Cecily McMillan had been charged with second degree assault on a cop which stemmed from a 2012 arrest at Zucotti Park on the six-month anniversary of OWS. When cops ordered everyone out of the park so that it could be cleaned of hippie trash and other detritus, Officer Grantley Bovell grabbed from behind, dragged her backward, squeezing her right breast with enough force to leave a hand print-shaped bruise. She reflexively threw an elbow, apparently not even knowing he was a cop at the time. He then knocked her to the ground, kicked and beat her viciously enough to cause a seizure, loss of memory, and hospitalization. Breast-grabbing of Occupiers had become somewhat of a modus operandi for NYPD and other city PDs. Thus, a sexual assault.
The felony assault charge carries a maximum of seven years in prison.
She had been offered a no-jail plea deal, but one that would still mark her as a felon. She refused it, as she wanted to clear her name. Justice was what she sought; vilification and conviction is what she got. Her trial finally began three weeks ago after two long years of waiting with a dark cloud over her head: would she be absolved of the insane charges? For more background and video interviews, read here.
The verdict came at about 3:00 EDT; cell phones had been banned for today ahead of time; on this final day of Cecily McMillan’s trial, Judge Zweibel was slated to issue instructions to the jury, then they would begin their deliberations. That simple fact portended that the Judge strongly believed that the jury would convict. When court resumed after a lunch break, 32 cops entered the court room, signaling that the Judge and prosecutors must have considered that McMillan’s supporters might riot.
Indeed, supporters chanted, ‘Shame, shame, shame’ at the Judge and Po-Po’s.
It was just announced to the world that NYPD cops can brutally and/or sexually assault those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights with impunity, and imprison those they brutalize.
McMillan was handcuffed and sent to Riker’s Island without the possibility of bail until her sentencing on May 19.
Trying to piece together what’s gone down during the three-week trial has been difficult, as the coverage has been scant, and the live Tweets…very sketchy. I’ll start with the trial; you can skip down to the closing arguments if you’d prefer.
But to say that Judge Ronald Zweibel has been biased would be the most conservative indictment of his rulings and behavior in the court room as well. To say that he knew what the verdict should be or would be on the first day of the trial would be closer to the mark. But the attorneys know there are plenty of grounds for an appeal. Not one speck of evidence or testimony pertaining to the police violence against peaceful protesters, the kettling, pepper-spraying, baton-smashes on heads…none of it.
From the scene of Grantley Bovell’s crime. courtesy of Luke Rukowski:
You can watch Cecily being interviewed on Democracy Now! describing her seizure and other injuries, both physical and mental/emotional, and read more about the worse-than-egregious charges, the reason she’d rejected a ‘felony ‘plea deal’, and other background here.
He refused McMillan’s attorneys’ request to allow Bovell’s disciplinary file to be introduced into evidence, as he faces multiple lawsuits for past brutality, indicating a pattern, of course, and lack of credibility. The Judge refused the request as being potentially ‘prejudicial’. Yes, I’d imagine so. The NYPD has paid out thousands of dollars in lawsuits by Ocuppiers, including according to Sarah Jafee:
That includes a $55,000 settlement announced Thursday, April 24 [video at the link] to be paid to Josh Boss, who was livestreaming an Occupy march when he was thrown to the ground and kneed by Chief Thomas Purtell, who was at the time the commanding officer of the Manhattan South Patrol Division. Also among the final tally is $82,500 to Shawn Schrader, who goes by Shawn Carrie, over three separate violent arrests. A joint report from NYU’s Global Justice Clinic and Fordham’s Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic found that the police’s treatment of Occupy included ‘frequent alleged incidents of unnecessary and excessive police use of force against protesters, bystanders, journalists, and legal observers; constant obstructions of media freedoms, including arrests of journalists; unjustified and sometimes violent closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and corralling and trapping protesters en masse.
Yes: and Cecily McMillan was charged with Felony Assault on Poor Officer Bovell.
Zweibel also had ruled that only one video of McMillan’ arrest and resulting seizure before an ambulance picked her up; the prosecution, meanwhile was allowed to show ‘enhanced’ stills from video footage that was created by a photo lab, which they told jurors absolutely proved that McMillan assaulted the cop, as she crouched down, sprang up, and elbowed him the eye quite purposely.
Prosecuting attorney ADA Erin Choi and her assistant, Sandra Strain, have been quite zealous in their prosecutorial narratives and questioning, Choi having mocked McMillan for having ‘faked a seizure’ on the ground, thinking ‘she could get away with it.’ Apparently there has been plenty of derisive laughter, eye-rolling, etc by prosecutors and Judge.
Noteworthy testimony over the three weeks
On the first day of the trial, Cecily’s supporters arrive in court with pink construction paper hands pinned over their right breasts; the Judge threw a fit, and the bailiff gathered them up. On April 14, supporters arrived with pink hearts pinned on their chests; Judge Zweibel went apoplectic, blamed Martin Stolar for it, and again, had the baliff dispose of them. This report from the Village Voice was sincerely baffling; Choi is interviewing the first NYPD cop on her list:
With the hearts safely disposed of, ADA Choi continued questioning Sergeant Joseph Diaz, an NYPD officer with Manhattan South, the precinct usually assigned to cover protests and demonstrations. Diaz, who began his testimony on Friday, claimed not to remember virtually anything about the events of March 17, even telling Stolar on cross-examination he wasn’t sure whether there were 10, 50, or 100 people present in Zuccotti Park, or how many people were arrested that night.
Sometimes, the exchange between the two men swerved into comedy. At one point, Stolar asked what the NYPD did between when they arrived at the park, around 5 p.m., and when they were told by their superior officers to get everyone in the park to leave around midnight, so the park could ostensibly be subjected to a thorough, impromptu late-night cleaning.
‘I dunno,’ Diaz replied. ‘What a cop does? Drinking coffee? Talking about baseball?’ The jury tittered.
Bovell, though, recalled the night much more clearly when he took the stand’.
From the April 19 New York Daily News:
Cop elbowed in eye by Occupy protester repeatedly mentioned wrong eye in testimony: Defense attorney Martin Stolar on Friday read from minutes that revealed the cop, Grantley Bovell, said multiple times under oath that the wrong eye was injured when testifying in front of a Manhattan grand jury.
Oopsie, Officer Krupke.
‘And other witnesses on the bus called Bovell out on assaulting McMillan, and his only response was to chuckle.’
More judicial bias, while not allowing Bovell’s past charges of brutality in, Zweibel claimed that defense witnesses characterizing McMillain as assiduously nonviolent ‘opened the door’ to this prejudicial testimony in Choi’s continued attempts to paint Cecily as ‘a cop-hater’:
As Trial Winds Down, Prosecutors Press OWS Activist Cecily McMillan On Unrelated Misdemeanor Arrest (Village Voice)
In cross-examinations, Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi continued to suggest that McMillan faked the seizure, saying that she’d been seeing ‘flipping her hair’ while seated on the ground in handcuffs. She also asked every defense witness if they were aware that McMillan had ‘forcibly interfered’ with a police investigation in Union Square. [snip; the VV explains the police version of the event]
Choi is listed as the prosecutor in that case as well. McMillan is charged with obstruction of governmental administration, and would face no more than a year in jail if convicted. The incident allegedly occurred nearly two years after the Occupy arrest, but judging from their cross-examination of the defense witnesses, it looks like Choi and Shanda Strain, the other assistant district attorney on the Occupy case, will use it in their closing arguments, as part of an attempt to portray McMillan as an unrepentant, anti-law enforcement rabble-rouser.
Closing Arguments by Tweet:
First, closing arguments by defense, via Tim Eastman on Twitter unless otherwise noted; thank you, Tim and all of you.
From Shay Horse: They also said that the bruise on he right breast was a self inflicted injury that was caused from her falling on her hand
Pros: Cecily was able to fake a seizure bc she has experience as an actress.
Pros repeatedly brings up unproved allegations of interference w unrelated arrest by C.
Pros: for Bovell to have left a bruise through clothes he must have had cast-iron hands.
Pros says Cecily is “not shy” and therefore “would not have trouble reporting sexual assault.”
Pros refers to difficult to decipher, muddy video as “crystal-clear.” Tries to point out a progression of movement evidencing premeditation.
Pros trying to present a “facts speak for themselves” argument, taking video frame by frame. Pros is giving their closing argument, they claim Bovell has nothing to lose by telling the truth.
Def: The bruise on C’s breast is the “smoking gun” in the case.
Def: Why did the hospital do a CT scan if there was no reason to suspect C was injured?
Def shows large photos of bruises on foamboard, asks how they could have appeared if she had no opportuniy to self-inflict?
Def: C is a serious, politically-concerned citizen, not someone who goes around hitting cops.
Def: Somehow with all the paperwork and record-keeping, NYPD couldn’t produce supposed female officer corroborating Bovell.
Def: Why was C confused about being told of assault charges, why did she assume she was (unjustly) arrested for protesting?
Def: None of the other officers who testified could corroborate Bovell’s story or say what happened.
Def: Why would C ask to be filmed just before committing a crime? Bovell claims she did.
Def: Bovell told one version of his story to Ofc. Waring, he told a very different one during trial.
Def: Bovell can’t explain why approached Cecily, other than she was supposedly talking to female officer who may/not exist. Def: Why have NYPD or pros not produced female officer who supposedly witnessed, if her story supports? Is she invented?
Def: Ofc. Briggs testifies they looked that night for female officer who supposedly witnessed assault, Bovell says didn’t Def: Bovell can’t even recall details about night in general, his testimony conflicts w other officers
If you have the time, please read Sarah Jaffe’s ‘Post-Occupy, #myNYPD Makes New York’s Blood Boil: As Occupier Cecily McMillan stands trial, the city’s 99% rediscovers its anger toward the NYPD.’
I may try to flesh out her piece later; now my blood is on boil and I need to step out for a bit. This Twitter pic has been ubiquitous on #Justice4 Cecily.
This is what injustice looks like; how can we not anticipate that she’ll get the maximum sentence: seven years in prison?
— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) April 22, 2014
You can read Cecily’s defense team’s initial statement at Pastebin, including this at the end:
We will be fighting this unjust verdict in the court of appeals. Cecily’s lawyers are optimistic, given the circumstances of the case. Thank you all for your ongoing support throughout this trial. We know that many share our outrage at this verdict. If you’d like to get involved in jail support, please visit justiceforcecily.com to learn more about how to support Cecily.
God and Goddess help us all. Remember: while Cecily has had a lot of support, many others who need it remain out of sight to most of us.