A Massachusetts judge has dismissed allegations by police officers in the town of Franklin of disturbing the peace and resisting arrest against a man carrying a pro-life message after determining authorities’ stories were “nonsense.”
“It [the police report] says that if he did not produce an ID he was going to be placed under arrest for disturbing the peace because he was creating a scene. In other words, ‘Disturbing the peace’ is not providing your ID? That’s a remarkable way of disturbing the peace. It’s the middle of the night in the wilderness and there’s no one else around. ‘Give me your ID.’ ‘No.’ ‘You’re disturbing the peace!’ Nonsense,” said the judge.
The dialogue has been posted online by Mass Resistance, which said it compiled the discussion in the recent hearing for Peter D’Attilio from two observers in the courtroom who were taking notes on the proceedings.
The decision by Judge Stephen Ostrach was to dismiss the complaint. It had been generated by police officers in the town who were conducting an “investigation” after the chief of St. Rocco’s Festival asked them to remove a man who was handing out information from the property.
D’Attilio insisted he wasn’t told to leave, stating he volunteered to leave the area of private property, but the officers prevented him.
At the Feb. 9 hearing on the charges, D’Attilio was defended by attorney Stephen Foley.
According to Mass Resistance, the judge read the police report and noted, “The resistance here seems to be certainly within the law.”
“It’s interesting, [the police report] begins by saying the person in charge of the property wanted the party removed. … And instead of removing the person from the property, the police chose to keep him on it,” the judge said.
When the prosecutor explained that the officers were investigating “trespass,” the judge said, “It’s not a trespass until the person is told to leave and he refuses to do so. Is there any indication here that the defendant had ever been told he was supposed to leave?”
The prosecutor responded, “No.”
The judge also noted the event was a festival and open to the community.
“He was passing out pamphlets on a political issue,” the judge said.
The prosecutor argued that the officers were pursuing additional information.
The exchange, according to Mass Resistance:
Prosecutor: “When a police officer is conducting an investigation …”
Judge: “An investigation of what?”
Prosecutor: “A trespass.”
Judge: “Where’s the probable cause that there’s a trespass?”
Prosecutor: “I don’t think it’s required in regards to that. There’s an investigation that’s taking place.”
Judge: “So, he’s investigating an accident. ‘I’d like your ID.’ ‘I don’t want to give you my ID. And I’m going to leave now.’ Look, the man wanted to leave. ‘I want to leave now.’ ‘I told him to stop and started to block him with my arm extended.’”
Prosecutor: “He didn’t say that he was going to leave. I think it was the exact opposite, that he wanted to stay and continued his behavior. That’s what the inference should be drawn …”
Judge: [Reading from report] “… started to leave. Subject, later identified, started to leave.”
Prosecutor: “By that time, the police have a right to conduct an investigation in regards to…”
Judge: “I’m sure they do. They can investigate from today until the cows come home. But what business [do] they have laying hands on this man? What right did they have to block his man from leaving?”
Prosecutor: “They were conducting an investigation at that time. They were speaking to him and …”
Judge: “And he chose to walk away from the police.”
Prosecutor: “He chose to walk away from the police at that time.”
Judge: “And they didn’t want him to.”
Prosecutor: “That’s correct.”
Judge: “And so they decided they were going to physically restrain him.”
Prosecutor: “Physically restrain him? I think that’s a leap. What we have here is that the contact was brought by Mr. D’Attilio in that he pushed past the officer.”
Judge: “So if Mr. D’Attilio had turned and walked the other way away the policeman wouldn’t have stopped him – if he went the other way. There was something about his particular direction – the police officer was concerned about? “
Prosecutor: “I don’t know that.”
Judge: “Let’s assume for the moment that the police have no reason to arrest Mr. D’Attilio, but they still tell him he’s going to be under arrest. Now I agree with you that you can’t resist an arrest even if it’s a patently illegal arrest. Did he resist?”
Prosecutor: “Well, just in terms of his conduct and the way he handled himself with the police by pushing past them and then causing a scene. When he’s causing a scene …”
Judge: “He was causing a scene?”
Judge: “He’s causing the scene.”
Prosecutor: “That’s right. He was not placed under arrest for disturbing the peace until after …”
Judge: “It says that if he did not produce an ID he was going to be placed under arrest for disturbing the peace because he was creating a scene. In other words, ‘Disturbing the peace’ is not providing your ID? That’s a remarkable way of disturbing the peace. It’s the middle of the night in the wilderness and there’s no one else around. ‘Give me your ID.’ ‘No.’ ‘You’re disturbing the peace!’ Nonsense.”
Franklin officials declined to respond to a WND request for comment.
According to Mass Resistance, the events developed Aug. 11, 2011, when police stopped D’Attilio, arrested him and beat him “so badly that he had a large black eye.”
“Peter strongly denies that he resisted arrest or was disorderly in any way. He was never even told to leave the area, and when he tried to leave on his own the police illegally detained him,” the report said. “During the Aug. 11 incident, the police dispatched a total of nine officers and staff to the scene to help arrest him. This is consistent, we were told, with a common tactic to make the ‘crime’ appear much more severe. Eventually, if a trial were held, all of those officers would testify the same way, against Peter’s word.”
The report said a civil rights lawsuit against the police department was being considered.
D’Attilio also was confronted by police later in Quincy, which he captured on video: