A national pro-life leader who has been banned from Chicago’s Navy Pier after his arrest on a trespass charge has been found NOT GUILTY.
Eric Scheidler, Executive Director of the Pro-Life Action League faced a criminal trespass charge after he was arrested by Chicago police on April 15, 2015, a short time after being granted explicit permission to access Chicago’s Navy Pier.
The Navy Pier is owned by the City of Chicago and is not considered public property.
Scheidler said that Pro-Life Action League was protesting a Planned Parenthood fundraiser held for several years at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom honoring Fay Clayton, the lead attorney in NOW v. Scheidler RICO case which named the League’s founder and Eric’s dad, Joe Scheidler.
“Clayton ultimately lost the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, which threw out all the charges against my father. I suppose it’s appropriate that my first pro-life arrest would come at an event honoring my father’s archenemy,” said Eric in a post on the organization’s website.
Shortly after the pro-life group assembled, Scheidler said that a security officer approached him stating that him he could not enter the pier.
However, after a call to his superiors on the radio, he was told the pro-life group could walk on the pier one at a time without signs as did many other general members of the public that evening.
Scheidler said he removed his pro-life hat, put down his sign, and walked onto the pier.
Despite being granted permission by the security officer, after a short walk, Scheidler was arrested by Chicago Police and charged with criminal trespass because they claimed his entry was “forbidden.”
Scheidler was then given a document entitled “Navy Pier Trespass Notice,” informing him that he was banned from Navy Pier for life.
He said that when his personal items were returned to him after his release the memory card of his GoPro camera, which recorded his conversation with the security guard, had been removed.
“The footage on that camera would have shown me being given permission to go onto Navy Pier. It would have shown me innocently walking through the building. It would have shown me being followed by security and then falsely arrested. But as the Chicago police officer who arrested me said, ‘If Navy Pier wants it erased, it will be erased.‘ ” Scheidler said.
The legal firm Thomas More Society, who is defending Scheidler in court, said they have demanded all security footage from the Navy Pier showing Scheidler’s arrest but said Navy Pier officials have refused to comply with the subpoena.
In June, Thomas More Society filed a petition for asking the Cook County Circuit Court to order John Graeber, Navy Pier’s Director of Safety and Security, to explain why they failed to produce critical documents in response to the subpoena.
“The video evidence that we have subpoenaed will show that, prior to Mr. Scheidler’s arrest for allegedly remaining on Navy Pier property without authorization, Navy Pier’s own security guard actually gave Mr. Scheidler permission to walk onto the Pier,” said Corrina Konczal, Thomas More Society Associate Counsel. “Navy Pier cannot press charges for this alleged trespass while refusing to turn over subpoenaed evidence that would prove our client innocent.”
Monday morning, Scheidler was acquitted of the criminal trespass charges in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Peter Breen, Special Counsel for Thomas More Society said the judge dismissed the case called it a great win.
“The prosecutor was unable to present enough evidence to require us to put on a single witness,” he said, “They were unable to show that Mr. Scheidler had caused any sort of disturbance..”