Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan Found Guilty of Assault on Police Officer
McMillan talks with one of her lawyers, Martin Stolar.
Update, 3:08 p.m.:
A jury has found Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan guilty of assault on a police officer. Her sentencing will be May 19. She was remanded into custody, pending sentencing. Judge Ronald Zweibel refused to let her stay free on bail. A full update can be found on page three.
The Voice's Anna Merlan posted this photo of the police presence:
Original story below.
After nearly a month, the trial of Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan is expected to end today, May 5. McMillan is accused of deliberately elbowing police officer Grantley Bovell in the eye during a six month anniversary Occupy demonstration on March 17, 2012. On Friday, the jury heard closing arguments from both sides, and this morning, they'll be instructed and sent to begin their deliberations. McMillan is charged with assault in the second degree, and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
The last person the jury heard from was Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi, the lead prosecutor in the case. She called McMillan's allegations that Officer Bovell had grabbed her breast "heinous" and unbelievable, saying that if McMillan had truly been assaulted, she would have reported it right away, while in police custody.
"She might as well have said that aliens came that night and assaulted her," Choi told the jury.
Choi's summation was filled with aggressive, sometimes inflammatory statements that visibly shocked McMillan's supporters in the audience. (They also had a noticeable impact on some members of the press, crammed shoulder to shoulder and laptop to laptop in the front rows of the courtroom.) At one point, referring to Bovell's prior involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal, in which he had five parking tickets illegally dismissed, Choi told them, "What do these five parking tickets mean? Does it mean anyone can assault him whenever they feel like it? If you acquit this defendant, that's what you're saying."
Before Choi spoke, Martin Stolar, one of McMillan's two attorneys, spent over two hours on his own closing arguments. At times he sounded like a long-winded professor, ruminating on the history of protest in the United States ("Being arrested for civil disobedience is as American as apple pie," he told the jury) and going back over much of the testimony in the case. He stressed McMillan's bonafides as a nonviolent activist, saying, "She doesn't abandon her principles for the momentary pleasure or experience of assaulting a police officer."
McMillan's lawyers have maintained that McMillan wasn't heading to Zuccotti Park to protest. She was decked out in an all-green outfit with matching eyeliner, celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a friend from out of town. They say she stopped by Zuccotti Park to meet up with friends and got caught up in an overly aggressive police clearing of the park.
"Send Ms. McMillan home," Stolar told the jury. "Send her back to school. Let her be a teacher, a politician, or president of the United States."
But the prosecution argued that McMillan was intoxicated and feeling cocky, and deliberately elbowed Bovell after shouting "Are you filming this?" at someone in the crowd.
McMillan's "political motives for being in the park" were irrelevant, Choi told the jury. "This case is not about political views or ideologies," she said. "It's not about rich versus poor... This has nothing to do with Occupy Wall Street." Whatever her reasons, she said, McMillan struck Bovell.
Choi also attacked McMillan's claim that she was grabbed from behind by her right breast, and that that was the reason that her elbow flew up and hit Bovell. "This defendant wants you to believe... she was grabbed by her right breast," the prosecutor said. "But this video is crystal clear."
She was referring to a blurry, chaotic YouTube video that does show McMillan elbowing the officer; the defense attorneys have argued it also shows a dark blur, possibly Bovell's arm, crossing McMillan's body in the moments before the attack. Choi's claim that the video was "crystal clear" prompted what sounded like shocked laughter from several reporters in the front row. (A court security guard quickly rushed over and hushed them.)