Sharpton Jailed for Vieques Protest

ByABC News
May 23, 2001, 10:16 PM

N E W   Y O R K, May 23, -- One day after the Rev. Al Sharpton said he might run for the White House in 2004, the civil rights leader was behind bars in Puerto Rico.

It's hardly a traditional stop for a presidential hopeful, but Sharpton's career as agitator and activist has rarely followed the usual path. A federal judge sentenced Sharpton to 90 days in jail today.for trespassing on U.S. Navy property as part of a May 1 protestagainst bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Political analysts say the jail time will broaden his supportamong New York City's vast Puerto Rican community and furtherraise the national profile Sharpton has carefully cultivated inrecent months.

"He will get a lot of attention and that's something he'salways coveted as a community activist," said Lee Miringoff, apollster at the Marist Institute for Public Opinion inPoughkeepsie, N.Y.

"His actions are not necessarily calculated to appeal to all ofthe electorate." This protest, Miringoff said, "is one hecalculated, or understood, would be intensely supported by some ofthe electorate."

Nine other Vieques protesters were sentenced to 40 days inprison and given $500 fines. They included city councilman AdolfoCarrion, state Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Roberto Ramirez,chairman of the Bronx County Democratic Party.

Judge Jose Fuste sentenced Sharpton as a repeat offender becausehe had prior arrests for civil disobedience in New York. He alsowas fined $500.

"If Martin Luther King were alive, he would have come toVieques and raised these issues," Sharpton said during hisappearance in court.

Sharpton was taken to a federal prison in Puerto Rico. Hisspokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, said Johnnie Cochran is assemblinga team of lawyers who plan to file an appeal with the First CircuitCourt of Appeals in Boston.

Sharpton Said to Feel 'Victimized'

Noerdlinger said Sharpton appeared in court this morningafter he was subpoenaed on Tuesday. She said Sharpton was notprepared for the sentence, which he thinks is unfair.