Longform: Cecily McMillan Faces Prison Time. Where's the Justice in That?

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Photo by Zach D. Roberts
Police remove Cecily McMillan from a bus they'd commandeered for prisoner transport at Zuccotti Park on the night of St. Patrick's Day

Read our May 19 update to this story here.

On a normal day, it's not hard to get to the 11th floor of 100 Centre Street, the hulking gray building that houses much of Manhattan's criminal court system. You pass through a set of gold-rimmed doors and a metal detector and step into a dingy elevator, where no one speaks and some of your fellow riders might be in handcuffs, fresh from central booking in the basement.

On Monday, May 5, though, the crowd trying to get into Judge Ronald Zweibel's courtroom had a harder time. Security had set up a second screening post outside the courtroom doors. Phones were not permitted. Purses were pawed through, wallets opened, and everyone was wanded a second time for weapons. Inside, 33 officers ringed the room.

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"I've never felt so safe," an audience member cracked, half under his breath. A couple of officers swiveled their heads toward him. He shut up.

Behind the squadron at the front of the room, Cecily McMillan was just visible. Accused of assaulting a police officer, the 25-year-old stood at the defense table flanked by her attorneys, Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg. McMillan wore a floaty white dress, gray blazer, and heels in a subdued red. She paled as the jury filed in past her. None of them looked her way.

For nearly a month, these eight women and four men watched two competing versions of McMillan play out in the courtroom. The Cecily of the defense was a peaceful activist, a former cheerleader with a dorky enthusiasm for the political process and a naïve conviction that "the state" — police, politicians, the Democratic Party — can effect radical social change.

The prosecution described someone else altogether: a drama queen, a habitual liar, a drunken seizure-faker. It was that Cecily, they argued, who arrived at a March 17, 2012, Occupy Wall Street demonstration armed with liquid courage and brazenly assaulted a police officer, elbowing him so forcefully that his vision blurred and he sustained a cut on his face and a black eye.

Now, as the jury foreman stood, verdict in hand, after three hours of deliberation, McMillan grew paler still, until the skin around her mouth appeared blue. She stared straight ahead.

Guilty.

A murmur of dismay swept the room.

Judge Zweibel dismissed the jury. Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi, the lead prosecutor, asked that McMillan be jailed until her May 19 sentencing.

"That's not appropriate," Stolar objected. "Ms. McMillan has attended every single court appearance knowing exactly what the outcome could be. . . . She is not someone who's likely to cut and run." He asked that his client continue to remain free on bail.

"The defendant is remanded," the judge replied curtly.

At that, a row of McMillan's supporters stood, pointed at the judge, and began chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Security officers shouted at the protesters to sit down. When that proved ineffective, they wrestled the noncompliant back into their seats. A fresh wave of officers poured through a side door, zip-tie handcuffs at the ready.

"Everybody out!" one yelled, and they began clearing the room.

The protesters, still chanting, were removed. The hallway became a mass of outraged humanity; two people trying to capture video of the fracas said later that court security officers forced them to delete the files . On the sidewalk outside, a group of McMillan supporters who call themselves Justice for Cecily gathered along with Stolar for a press conference. Many looked near tears.

"Will Cecily be coming out this front door?" one former occupier asked hopefully, evidently not having absorbed what had just happened.

"Cecily is not coming out," Stolar replied.

As he spoke, the newly minted convict was being escorted through a back door and loaded onto a bus bound for Rikers Island.

Update, May 16: At Rikers Island Awaiting Sentencing, Cecily McMillan Says, "I've Never Felt So Loved Before"

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87 comments
Blutwulf
Blutwulf

*CHUCKLES* Glad to see another foolish little elitist occupier get what they so richly deserve.

craigvan
craigvan

It's hard to have that much sympathy for her.

Her supporters seems to think, or more accurately feel, that assault should be legal.

Except they most certainly wouldn't think that if she wasn't one of their own.



frank124c
frank124c topcommenter

We should resist the police at every opportunity. We must all stand up for our rights! Ben Franklyn said:  "If we do not hang together we will hang separately!"

Robert Cardinelle
Robert Cardinelle

Following the law and respecting the order and stability it produces is not shit and those that believe in it are not ass holes. For example, it saves your ignorant dumb ass with that putrid attitude you exhibit. She was breaking the law when she broke the law, and she wasn't very smart. She listened to dumb shits like you and suffered the consequences. Idiot!

Robert Cardinelle
Robert Cardinelle

She was the rock that couldn't be moved. She learned differently.

Tyler Wilson
Tyler Wilson

There's always one asshole on every thread like this spouting the same shit.

pegasus644
pegasus644

As  a retired law enforcement officer I can speak about this post. Too much freeway are given to officers. It was NOT necessary to treat the woman as he did. Case should be reviewed.

Robert Cardinelle
Robert Cardinelle

Justice was served, and a very good justice in that. Next time you to go a political protest familiarize yourself with the laws of the state and do not break them; particularly wen you exhibit behavior that can be construed as an assault on police officer. Good grief that was stupid! Men have been killed for less, She got off easy and the anarchists should be grateful, not pissy ... I hope she learned something and grows up because of it.

Cheryl Lynn
Cheryl Lynn

And what did the cop receive for his outrageously inappropriate actions??? #fucktheNYPD

Joe Antol
Joe Antol

Believe or not I tend to agree. Re jury duty, keep silent and remember: Jury Nullification has been a viable concept since before the Revolution...

John Rolka
John Rolka

She shouldn't have been prosecuted, and anything more than time served is too much. I'll have a earful for the judge next time I get called to jury duty.

Luis Orozco
Luis Orozco

This dummys 15 minutes of fame are over. Put her in jail like everyone else who commits an assault.

Ted Cantu
Ted Cantu

What a silly movement... seriously. The whole thing was embarrasing.

Glenn Foley
Glenn Foley

Lock her ass up, in the video u can clearly see she lowered her body n upwardly hit the officer with her elbow. That's not someone just reacting to someone grabbing her.

lscott_palmer
lscott_palmer

We have tons of deranged hilljacks most of which are jobless, mentally unstable, collecting gov benefits(while denouncing the gov), violent etc in Nevada. Pointing guns a fed officials and terrorizing a small town, Yet no law enforcement entity is scooping them up.

Where is the rule of law there?

And these cops need to be fired and charged with crimes involved in the violence and mishandling of her arrest. 

And is the jury made up of Wall Street banking criminals or what? This is nonsense

electeng55
electeng55

When the great Bin Ladin served justice on them two buildings in New York on 9/11, it was full the jurors, judges and pigs alike who have this sick, warped, corrupt since of judgement. Lol, I cheered on this great day and spit on that flag the whore americans stole from the forefathers. This is the only justice america deserves. Long live those who fight injustice and for freedom, thanks Mr Ladin.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Some how I doubt the Po Po was copping a feel.  If you are being arrested you shouldn't elbow the man.

faluovo
faluovo

Towards the end of the first page I read: At that, a row of McMillan's supporters stood, pointed at the judge, and began chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"


What, are they Gomer Pyle?

gwc4683
gwc4683

Just goes to show that drunken actions have consequnces........

Dan Jones
Dan Jones

Where's the vigilante justice against the cop?

Robert_Is_A_Troll
Robert_Is_A_Troll

Assault is the word the police used, not the word a civilian would use. Anyone else would say "reacted to a sexual assault." Self defense is not a crime, it's a human right.

Robert Cardinelle
Robert Cardinelle

The reason that didn't happen is exactly the reason we have laws. Stick you emotions back in your pants, and think if the laws she broke and in her history of advocating the breaking of those laws. You cant blame police officers in this case for simply doing their jobs. YOu cannot have it both ways. You can't say she is a damsel in distress in a physical altercation and at the same time argue she is "combat' qualified to serve in military combat. She gave up the right to be treated exclusively as a lady when she became liberated demanding to be treated equally as a man.

Robert Cardinelle
Robert Cardinelle

Cecily McMillan is guilty as hell and lying through her teeth. Just so you know ...

Kevin K. Wu
Kevin K. Wu

Here's the lesson... don't assault a cop. Don't hit him, spit on him, shove him, etc. All of that is considered asault. The correct way for civil disobedience is to let your body go limp, so they are forced to carry you to be arrested. If you fight back or resist, that's resisting arrest and possible grounds for assault if your resisting causes you to accidentally hit someone. Don't want to risk doing the time, then don't do the crime (even if it's civil disobedience).

Blutwulf
Blutwulf

@frank124c Fine. When you need one, please don't call them. LEO these days are usually quite busy dealing with other idiots.

Blutwulf
Blutwulf

lol. She was a rock alright.

In the military we call the hard headed kids who just will not learn, and are always doing idiotic things 'rocks'

pegasus644
pegasus644

As a retired law enforcement officer I believe the officer was over stepping the proper method of restraint.


craigvan
craigvan

@lscott_palmer

How did they mishandle her arrest?

The jury concluded that the groping alibi was a lie.  You know, judges really hate when people lie in court. 


Blutwulf
Blutwulf

That wouldn't be Justice. Justice was served against the wannabe elitist criminal. Good riddance to bad rubbish.


dave998
dave998

Another barely coherent republicunt.  You sound like a dirty cop.  What day is payoff day in your department officer?

gow1954
gow1954

     The occupy people are exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and petition the Goverment. Time after time they have been violently assaulted by Govt. storm troopers.And even here in "civilized"' "liberal" Minnespta, the police occasionlaly assault and murder people and even gun down CHILDREN.Let's face, it they are as  much terrorists as "peace officers". There job is NOT to enforce the Law, it is to intimidate us into obeying their politician masters.And their masters don't give a flying fart for the law, only for their OWN wealth and power.

    This teenage girl was te victim of a violent assault by a thug. The arrest was a typical act of State terrorism.The thug and his masters belong in prison, not the girl.

Robert_Is_A_Troll
Robert_Is_A_Troll

But she did gain the right to be treated as a human being, which as far human history is concerned, is a lot better and more equal than being a lady. As a human being with rights to her own bodily integrity, as enshrined in the human rights charter, she has the right to self defense.

gow1954
gow1954

Nowadays they consider going limp "resisting arrest".

Robert_Is_A_Troll
Robert_Is_A_Troll

The article clearly states that she was not involved in political action on the evening of her arrest. She was talking with a friend when she was grabbed from behind by a stranger, and she reacted. She didn't assault a cop, she defended herself from a creep. That the creep was a cop is the crime that should be tried, if such a thing as justice existed for the NYPD.

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