Street Preacher Reverend Billy and Choir Director Charged With Rioting After Toad-Hat-Wearing Protest in a Chase Bank
Reverend Billy's longtime attorney, Wylie Stecklow, finds the severity of the charges "genuinely surprising." The ADA who appeared at the arraignment, Sarah Walsh, asked for $30,000 bail for both defendants, which Stecklow called "comical." (The bail request was denied; both men were released on their own recognizance instead.)
"It's comical that this young ADA, someone who's not yet admitted to the bar, stood up and asked for $30,000 bail and tried to paint Reverend Billy as a violent criminal. It's comical, except for the fact that it happened. And but for Reverend Billy having competent counsel and an excellent criminal court judge, he and Nehemiah could be sitting in jail on a ridiculously high bail."
Stecklow emphasis that the choir are "peaceful pacifist activists who do not engage in violent conduct. The district attorney knows this. I imagine this didn't go up the food chain high enough for someone to really recognize what was going on here. It was shocking." Two bank employees were also granted temporary orders of protection against both Reverend Billy and Luckett.
The attorney has one other bone to pick, and it's with the D.A.'s characterization of the toad costumes.
"When you read the complaint, notice it states these were frog masks, not frog hats," he says. "That becomes somewhat relevant when you're claiming you thought the place was being robbed. Would people put on a silly hat that exposes their face completely when they're planning to rob a bank? Would they break into song?"
In an email, Reverend Billy writes, "Must police and prosecutors look down on the 1st Amendment? Will political protest be allowed back into New York life? Big banks headquartered in New York are destroying the Earth with the billions they invest in CO2 emitting industries. We will protest vigorously. We're betting that law enforcement will return to the great liberal tradition of the city, birthplace of the ACLU, home to Woody Guthrie, Malcolm X, and Emma Goldman."
Luckett and Reverend Billy will return to court December 9. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
The press release from Reverend Billy and the full criminal complaint are on the following page. We also threw in another picture of toads.