Delia Garza

Press Statement on UT Austin Protestor Arrests

delivered 30 April 2024


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

I'm Delia Garza. I'm the Travis County attorney. We are the office that prosecutes misdemeanors in Travis County.

I'm joined by Lucio Del Toro, who's my first assistant, who leads our Criminal Division, and who is our trial director for our Criminal Division; and Leslie Dippel, who is our Executive County Attorney, who leads our Civil Division [because] the County Attorney also has a -- a civil side as well.

I wanted to provide an update on events occurring at the UT campus based on the information we have at this time. Seventy-nine people were arrested [audio feed interrupted]. Our office has received 65 cases for criminal trespass. We continue to review as they come in into our office but this large volume at one time puts a delay on normal everyday processes.

Our office is working very hard to evaluate and process cases [audio feed interrupted] are received. There are many moving parts when someone is arrested, a lot of resources processing people arrested. And it takes time on a normal day -- not to mention the volume that we're seeing now.

Last week we worked with defense attorneys who initially made the argument that there [audio feed interrupted] deficiencies with those affidavits. There has not -- That has not been brought to our attention this time. An initial review of the probable cause affidavits that we have received does not appear to show deficiencies. As I understand it, individuals are currently being taken into magistrates [audio feed interrupted] -- before magistrates, excuse me, to determine eligibility for release.

Yesterday, I reached out to UT leadership to initiate conversations on how the university could find a better way forward. We remain available to continue those conversations. While we understand the safety concerns [audio feed interrupted ]1 of the university, continuing to send protesters to jail on criminal trespass charges, one of the lowest level nonviolent crimes our office is presented with, is putting a tremendous strain on our criminal justice resources.

I'm also deeply concerned about how matters will escalate [audio feed interrupted] people believe they are being prevented from exercising the right to participate in nonviolent protests.

The manner in which this is being handled is also having a great impact on our law enforcement resources. When large numbers of APD [Austin Police Department] officers, for example, are sent to assist [audio feed interrupted] protesters for criminal trespass charges, that means less [fewer] officers available for other calls like domestic violence and assaults.

As you just previously heard, we're also currently in the middle of an overdose crisis. The public safety of this community and for all the students, the public, our law [audio feed interrupted] is the main priority of my office. Cycling people in and out of jail on low -- low-level charges and dwindling our criminal justice resources for the rest of the community will do very little to maintain the public safety of our community. It is not the role [audio feed interrupted] [of the criminal justice] system to jail people for conduct that has not yet occurred or that might occur; nor is it the role to assist our governor in efforts to suppress nonviolent and peaceful demonstrations.

In weighing what is the most appropriate course right now and [audio feed interrupted] in escalation the cases we have reviewed so far will remain active for now as we continue to review and investigate to determine what the most appropriate outcome is.

We are working with all of our partners to make sure the individuals currently in jail are being processed as efficiently as possible. I encourage University leadership to be leaders in this community by initiating a compromise with protest organizers with fair and reasonable free speech parameters. And I encourage the organizers to come to the table in good faith so that they can be heard.

1 In this case, a second audio feed here used to authenticate the content immediately following the "audio feed interrupted" marker

Page Updated: 5/1/24

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