Some people believe in a political cause so deeply that they are willing to risk arrest and criminal charges to express their views. While their actions are usually relatively minor, prosecutors sometimes seek to make an “example” of those who practice civil disobedience.

That appears to be what is happening to a 70-year-old professor who was charged in connection with an alleged trespassing. The defendant was protesting New Jersey’s bear hunting season when he was arrested in December. He could be sentenced to up to six months in jail if found guilty.

The man is accused of stepping over a barrier. That likely sounds like a minor crime to many readers. But this is was the fifth time the man has been arrested while protesting the bear hunt. In previous cases, the court sentenced him to pay a fine.

Last year, however, he was sentenced to 10 days of community service. That sentence was overturned on appeal, but it seems that authorities could be trying to frighten the defendant into stopping his protesting activities by ramping up the criminal charges against him.

The defendant’s attorney is probably trying to keep his client out of jail. He said that he still hoped to avoid trial, after his client pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct.

New Jersey prosecutors can be highly aggressive when pursuing charges. Every criminal defendant facing at least a day in jail is entitled to a defense attorney; hiring a skilled attorney can make the difference between a guilty and not guilty verdict.

The Star-Ledger, “Frequently arrested NJ bear hunt protester pleads not guilty to charges,” Seth Augenstein, Feb. 28, 2014