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Former USF employee, student protesters no longer facing felony charges

Chrisley Carpio, Laura Rodriguez and Lauren Pineiro (pictured left to right) pled not guilty in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in downtown Tampa on May 17. The group reached an agreement with prosecutors to have charges dropped on Tuesday. ORACLE PHOTO / JUSTIN SEECHARAN

A group of USF protesters arrested on March 6, self-named the “Tampa 5,” agreed to a “misdemeanor intervention program” and had charges dropped on Tuesday, according to the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office.

Alum Laura Rodriguez, students Gia Davilla, Jeanie Kida and Lauren Pineiro and former USF employee Chrisley Carpio were charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and disrupting a school function.

The emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5, the National Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) issued a joint post on Instagram announcing the charges being dropped

The defendants plead not guilty in a May 12 arraignment at the 13th Judicial Circuit Court. 

Related: USF protesters plead not guilty in arraignment 

An agreement between prosecutors and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office came before the Tampa 5’s scheduled Dec. 12 trial. It entails that the defendants will complete a year-long community service program.

During that time, the students are not to be on any USF campuses, unless under specific conditions. No details were provided on what classifies “specific conditions.” 

The Tampa 5 were arrested for assault and battery of law enforcement at the March protest, held by SDS at the Patel Center for Global Solutions at the Tampa campus.

No specific details were provided on whether or not the “current” USF students previously charged will return to campus for their education.

Related: Four students arrested during SDS protest

The group was protesting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order to defund diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at the university prior to their arrest.

Protests against the application of DEI and other higher education bills were seen on campus throughout the last months. Students claimed the arrest was unwarranted, and showed support to their fellow USF students facing charges for the March protest.

Holding signs such as “Down with DeSantis” and “Drop the charges,” students marched on and off campus, asking university leaders, including president Rhea law, to share public statements condemning the charges faced by the Tampa 5.

Related: SDS protests DEI bill, shows support for students, university employee facing charges

University Police (UP) wrote in a statement that they were “satisfied” with the final solution reached by the Attorney’s office and all involved. UP wrote that they hope all involved can benefit from the situation, and move on to “productive lives.”

The UP statement read that the incident was never related to freedom of speech.

This incident was never about a group exercising their right to free speech or police action to obstruct the expression of those rights. The arrests stemmed from the group’s aggressive behaviors directed toward officers when we attempted to escort them from the area for repeated refusal to cease disruptive activities,” UP wrote.

SDS’s Tampa 5 statement associated this “victory” with all the efforts placed since the March 6 arrest from students and other protesters.

“It is clear that the protests, call-ins, petitions, panels, and actions put on by students, faculty, union leaders, community members, and elected officials, all struck a fear into the heart of governor-appointed, unelected state attorney Susan Lopez,” the statement read.

Julia Saad, Staff Writer

Julia Saad started as a news correspondent in fall 2022. During Saad's tenure at The Oracle, she has covered a variety of news. However, Saad's favorite topic to cover is being able to place readers in the ambient environments of USF events.