Daily Cal thieves will not be prosecuted, district attorney says

CALIFORNIA — Two University of Californiaat Berkeley students who were arrested for stealing 1,300 copies of TheDaily Californian in two separate thefts last month will not facecriminal prosecution, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said.John Adams, assistant district attorney for Alameda County, said hedecided not to pursue charges against the students, Wale Sean Forrester andAluma Raymond Nkele, because he said he hoped they would face a stricterpunishment through the university. “I declined the chargesbecause I thought that was a better solution,” Adams said. “Theuniversity can charge them more than I can with aninfraction.”Adams said if he had decided to pursue charges againstthe students they would have been charged with a petty theft infraction, whichcarries a fine of about $25, he said. He compared the punishment to a trafficticket and said the students needed to face a harsher punishment for the thefts.Forrester and Nkele were arrested in connection with newspaper theftsMay 7-8, in which an unknown number of UC Berkeley students trashed more than3,000 copies of The Daily Cal in protest of what they said was biasedarticle about a black football player who had been arrested on assault charges.After the first day of thefts, The Daily Cal staff members stakedout their distribution bins and were able to identify two of the suspectsstealing newspapers, Forrester and Nkele. The students were arrested byuniversity police on May 8 and cited with criminal theft. University police saidForrester was involved in stealing 1,000 newspapers on Sproul Plaza and thatNkele took 300 copies near the Valley Life Sciences building. Universityofficials said the school is investigating the theft but they could not releasethe details of the investigation. The severity of the punishment has not beendecided, and officials refused to comment on a likely punishment for thestudents. University spokesperson Marie Felde said the students wouldprobably have a hearing by the university’s judicial affairs officer todetermine a punishment. However, she refused to comment on whether or not thehearing process for Forrester and Nkele had begun. “This isconsidered a very serious offense,” she said. “From the chancelloron down, newspaper theft has been condemned.” Eric Schewe, editorof The Daily Cal, said he was upset the district attorney was not goingto pursue the charges against Forrester and Nkele.“It’s ashame they dropped the charges because it doesn’t uphold the universalityof free speech,” he said. “With only university charges itdiminishes the significance of the deed.”Last fall, Berkeley MayorTom Bates was charged with stealing 1,000 copies of the newspaper in his attemptto stifle an editorial endorsement for his mayoral opponent. He was fined $100by the Alameda County District Attorney. Adams said he decided to chargeBates with a criminal infraction because it was the only option for punishment.He said it was a different scenario with the students because they could receivea more severe punishment from the school. “Mayor Bateswasn’t a student, I had no other choice,” Adams said. “Ididn’t have the option of sending him back to student conduct.”Forrester has denied stealing any copies of The Daily Cal and said hewas falsely accused of the theft because of his participation in a protestagainst the newspaper. Forrester was among a group of protesters whostormed into the newspaper office May 6 –7 to demand an apology for thearticle about Cal football player Michael Gray. They accused the newspaper staffof writing a biased article that depicted a stereotype that all black men arecriminals.Forrester said he is a close friend of Gray and he was angry about what he called biased coverage of his arrest.“It was a very one-sided story,” Forrester said. “Theydidn’t get information from the other side. They used a mug shot assumingMichael Gray was guilty.”Rong-Gong Lin, II, the former editor ofThe Daily Cal, said the article should have mentioned that reporterscould not get a hold of Gray for comment. But he said the newspaper would notapologize.Nkele could not be reached for comment.

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