Greenpeace activists who staged protest at P&G's Cincinnati headquarters balking at plea deal

Efforts to reach a plea deal stalled Monday in the case of Greenpeace activists who staged an eye-catching protest at Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati.

Hamilton County prosecutors said that only one of nine protesters facing charges of burglary and vandalism indicated a willingness to accept a plea that would avoid prison time.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors met in Hamilton County Judge Robert C. Winkler's chambers with no major breakthrough. No trial date has been set.

Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said afterward that with a guilty plea, the activists would agree to perform 80 hours of community service locally and to pay restitution for damage to the consumer product maker's headquarters. All of the activists live out of state. They could each face up to eight years in prison if convicted for burglary.

Piepmeier said in the two sides' last meeting earlier this month that prosecutors set a deadline of Monday for plea settlement. He said one activist was ready to accept, with details still being worked out. The activist wasn't identified publicly Monday. Defense attorney Bill Gallagher said that plea agreement wasn't final.

Gallagher added that the activists don't believe they should be charged with felony burglary.

Activists were arrested in March after slipping past P&G's security and using a zip line to unfurl huge banners from the company's towers while a helicopter filmed their protest. They were protesting P&G's use of a palm oil supplier that Greenpeace links to tropical forest destruction.

Winkler this month rejected a request by the activists to dismiss the burglary counts. Their attorneys said they were engaging in constitutionally protected political speech, but prosecutors argued that regardless of their political message, the activists committed crimes and caused damage.

Authorities have said property damage, including broken window locks, totaled about $17,000.

Local authorities were stunned by the breach at the headquarters of the maker of such best-selling global brands as Pampers diapers, Tide detergent and Gillette shavers. Cincinnati's police chief urged downtown businesses to review their security plans.

Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products. P&G announced April 8 that it has adopted a "no-deforestation" policy for its palm oil supply and that would ensure traceability of supplies by 2015. Greenpeace called P&G's announcement a huge step in protecting rainforests, while saying much work needs to be done.


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