Choi Found Guilty

Gay rights activist fined $100 for actions related to 2010 White House protest against ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell''

According to Choi’s fellow activist Staff Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, who peered through the glass on the courtroom doors, Choi was on the floor of the courtroom during the episode. At one point, Choi was heard sobbing, ”I don’t want to do this any more!” before several marshals exited the courtroom, carrying Choi, by his arms, with his legs in the air as Choi cursed at them, even telling one of the deputies, ”Fuck you, you’re a coward.”

”I think he’s tired, he’s been under pressure for so long,” Ben-Shalom said of Choi’s mental state.

Following the recess, Choi appeared in court, calm and solemn, telling Facciola, ”I have found rest,” indicating he had finished his defense.

In her closing arguments, George argued that the order to leave the sidewalk had been given in accordance with U.S. Park Police regulations, was not content-based, and was done in the process of law enforcement. She also argued that it was not necessary to prove whether Choi had engaged in unlawful conduct.

Just before giving his closing argument, Choi faced the court, slowly saluted, turned to George and shook her hand very deliberately, and began his statements. Originally told by Facciola to limit his remarks to 30 minutes, Choi spoke for nearly 40 minutes, touching on various themes ranging from his service in Iraq to his actions, both in the United States and abroad, as a gay rights activist, as well as the First Amendment and freedom of speech, often reciting poetic verses in Arabic or quoting Thomas Jefferson throughout his speech before the court.

Choi also emphasized his own struggles with PTSD, telling the court it ”comes back to me when I am forced in my own country to prove my dignity and humanity.”

”I am part of a civil rights and global rights movement,” Choi said. ”One that I will not stop being part of until the day I die.”

When Choi went over the time limit, Facciola tried to stop him, but Choi kept talking over the judge until Ben-Shalom stepped in and made Choi finish his remarks. Choi then stood as Facciola pronounced him guilty.

Following the trial, Choi shook hands with several of the audience members and hugged some close friends.

Capt. James Pietrangelo II, a fellow activist and lawyer who was arrested with Choi during multiple demonstrations against DADT, later told reporters that he believed Choi’s guilty verdict would be overturned on appeal. According to Pietrangelo, the government failed to prove any of the six circumstances required to prove someone has failed to obey the order of a law enforcement officer, nor had it proven whether the order was lawful or that Choi violated any such order, as he was told to ”leave the sidewalk,” not the fence ledge on which he had been standing.

Pietrangelo also said there may be an issue regarding whether Choi can be charged with violating a U.S. Park Police regulation that is not statute. Lastly, Pietrangelo claimed, there is a form of double jeopardy in which Choi could not be found guilty, stemming from Facciola’s initial finding of prima facie evidence for vindictive prosecution.

”You can’t start a trial after the first witness has been called, and then suspend it,” he said, referring to the government’s writ of mandamus, which effectively halted the trial and allowed the government to refine its case against Choi, when the government should have been forced to either move forward with the timely prosecution of the case, or drop the charges against Choi.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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