At the press conference at close of business: Jim Pietrangelo, Dan Choi, Robert Feldman, and Iana Di Bono. Photo by Brad Crothers.
Dan Choi's trial began yesterday, continuing the legal battle begun last November when he and twelve other activists (ahem, including me) handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence in protest of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The twelve of us plead guilty to the charge of "failure to obey," but Dan felt that he was not guilty of a crime and asked for a trial. He faces six months in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Metro Weekly reports:
What seems like an open-and-shut case for the prosecution-- after all, we were all on the fence, right? There's video!-- was called into question by Dan's lawyer, Robert Feldman. During cross examination, he attempted to establish several key points that seem to erode the government's position that Choi had no right to be there:
Choi’s lawyer, Robert Feldman, said he would try to move quickly tomorrow, but because the prosecution has not rested its case, and because of testimony that implicated other potential law enforcement officers who could be called as witnesses, the trial might spill over into a third day.
The prosecutor representing the government, Angela George, called six witnesses, all U.S. Park Police officers, to testify against Choi. George argued that Choi could be found guilty of failing to obey a lawful order because his conduct could be considered disorderly, or because the group he was involved with did not have a permit to demonstrate on the sidewalk in front of the White House. At the close of the day, George said she had at least one more witness to call before finishing her arguments.
I will be speaking to Dan's assistant later, and will hopefully have more information as the trial evolves. Feldman, after the trial ended for the day, stated that he believed the trial may last as long as three days.
On cross-examination, Feldman questioned whether Choi was technically on the sidewalk or a ledge when he was chained to the fence, thereby not disobeying police orders. He also questioned whether Choi’s conduct posed a threat to others, obstructed traffic or prevented emergency responders from doing their job, which would be required for his conduct to be considered “disorderly.”
Footage of the protest below: