Disorder in the court
Simmering tensions over Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s vow to turn a page on the traditional approach to prosecution apparently boiled over yesterday in Boston Municipal Court, where a judge essentially took over the role of the DA from Rollins’s office, a move applauded by a police union leader and branded as “lawless” by a former federal judge.
The showdown came during court appearances by some of the counter-demonstrators who were arrested while protesting Saturday’s “straight pride” rally in Boston. A total of 36 arrests were made by Boston police.
Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott agreed to drop charges against two of the 16 protesters who appeared before him, but he refused prosecutors’ request to drop charges against seven people facing nonviolent charges in exchange for eight hours of community service. (Prosecutors did not seek to drop charges against any of those charged with violence against police or assault.)
Sinnott’s action, as the Globe reported, represented a “striking role reversal,” with the judge assuming the usual position of prosecutor, while the assistant DA from Rollins’s office pushed to dismiss the cases.
In a Twitter thread last night, she vowed to “remedy” what she termed an “overstepping of his role” by Sinnott.
“At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety,” Rollins wrote. “Make no mistake: some people were appropriately arraigned and will be held accountable for actions that put the safety of the public and law enforcement at risk. For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”
Sinnott’s move was applauded by a leader of the Boston patrol officers’ union. Larry Calderone, vice president of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association, told WBUR he “couldn’t be happier with” the judge’s rulings.
Former federal judge Nancy Gertner had a very different take on Sinnott’s actions. “The prosecutor is in complete charge of the charges that he or she wishes to bring or decline,” Gertner told WBUR. “The judge is doing something that is lawless.”
Rollins caused a stir during last year’s campaign for the open DA seat when she released a list of 15 lower-level offenses for which she said her default position would be not to prosecute.
Although the courtroom drama has been framed as a power play triggered by Rollins’s new approach, Calderone suggested her office was not acting differently than her predecessors, who he said often dismissed disorderly conduct charges. “This DA’s office is doing the same thing, but the judge on the bench has taken a different position,” he told the Globe.
Meanwhile, there continue to be questions about how the police handled the counter-demonstrators, including the use of pepper spray to disperse some of them. US Rep. Ayanna Pressley called for an “independent investigation” into how the scene was handled. Mayor Marty Walsh is walking a fine line on the issue. “Certainly we take any complaint about police misconduct seriously,” he told WBUR yesterday. But he went on to say it’s not yet clear what the full circumstances were that led to some of the charges of police overreaction. “You can’t get a full vision of what’s going on a 20-second clip on a video,” he said.
As the unusual courtroom fallout from the demonstrations came into view yesterday, pundits gravitated to predictable positions, though in one case it took a little bit of repositioning.
Last night, DigBoston editor Chris Faraone had some fun tweeting out a 2017 Howie Carr column excoriating Gov. Charlie Baker for his hack appointment to the bench of Sinnott, whose wife is also a Boston judge. “It’s one thing to slurp at the trough, but this is licking the plate,” Carr wrote of the judicial twofer.
Fast forward two years, and with Sinnott’s hardline stance and dressing down of the lefty counter-protestors, he’s apparently gone from trough licking hack to the second coming of Louis Brandeis. “Gov. Charlie Baker got at least one judicial appointment right,” Carr writes today.
A former supervisor at Ashland State Park accused the Department of Conservation and Recreation of refusing to rehire him for a seasonal job after he reported another supervisor who made inappropriate comments in front of female subordinates. (MassLive)
After clashes in Boston between police and counter-protesters over the weekend, Fitchburg Sen. Dean Tran proposes making it a crime to cover your face during public events. (State House News)
State Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Paul Donato say a bill they’re filing would address problems with inconsistencies and and lack of information in childhood immunization policies across the state. (Boston Globe)
Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer vetoes a proposed ordinance that would regulate how she makes appointments. (MetroWest Daily News)
John Lynch, the Boston city worker who has agreed to plead guilty to bribery in a zoning board case, strikes many as an unlikely figure to go down in a graft scandal. (Boston Globe) His case, coming on the heels of federal convictions of two other CIty Hall aides in the Boston Calling case, is “a nightmare” for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, says Globe columnist Adrian Walker.
Saugus TV, the town’s public, education, and government access provider, is seeking $1 million at a special town meeting to build a new studio. (Daily Item)
A federal judge sided with the Sewer Fairness Alliance, declining to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Chelmsford homeowners against the town to resolve a dispute over who should pay for the replacement of a grinder pump. (Lowell Sun)
The Trump administration is cancelling $3.6 billion in military construction projects in an attempt to finance President Trump’s much touted border wall. (WGBH) Last week, the Washington Post reported that 60 miles of replacement barrier has been constructed but no new wall has been built, and Trump is so desperate to complete it before election day that he said he would pardon underlings if they run afoul of laws in trying to get the job done.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked months of protests, but demonstrators want more and even moderate and pro-Beijing politicians agree the bill withdrawal alone is not enough. (Washington Post)
The powerhouse lobbying firm ML Strategies and its corporate parent, the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, and Popeo, are steering clear of the marijuana business. (CommonWealth)
Walmart says it intends to stop selling handgun ammunition in the wake of several mass shootings and offer only hunting rifles for sale. (Associated Press)
Salem cheesemonger Brie Hurd says pending tariffs could put European products out of reach for many consumers, and at nearby Parlee Cycles tariffs on Chinese products have already cost the company $100,000 since January. (Salem News)
A Berkshire Eagle editorial applauds the school committees in two Berkshire towns for trying to work out a merger of their school systems, which both have declining enrollments.
Ed Wingenbach, the new president of Hampshire College says the Amherst school faces a tough financial future, but he expressed confidence that the college will make it. (Boston Globe) Meanwhile, the new president of Babson College, Stephen Spinelli, is laying plans for its future — while staying mindful of the headwinds facing higher education. (Boston Globe)
A long-awaited pedestrian walkway and public art installation in Hull will open to the public Wednesday evening at a ceremony hosted by the Hull Economic Development Committee and the board of selectmen. (Patriot Ledger)
Douglas McGarrah of Foley Hoag, saying incremental improvements to an out-of-date transportation system don’t cut it, offers up an action plan to address the Massachusetts transportation crisis. (CommonWealth)
A petition with more than 1,100 signatures is ready to be presented to state and local authorities in an effort to overrule state Department of Conservation and Recreation and Department of Transportation plans for bicycling facilities in a busy area along Route 6 in Wellfleet. (Cape Cod Times)
The Green New Deal is missing crucial big pieces when it comes to addressing the issue of land use and farming, writes Catherine Tumber. (The Baffler)
Bryon Hefner, the husband of former Senate president Stanley Rosenberg, is considering changing his plea on charges of sexual harassment. (MassLive)MEDIA
The New York Times withdraws as a sponsor of an international oil conference after protests by climate change groups. (The Guardian)