HARRISBURG - A district judge yesterday acquitted 14 protesters from Philadelphia who were charged with disorderly conduct last month outside the offices of the state's gambling regulatory agency.
Harrisburg District Judge Joseph Solomon said authorities had not proved that protesters - members of the antigambling group Casino-Free Philadelphia - intended to block access to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's offices.
"Their intent was to go there to get information that they had been previously denied," Solomon said in a telephone interview after the 30-minute hearing.
"I didn't feel it was appropriate for the gaming board to deny what I perceive to be public information."
For months before the gaming board voted Dec. 20 to license two slots parlors in Philadelphia, Casino-Free Philadelphia had claimed that the gaming board had stonewalled on the group's requests to release numerous records and documents filed with the board by the casino applicants.
The board's headquarters is in a private office building across the street from the Capitol.
On Dec. 11, dozens of Casino-Free Philadelphia members arrived to execute what they called a "citizen search warrant."
Blocked by building security guards from boarding elevators to the gaming board's offices, group members sat down, prompting security guards to call Harrisburg police, who arrested 14 of the protesters.