Protesters rally on campus at Stony Brook University earlier this...

Protesters rally on campus at Stony Brook University earlier this month. Credit: James Carbone

Nineteen pro-Palestinian protesters from Stony Brook University were arraigned Monday as authorities pushed ahead with the cases despite a plea from the school’s Faculty Senate to dismiss the charges of disorderly conduct.

At the same time, a professor who was arrested said some students had indications there were attempts to access their cellphones while in the possession of Stony Brook University campus police for more than a week. The professor said the students were never shown a search warrant authorizing police to seize or search the devices.

Appearing in Suffolk District Court in Central Islip for the first time since their May 1 arrests, the students and their supporters sat in the back of the courtroom, some draping the black and white Palestinian scarf called a kaffiyeh around their shoulders.

One by one, they were summoned before Judge Bernard Cheng to hear the charges leveled against them — all low-level violations. Prosecutors told the judge there were 150 police officers at the protest, and they had “voluminous” evidence they needed time to compile, including videos and photographs.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Nineteen Stony Brook University students were arraigned Monday on charges stemming from a pro-Palestinian protest at the campus May 1.
  • The remaining 10 who were arrested will be arraigned Tuesday in Central Islip. 
  • A professor who was arrested said some students had indications that there were attempts to access their phones while in custody of campus police. 

One parent, Iman Kazmi, told Newsday he was there with his son, Zak, who just graduated from Stony Brook. “I’m proud of him and I’m here to support him,” Kazmi said.

A total of 29 people were arrested after university officials told them they had to move their demonstration to another site, and they refused. The other 10 protesters, which include two faculty members, are due in court Tuesday.

David Gray, an attorney representing the students, said it appears authorities are “intending to prepare to take this case to trial. There was no movement to dismiss. There was no indication they want to resolve this matter in a reasonable way, in my judgment.”

The Faculty Senate passed a resolution May 6 calling for the university to request that the charges be dropped. A week later, it narrowly rejected another resolution censuring Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis for her handling of the protests and arrests.

Stony Brook University officials declined to comment Monday. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office did not comment.

McInnis in a letter this month to the Stony Brook campus community said she acted amid a difficult situation to protect “the safety and right of free expression for all members of our community.”

Ten of the protesters were held for 7½ hours at the campus police headquarters after their arrests during which their phones were seized by campus police. The remaining 19 were taken to a State Police barracks in Riverhead and there, seven more phones were taken. The university returned the last one late last week before graduation on Friday.

Josh Dubnau, one of the professors arrested, said Monday it appears the phones were accessed while being held by campus police. Gray said if authorities seized or accessed the phones without a search warrant it would violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable seizures and searches. 

According to Dubnau, while the phones were with the campus police, two protesters received notifications from Apple stating that someone had logged into their iCloud accounts from an unrecognized device. The message said that if it wasn’t them logging in, they should change their password, Dubnau said.

Another phone that a student reported to Apple as “lost” was then “found,” even though the student did not have the phone, he said. This can happen only if someone logs onto the iCloud account and marks it as found, he said.

Other students and Dubnau could see through the iCloud that their phones were being charged while at the campus police headquarters, he said. GPS on the phones gave the location.

Stony Brook said previously nothing was seized “without the appropriate steps including the application for and receipt of a search warrant where applicable.”

In a May 14 letter to another defense attorney, Peter Brill, Suzanne V. Shane, chief campus counsel at Stony Brook, wrote, in reference to the last phone returned, that “as with the other phones and consistent with our previous communications, no attempts were made to access or otherwise extract information from the phone; it remained secured in the evidence storage facility, consistent with UPD policies.“

The Faculty Senate also approved a resolution calling for an investigation into campus police and Enterprise Risk Management, which oversees the police. McInnis has defended the police operation.

The protesters’ next court dates are in mid-June.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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