An Occupy Charleston protester charged with trespassing at Marion Square entered a no-contest plea Tuesday morning in Charleston Municipal Court and was set free by Judge Thomas Morrison.
Attorneys for Nathaniel Williams, 21, of Charleston said he entered the plea because he wanted to travel out of state to visit family but was prohibited from doing so under the terms of his personal recognizance bond.
Morrison accepted the plea and sentenced Williams to time served during an overnight stay in the county jail and $55 in court costs.
Williams had no comment after the judge's ruling. He was among 10 Occupy Charleston protesters arrested about 1 a.m. Nov. 23 in the park, which has a curfew of 11 p.m.
Police arrived at the park about 12:15 a.m. and advised the Occupy Charleston gathering that they were in violation of the curfew. Demonstrators were given an opportunity to leave before being arrested, according to court testimony.
Another court date for the remaining nine defendants, also charged with park trespassing, was set for Jan. 3. In the meantime, they are banned from Marion Square.
At an initial hearing on Nov. 23, Municipal Judge Joseph Mendelsohn gave the 10 defendants personal recognizance bonds and stipulated that they stay away from the park until the case is resolved.
On Tuesday, Occupy Charleston attorney Christopher Inglese asked Morrison to allow the nine defendants to go to the square, but Morrison said only Mendelsohn can lift that restriction. The Occupy Charleston attorneys plan to go back to court Thursday to ask Mendelsohn to allow their clients to go to Marion Square.
Also on Tuesday, attorney William Hamilton filed a motion asking that a separate but related case against Justin R. Honea, 27, be dismissed. Honea was arrested Nov. 22 for "prohibited activity" in the park a day earlier.
Honea and some other Occupy Charleston members were at the park past curfew, but Honea said that after discussions with police, they were assured that their presence there was OK as long as they were not camping, Honea said.
Honea, the only member of Occupy Charleston who spoke to the press Tuesday, said he was arrested in the early evening while on his bike a block away from his house. He planned to attend a City Council meeting that night, he said.
"I have been utterly shocked at the way this was handled," he said.
Police said Honea was arrested leaving the park because he was camping there. He was spotted near Reid and Nassau streets and taken into custody, police said.