Massachusetts court slaps judge for targeting people protesting anti-gay parade

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After District Attorney Rachael Rollins' right to not prosecute cases was affirmed, she lamented the "colossal waste of time."

The top court in the state of Massachusetts overruled a Boston judge who refused to let a prosecutor drop charges against nonviolent protesters demonstrating against last month's paltry Straight Pride Parade.

On Aug. 30, a smattering of anti-LGBTQ and white supremacy activists marched in Boston in a parade that featured one float — a display that included a bunch of pro-Trump signs and openly gay "misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, transphobic troll" Milo Yiannopoulous. They were met by a larger gathering of pro-equality protesters. Police reportedly arrested 36 people during the event, mostly from the group protesting against the hatemongers.

Last week, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, a Democrat who was elected last year on a criminal justice reform platform, decided to drop charges against some of the nonviolent protesters who had been arrested — a process known as "nolle prosequi." But while Massachusetts law gives elected prosecutors like Rollins the full discretion to use this process, the judge attempted to overrule her decision.

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That judge was Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott, who was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker two years ago.

The prosecutor office filed an appeal late last week to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), asking for it to affirm that Rollins has the power to not prosecute. It appealed one of the prosecutions as a test case.

On Monday, Justice Frank Gaziano ruled on behalf of the SJC that Sinnott had acted completely outside the law. "The prosecutor’s sole authority to determine which cases to prosecute, and when not to pursue a prosecution, has been affirmed repeatedly by this court since the beginning of the nineteenth century," he wrote.

While Gaziano noted that a judge could intervene if prosecutors "scandalously" abused their authority, he made it clear that this was not even close to being such a situation.

Rollins said at a press conference after the ruling that the situation had not been Sinnott's "finest moment" and lamented that the whole affair "was a colossal waste of time, quite frankly, because anyone who's gone to law school knows that the prosecution, there’s a separation of powers."

In announcing Sinnott's 2017 nomination for the judgeship, Baker praised "his commitment to human rights laws." His lieutenant governor, Republican Karen Polito, added that he had a "deep understanding of the law."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.