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Sonoma County prosecutors reduce charges against Westminster Woods protesters

Sonoma County prosecutors have reduced the charges against the four people suspected of donning Guy Fawkes masks and black robes and barricading the entrances to Westminster Woods with vehicles Friday in a targeted protest of two Berkeley nonprofits spending the weekend in Occidental.

Gwen Danielson, 25, who is homeless, and Jack Lasota, 28, of Berkeley appeared in Sonoma County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon. Judge Mark Urioste lowered their $50,000 bail to $10,000 because the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office reduced two of the felonies to misdemeanors.

Prosecutors are pursuing felony conspiracy charges against the group for their suspected involvement with a planned demonstration that prompted a large law enforcement response that closed parts of Bohemian Highway when a Westminster employee told dispatchers that one person was armed.

The initial felony charges for false imprisonment and child endangerment have been scaled back to misdemeanors. The four also face charges for resisting arrest, wearing a mask while committing a crime and trespassing.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to answer an inquiry about the reason for reducing the charges.

Co-defendant Emma Borhanian, 28, of Albany posted bail Monday and was in the audience at Tuesday’s arraignment. She declined an interview request.

Deputies detained three of the four suspects at gunpoint before they were able to make contact with the Center for Applied Rationality, the nonprofit the group sought to protest, according to the Sheriff’s Office. A second organization, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, also appeared to be a target, according to flyers found on the property.

Danielson, Lasota and Borhanian are expected to enter pleas at a hearing Nov. 25.

Co-defendant Alexander Leatham, 24, whose residence is unknown, has an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday morning.

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @YousefBaig.

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