SJC Rules In Favor Of DA Rollins Over 'Straight Pride' Protesters

DA Rachel Rollins

Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins holds a press conference on the SJC decision Monday. (Kim Tunnicliffe/WBZ NewsRadio)

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The state's highest court ruled on the side of the Suffolk County District Attorney in her feud with a Boston judge over whether or not to drop charges against some Straight Pride Parade protesters.

DA Rachael Rollins said at a press conference Monday that she's very pleased with the ruling, and called the entire dispute a colossal waste of time.

"There's clarity now," Rollins said. "We thought we had it, but now it is crystal clear that we have the authority to do what it is that we did. We will continue to do so."

Rollins' office asked last week that charges be dropped against several protesters arrested for nonviolent offenses at the August 31 parade and rally.

Judge Richard Sinnott declined in all but two cases, leading Rollins to say Sinnott "overstepped" his role.

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On Monday, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank Gaziano ruled that Sinnott had no authority to force Rollins to prosecute the protesters.

Gaziano cited an SJC case from 1806, Commonwealth vs. Wheeler, in stating that it is the prosecutor's sole authority to determine which cases to prosecute.

Suffolk County prosecutors asked the SJC to order Judge Sinnott to accept a motion to drop the case against a demonstrator who was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at the Straight Pride counter-protest.

The ruling also allowed a motion to expunge that demonstrator's criminal record, which was "created as a result of the improper arraignment, where the Commonwealth repeatedly requested that no arraignment take place."

Rollins faced criticism for her push for leniency for the protesters, but said her office did take seriously the charges against eight other protesters who are accused of assaulting police.

“You were violent, and let's move forward and you're gonna be arraigned and we're gonna charge you appropriately, because you injured people, and police officers have not returned to work yet," Rollins said. "So, any indication that this administration does not take seriously violence against law enforcement or the community is false.”

Rollins said there were complaints filed against Sinnott after he after he ordered prominent defense attorney Susan Church handcuffed during a hearing last Wednesday.

Church was representing one of the counter-protesters, and was reading case law during a disagreement with Sinnott when Sinnott ordered her held in contempt for speaking “passionately” and “talking over” him.

"We're going to be seeing, I think, quite a bit more about the judiciary and how much power they wield when they are able to make decisions that result in people losing their liberty every moment as a result of them feeling interrupted or upset," Rollins said. "Believe me, if I did that every time I felt interrupted or upset, you'd all be in jail right now. We can't do that, we can't behave that way."

The DA said she was being true to herself throughout the ordeal.

“I’m simply saying all the things the people of Suffolk County asked me to say out loud,” Rollins said. “I am being exactly who I told you I would be. I am never going to mince words if I think things are unfair and unjust, and I would welcome you to read the opinion that says that everything we said was accurate.”

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WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports

 

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