Metro, Politics, Featured Story, Boston

Petition Filed to Overturn Straight Pride Parade Charges

A petition to overrule Richard J. Sinnot, a judge who upheld the charges against more than three dozen people arrested during the Straight Pride Parade, was filed by Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins on Wednesday night.

“The judge ignored the clear and unambiguous constraints placed on the judiciary by the separation of powers,” Rollins wrote.

The judge denied the Commonwealth’s nolle prosequi—an abandonment of charges—for the more than three dozen people who were arrested, according to the 16-page filing. The judge also set the bail at $750, the petition said, despite the mandatory bail limit for the charge being $150.

“Without intervention from this Court, the Boston Municipal Court will be allowed to become the ‘government of men’ rejected by our founding fathers,” Rollins wrote in the petition.

Roderick Webber, the defendant represented in the petition, was arrested for disorderly conduct after he ran from police that were approaching protesters. He was on a megaphone shouting “the cow goes moo,” and asking the police if they had an order to “kettle us,” the petition states. When Webber started to run away, according to the petition, he was grabbed by an officer at the intersection of Congress Street and State Street, where he was arrested.

He resisted arrest according to the police report, the petition said. When called to court, Webber refused to remove his baseball cap, resulting in the officers barring him from entering the courtroom. The judge issued another warrant, and Webber was arrested again outside of the courtroom and then brought into court. The judge arraigned him and set bail, citing Webber’s financial resources, his refusal to state where he lives, and refusal to take off his cap as his reasons for doing so, according to the petition.

“The Commonwealth asks this Court to: hold as unconstitutional the judge’s refusal to accept and recognize a duly filed nolle prosequi in the instant case; exercise its extraordinary powers to vacate the lower court’s order arraigning the Defendant; and remand to the Boston Municipal Court to allow the Commonwealth to exercise its constitutional right to file a nolle prosequi and end the prosecution of this case,” Rollins said in the petition.

Court proceedings regarding the case were contentious, as one defense attorney was held in contempt of court after she said the judge did not have the authority to overturn the nolle prosequi, according to a statement from Rollins. 

She was handcuffed and sat in a cell for hours,” the statement said. “Simply for doing her job.” 

Sinnot has been on the bench for the Boston Municipal Court since 2017, when he was appointed by Governor Charlie Baker. 

The parade, which drew more protesters than marchers, has been criticized for being anti-gay. The organizers of the parade, Super Happy Fun America, said that the parade was inclusive for all. As paraders and protesters walked down Boylston Street and met at City Hall Plaza, fights broke out. Police officers on bikes, as described in the petition, encircled a group of protesters. Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, has been criticized for the heavy police presence on the streets. 

“I could be judged or second-guessed all day long, but if somebody lost their life on Saturday, we’d be criticized for not having enough police protection out there,” the mayor said to WBUR on Tuesday. “Unfortunately we needed it Saturday and it was there and I know there is a lot of conversation around misconduct and was there misconduct, and we take any complaints about police misconduct seriously.”

Walsh said that he doesn’t agree with the parade’s message, but believes the organizers had a right to hold it. The police were present to protect the protesters just as much as they were there to protect the paraders, Walsh said.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there was a man speaking through a megaphone. Webber, the defendant, was the man on the megaphone, according to the petition.

Featured Image Courtesy of Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office


September 5, 2019