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Mining protesters' $25K bail reasonable, magistrate says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Lincoln County magistrate says bails set for 20 anti-mountaintop removal activists arrested on misdemeanor charges this weekend aren't too high.

About 50 members of the group Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival disrupted operations at Patriot Coal's Hobet Mine on Saturday by walking onto the property and climbing atop equipment. Police charged 20 people with trespassing and obstruction after they linked arms and refused to move, according to criminal complaints filed in Lincoln County Magistrate Court.

Lincoln Magistrate Mona Snodgrass set a $25,000 bail for each protester. If convicted, the protesters face up to six months in jail and no more than a $500 fine.

RAMPS spokesman Matthew Louis-Rosenberg criticized the bails and said they were too unreasonable. His group would have to raise half a million dollars to free the activists for only midlevel offenses, he said.

Snodgrass was not working Tuesday and did not return phone calls left at her home.

Another Lincoln County magistrate, Sophia Tully, said she couldn't speak for Snodgrass, but Tully said Tuesday she doesn't believe the bail amounts are too high. Arraigning magistrates have the discretion to set the amounts according to law, she said.

"The law supports reasons why we can set the bail how we do," Tully said.

She said some of the protesters are from out of state and the bails keep them from leaving. All 20 remained in the Western Regional Jail Tuesday evening.

Tully said the protesters could put up property, pay $25,000 in cash or seek bail bondsmen to be released.

Her court fielded questions from the public and reports about the protesters for most of Tuesday, she said.

"We are not treating anyone in a discriminatory manner," she said.

The protesters will have a chance to have their bails lowered during the next docket filing period, she said. Snodgrass will see half of the protesters on Aug. 9, and Tully will see the remaining on Aug. 15.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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