HELD UP On October 10, 2011 (when this photo was taken), police stormed the Occupy Boston
encampment and arrested 141 people; a December 10 raid on Dewey Square led to even more arrests.
Now, months later, many Occupiers are still tied up in legal battles.
At a hearing in Boston Municipal Court last month, attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild received nine DVDs from the Suffolk County District Attorney's office. The DVDs, turned over as discovery, contained police footage taken last year during two separate raids on Occupy Boston's Dewey Square encampment. After months of requests, the NLG had secured critical evidence that they believed could exonerate their Occupier clients.
Then they tried to play them. No dice. According to NLG attorneys, the discs that they received run exclusively on proprietary cop software.
Discouraging as such setbacks sound, they're par for the course in about 30 Occupy Boston trials that are slogging along, slowly and in relative obscurity, and that will probably continue moving at this pace for some time. None of which surprises NLG lawyers, who are defending all of the Occupiers, and hammering for precedent.
"We are going beyond what lawyers usually request," says Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the NLG. Though DA spokesman Jake Wark says his office has "complied with all the rules of disclosure," Masny-Latos says the NLG is still waiting for items such as police call logs and viewable DVDs. She continues: "We don't approach these cases as only criminal cases. In our view, they are all political cases. Therefore, we are going beyond the scope that you would have with just criminal defendants. We have asked for many documents, and footage, and reports."
The stakes and size of discovery are not the only unusual aspects of these cases. The pre-trial judge, Raymond Dougan, is currently embroiled in a public spat with DA Dan Conley. On the heels of a Boston Globe investigation that labeled Dougan one of the most lenient local robes, this year, Conley mounted a campaign to remove him from all criminal trials. Some defendants are concerned that the situation could impact important pre-trial outcomes, as Dougan faces accusations that he leans to the activist left.
There have also been complications over scheduling, and over how the defendant pool should be split up. All this while more than two dozen activists languish in legal limbo, charged with misdemeanors such as disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. So far, more than 100 Occupiers have admitted guilt in exchange for either probation or having the criminal charges reduced to civil complaints. Still, not all of the accused are willing to plead to charges that they roundly consider, in the words of one Occupier, "completely fabricated."
Occupy Boston squatters took Dewey Square on September 29 of last year. On October 10, police moved in after Occupiers expanded onto a neighboring strip of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. In the scrum, authorities arrested 141 people, and as a result, the incident drew tens of thousands of live online viewers, as well as subsequent coverage from nationally recognized news outlets.