A Deal for the Ozo 3
Prosecutors reduce charges on Ozomatli members; everybody saves face
It was face-saving time last week when three members of the band Ozomatli agreed to plead no contest to class C misdemeanor charges in a deferred adjudication agreement with Travis Co. prosecutors that if they avoid trouble in Austin for six months will remove the charges from their records. Two band members and their manager were arrested March 18 outside Club Exodus on Sixth Street after ending their SXSW performance with a conga-line jam with fans that ended in a confusing confrontation with Austin police officers determined to enforce the city's noise ordinance. (For more on this, see "Not Quite 'Ya Se Fue,'" March 26). In the end, bassist Willy Abers was charged with failure to obey a lawful order (a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine); band manager Amy Sue Blackman-Romero was charged with interfering with police duties (a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail); and drummer Jiro Yamaguchi was charged with assault on a police officer (a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail). Of course, things weren't so simple: Videotapes of the incident reflected miscommunication among the cops, the Ozo 3, and their fans, and possible overreaction by police bolstered by, for Sixth Street, unusually reliable witnesses, including Mayor Will Wynn's assistant, a host of national reporters, and generally sober middle-aged onlookers. As a result, cynical observers have suggested, the city was happy to reach an agreement to set free the Ozo 3 with minimal attention (read: without a public trial). So, the three are essentially free: Blackman-Romero and Abers agreed to plead no contest to the charge of disobeying a lawful order, and Yamaguchi agreed to plead no contest to the lesser charge of simple assault all three class C misdemeanor violations.