Prosecutors may drop charges against more than 40 Yale University anti-apartheid demonstrators following a New Haven court's dismissal of four similar cases Tuesday, the district attorney handling the cases said yesterday.
The four protesters were among 322 Yale students and supporters arrested this Spring during a series of demonstrations which called on the university to divest of more than $350 million worth of holdings in companies doing business in South Africa.
Those arrested face public disturbance charges, carrying a maximum $90 fine.
The decision came the day before former Columbia Law School Dean Benno C. Schmidt Jr. took over the reins from Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti, who will become head of baseball's National League.
A Superior Court Judge, Edgar Bassick, ruled the State had insufficient grounds to try the four protesters, but added that this did not mean automatic dismissal for the other arrested demonstrators.
The four--Jeannine Pinto, 24, Christopher Gray, 35, John Hamilton, 33, and Deborah Elkin, 34,-- are not students at Yale. They were arrested during an April 22 protest.
Because of the dismissal, State district Attorney David Gold said prosecutors will review whether to drop charges against the remaining 44 defendants.
Students praised the decision saying that it showed they had the right to protest. the decision means "our right to speak out and and do what we think is right can not be bought off by a university trying to silence our message," said Beth Pardo, a Yale law student still facing trial for participating in the protests.
The State offered each of the 322 arrested at the protests the option of paying a $25 fine in exchange for dismissing charges against them. All but 48 had their charges dropped.