Charges dropped against Rumsfeld protester

March 27, 2013

On March 7, the Suffolk County District Attorney dropped all charges against antiwar activist and socialist Shaun Joseph, ending a nearly 18-month legal ordeal stemming from Joseph's arrest at a protest in Boston of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in September 2011.

Police had charged Joseph with resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer--even though video evidence clearly showed that he was the victim of an assault at the hands of police. Joseph was represented by Myong Joun, a member of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Joseph refused to accept a plea bargain, even after prosecutors offered a series of "lenient" probation deals. "Why should I be on probation when I'm innocent, when I'm actually the victim?" Joseph said in an interview. His defiance exposed the empty shell that was the state's case, which the prosecution only dismissed after the trial had formally begun--a shambolic waste of time and money.

"I understand why so many people--even innocent people--plead out," said Joseph, "but refusing to do so can be a form of resistance. It's something you need to decide carefully, with good legal advice and family or community support, but if even a modestly higher percentage of the accused demanded a trial, the legal system would grind to a halt. Not that it runs much quicker than a halt presently."

Having demolished the criminal case against him, Joseph now plans to take the fight to the Boston police with a civil suit against Sgt. David L. O'Connor, the officer who filed the false charges.

In the post-9/11 world that ushered in the expansive, endless, "war on terror"--an era defined by sweeping attacks and restrictions on civil liberties--every victory, no matter how small, is important.

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