Court Jails 2 Ex-Students For Assault at Univ. Hall
A Middlesex County Superior Court jury yesterday found two former Harvard students- members of the Progressive Labor Party- guilty of assault and battery on Dean Watson during last year's University Hall seizure.
Judge John W. Coddaire sentenced the two- John C. Berg, a graduate student and James T. Kilbreth IH, both dismissed from the University last June for their role in the April occupation- to nine-month prison terms.
Coddaire denied their plea for a stay of execution, which they had requested to appeal their convictions, and court officials conveyed the handcuffed students to the State House of Correction.
Near the end of the two-day trial yesterday morning, Coddaire ordered the courtroom cleared of about 50 spectators after stating that they were disrupting the hearing. The spectators, most of them supporters of the defen-dants, resisted non-violently as court guards and plainclothesmen pushed them out of the courthouse.
Twenty uniformed policemen arrived and drove the spectators away from the courthouse area. Four of the spectators were arrested on assault and battery charges.
The conviction of Berg and Kilbreth followed a similar conviction in Superior Court last November of Carl D. Offner '64- a third-year graduate student dismissed for his participation in the occupation- on a charge of grabbing Watson's elbow. Offner, who was sentenced to four months, is now appealing his conviction.
Kilbreth rectified at Offner's trial that Offner was not guilty of the charge, but acknowledged that he himself had "seized [Watson's] arm in order to get him out of the building."
One month after Offner's trial, a Superior Court Grand Jury indicted Kilbreth and Berg. Watson had charged Berg with ejecting him from University Hall before the Committee of 15 last May.
Watson said at the trial that Berg had grabbed him near the south corridor of University Hall and shoved him out of the building into a crowd of people massed on the building's steps. He added that he had no knowledge of Kilbreth's assaulting him, and the prosecutor entered as evidence a transcript of Kilbreth's former testimony.
Berg and Kilbreth- who conducted their own defense- contested the validity of Kilbreth's testimony on the grounds that he had not been informed of his constitutional rights prior to questioning. They added that Watson was left uninjured by the "assault"- a statement which Watson had already confirmed.
Ruled Out of Order
After several minutes of Berg's summary remarks. Coddaire ruled him out of order, but Berg continued to speak. Four court guards grabbed Berg, and others held Kilbreth as he jumped out of his seat.
Many of the spectators began to hiss the judge, who asked the guards to clear the court. Earlier when they had hissed, he had warned them that they would be asked to leave if they did so again.
Coddaire then directed the jury to deliberate the case, explaining that "the intentional and unjustified use of force- however slight is a battery." He told them to focus your attention only on the issues in the case, only on the charges of the case."
Prosecuting attorney Douglas Rowe asked for the maximum two-and-a-half-year sentence because Berg and Kilbreth were prepared to use "whatever personal violence was nessary" to eject Watson from University Hall.
Asked For No Sentence
Kilbreth asked for no sentence, saying that "never before in the history of the Commonwealth has there been an assault-and-battery hearing without injuny being sustained."
One of the four spectators arrested outside the trial John T. Berlow '71, a member of PL dismissed last year for his participation in the University Hall seizure said that the charges against the four are "totally false, even in terms of technical law."
The four released yesterday afternoon on $300 bail and recognizance after arraignment in Third District Court- face possible prison terms of several years' duration when their trial continues next Wednesday.