Almost three months to the day from when she was arrested, eminent domain protester Lauren Canario, the last holdout in the Kelo v. New London case, has been released from jail.
Canario, 49, was arrested September 22 and held on $20,000 bond after she refused to leave one of the Fort Trumbull homes in New London, Conn., which had been seized using eminent domain. She was protesting the taking of the neighborhood for private economic development.
In 2005, the Supreme Court gave its approval to the taking in Kelo v. New London, resulting in national outrage. Canario, one of those outraged, moved from Las Vegas, Nev., to New London and lived in one of the seized buildings until her September arrest.
On October 23, Canario received a preliminary hearing during which her bond was raised from $5,000 to $20,000 and she was ordered bound over for trial, but no trial date was set. Court officials at the time said it could be as much as a year before she would receive a trial.
The court that morning had told supporters that the hearing would be in the afternoon, and then held the hearing as soon as supporters had left the courtroom and gone outside.
On Thursday, Canario was told she had a court appearance and taken from the women’s prison in Niantic back to New London in her street clothes. “I thought they were just going to jerk my chain again after 90 days behind bars,” Canario said. Instead, prosecutor Michael Kennedy offered to drop the charges of criminal trespass and refusal to be fingerprinted and give her unconditional discharge if she would enter an Alford plea for the charge of interfering with a police officer.
During Canario’s arrest, she went limp and officers had to carry her off the porch of the house where she was quietly reading a book. One of the officers later complained that he hurt his back.
Making her first actual statements in the courtroom, Canario accepted the plea and was immediately set free.
“What a great feeling that was,” she said. “I’m still walking several feet off the ground.”
Supporters of Canario’s protest against eminent domain seizures for private economic development have bombarded Judge Kevin P. McMahon, prosecutors, prison officials and local media with letters of support, and Canario says that they helped. “The baliffs said it was because Judge McMahon was tired of getting emails about me on his personal home computer,” she said. “Then I found out about Susette Kelo’s Christmas cards making national press that morning.”
“Perhaps the protest scheduled for Saturday had something to do with it.” Or, perhaps, the reason Canario was released was something else entirely. “And, some say the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.”