Two of the three men ordered to jail in western Virginia last week for trespassing convictions stemming from their participation in a college demonstration seven years ago have been put on work release programs, their lawyer said yesterday.
Work release arrangements for the third man are not yet complete, according to the lawyer, John C. Lowe.
The three men, James W. McClung, 36, of Washington, Stephen B. Rochelle, 29, of Fairfax, and Jay G. Rainey, 31, of Broadway, Va., entered Rockingham County jail Sept. 19 after the last appeal was rejected in their seven-year effort to have the sentences overturned.
Under the work release program, McClung, who had to leave his job as an information specialist in the Library of Congress to serve a nine-month term, is doing volunteer work at the Rockingham County Library in Harrisonburg, Va. He returns to the county jail every night at 5 p.m.
Under state law, every eight hours of volunteer work reduces McClung's sentence by one day. Jail terms also are cut short by one third for good behavior.
Rainey, the only one of the three men who is married, leaves the jail each day to go to his job as supervisor of employee relations at the Dunham Bush manufacturing firm in Harrisonburg. Regular employment on a work release program does not contribute toward the reduction of a sentence.
No work arrangements have yet been made for Rochelle, who was forced temporarily to leave his job as a computer surveyor with a Maryland engineering firm.
Lowe said he has been "swamped" with calls from people who read about the jail terms for the three men. "People are quiet upset and concerned" about the sentences, Lowe said. One man sent $100 to each of the three men to show his support, Lowe said.
Rainey and Rochelle were students and McClung was an assistant professor of English at Madison College in Harrisonburg in 1970 when they took part in a sit-in by about 40 students at the school's administration building.
According to McClung, the demonstration was to protest the Vietnam War, alleged violations of the students' rights and the school administration's failure to renew contracts of some professors, one of whom was McClung.
Twenty-eight of the demonstrators later were convicted in Harrisonburg Muncipal Court of trespassing and assessed fines of $100 each. While they did not dispute the facts of the case, Rainey, Rochelle and McClung argued that their consitutional right to free speech had been violated.
In order to begin the appeal process, they asked for a trial in Rockingham County Circuit Court and asked to waive a jury trial according to Lowe.
Rockingham Circuit Judge Hamilton Haas, as is his right, denied their request. A Circuit Court jury heard the case, convicted the men and imposed six-month jail terms and a $500 fine on both Rochelle and Rainey. McClung received a nine-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.
During the past seven years the men have appealed their case to higher courts, but their legal effort came to an end when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld their convictions and sentences.
Circuit Court Judge Joshua Robinson said he did not wish to overturn the jury-imposed sentences because he wanted to uphold the integrity of the judicial system. On Sept. 16 he ordered the three men to report to the county jail to serve their sentences.