporters at Wednesday night's session.

The charge against Barnes, who owns a farm on the proposed site, was dismissed in the interests of justice at the request of attorney David Pullen.

Fines of $5 -- augmented by state-mandated $25 surcharges and a $2 surcharge for the crime victims compensation program -- were levied against Paul Curcio, Dennis Butts, Susan Hillman, Norman Ives and Michael Babcock, who pleaded guilty.

All but Mrs. Hillman had prepared statements indicating they would continue their opposition to the state plan. All were represented by attorney Jerry Fowler.

A bench trial was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 28 for Klaus Wuersig after his plea of not guilty, and Robert Albrecht will submit a plea by mail.

The next court date for protest groups fighting the state's radioactive waste storage project comes late Friday in West Almond Town Court, where Justice Roy Hanks will hear pleas from three persons charged with trespass and 28 charged with disorderly conduct.

In Cortland County, disorderly conduct charges against 20 protesters have been dismissed outright by a district attorney who blamed the state for provoking public demonstrations and arrests.

In a letter to Gov. Cuomo, Cortland County District Attorney Richard Shay said he will not prosecute the protesters who blocked state officials attempting to inspect two sites in Cortland County.

Shay described the inspections as "simply ludicrous . . . unnecessary . . . and designed, apparently, to provoke a confrontation."

"There seems to be no perception, at your level," Shay wrote the governor, "of what this process is doing to the fabric of this county."

Shay echoed the sentiments of Cortland County Sheriff Duane Whiteman in complaining that state police have refused to "provide the first line of assistance to the siting commission agents."

A spokeswoman for the commission said the inspections of all five sites, including three in Allegany County, are necessary before additional tests can be carried out.

These studies will help the commission choose two or three smaller sites for year-long studies leading to the selection of a final site or sites for the waste facility, spokeswoman Susan Baranski said, adding that state police will probably be involved in the process.

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