Defense attorney: Judge Sinnott ‘has no leg to stand on’

The band of right-wing provocateurs who staged a “straight pride” parade in Boston 10 days ago were hoping to stir the pot. But they likely never imagined that the tempest they’d cause would be a judicial showdown among local officials that exposes tensions set off by last year’s election of a reform-minded district attorney.

Things got unruly in the streets as the straight pride marchers were met by hundreds of counter-demonstrators, but there wasn’t exactly order in the court either when the cases of many of the three dozen counter-protesters who were arrested came before Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott

Sinnott repeatedly, over the course of two days, rejected efforts by prosecutors to dismiss cases against those arrested for non-violent offenses of disorderly conduct or resisting arrest. (The DA’s office said it was pursuing cases against those charged with violent crimes, including assaulting police officers.) The problem: It’s not clear Sinnott is within his rights to do so, as charging decisions are generally the province of prosecutors. 

Susan Church, a well-known local defense lawyer, says Sinnott absolutely was out of bounds in refusing prosecutors’ efforts to drop charges against a young woman she was representing on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Church was so emphatic in that belief that she got into a testy exchange with Sinnott that ended with the Cambridge lawyer hauled out of court in handcuffs for contempt when Sinnott ordered her to stop making her argument but she persisted. 

“He has no leg to stand on,” Church said about Sinnott’s ruling on this week’s Codcast. Describing her experience of being handcuffed and held for several hours in the courthouse lock-up area as “surreal,” Church offered her account of what transpired in the courtroom.