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Actor Sterling Hayden Discusses Sit-In Conviction

June 16, 1964 - Actor Sterling Hayden abhors the idea of a jail sentence — particularly for a person with his sensibilities.

So, he was relatively happy to be let off with probation and a $220 fine for his participation in a sit-in demonstration on Van Ness Avenue’s Auto Row in San Francisco last March.

Hayden (pictured at a criminal hearing April 13) avoided a jail term by pleading “no contest” to a charge of trespass several weeks ago. In pronouncing sentence today, Municipal Judge Leo Friedman noted he has not imposed a jail term on any civil rights demonstrator who pleaded “no contest.”

Hayden’s aversion to jail was disclosed in a written statement to Chief Probation Officer John Kavanaugh.

The bearded actor wrote that such activities as sit-in demonstrations are not “pleasurable” to him. He continued:

“I dislike crowds. I dislike group action, and there is no need to comment on the fact that by going to jail, one surrenders a very considerable amount of personal freedom and privacy — qualities quite meaningful to a man like myself.”

Hayden emphasized, however, that he considers it his duty to protest against racial discrimination and denial of the constitutional rights of any person.

The judge told Hayden that if he does not violate his probation, he can have the conviction set aside and the record of his arrest expunged.

Hayden said outside of court that he plans to leave for Rome on July 1 to make a movie. When asked about the sentence, the actor said he was rather surprised by the fine.

“I thought it would be less,” he said.

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