Man agrees to community service over "Put Wings On Pigs" post

putwingsonpigs While people all over the world are declaring "je suis Charlie" in solidarity with the French magazine that was attacked by terrorists, the Chicopee Police Department has moved forward with its own attack against another Charlie's freedom of expression.

Charles "Charlie" Dirosa, the man who was accused by the Chicopee police of making a threat after he wrote "Put Wings On Pigs" on Facebook, has agreed to perform community service if the complaint against him is dismissed. Dirosa's Facebook post was likely a reference to a similar Instagram post by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who went on a shooting spree last month that included his girlfriend and two New York City police officers before committing suicide.

According to The Republican:

A 27-year-old city man, who allegedly posted "Put Wings on pigs" on his Facebook page following last month's slayings of two New York City police officers, has agreed to perform community service.

That was the outcome of Charles DiRosa's show-cause hearing Monday in District Court, Michael Wilk, public information officer for the police department, said.

"Mr. DiRosa came to an agreement with the clerk-magistrate to do community service hours to be completed before March 16," Wilk said.

Once the community service is done, the complaint will be dismissed, Wilk said.

While Dirosa's post angered many people, it's almost certain that he would not have been convicted of a crime if he had chosen to fight the charge.

Russell Matson, a criminal defense attorney who sometimes contributes to The Bay State Examiner, explained that Dirosa’s Facebook post was “so vague” that it does not qualify as a threat. In order to constitute a genuine threat, Matson said, a statement must be directed toward a specific person, must indicate intent to carry out the threat, and the victim must have a reasonable belief that the person has the ability to carry out the threat. Matson said that Dirosa's post was protected by the First Amendment.

Even though he didn't do anything illegal, it's understandable that Dirosa would be eager to put this incident behind him by agreeing to these terms. After all, the Chicopee police's allegation against Dirosa thrust him into the national spotlight and possibly even made him a target for violent retaliation by police.

Over in East Windsor, Connecticut, former police officer Doug Humphrey called on his "law enforcement friends" to "kill [Charles Dirosa] dead" in a Facebook post. The East Windsor Police Department issued a press release saying they were investigating their former employee's comment after we brought it to their attention, but have been mum about the investigation ever since.

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Clerk magistrate dismisses Fall River city councilor's attempt to bring charges over Facebook post

As the movement to recall Fall River Mayor William Flanagan has picked up steam, members of the city's political establishment have been turning to the police and courts to try to jail their critics over mocking posts on the Facebook group "Threw Up in Fall River," as we've previously reported. John Creeden, a cousin of Flanagan, previously faced charges brought on by both Fall River Corporation Council Elizabeth Sousa and the mayor. Sousa accused Creeden of "accosting" her after he posted a picture of her with a vulgar caption suggesting she had a sexual relationship with the mayor. The mayor accused Creeden of intimidation after he posted of a picture of a tombstone with the name “Flanagan” with the added text “The Last Selfie,” which Creeden said was merely a reference to the predicted end of the mayor’s career as a politician.

Creeden insisted that both pictures were just pieces of satire protected by the First Amendment and beat both charges. Flanagan agreed to dismiss the charge he sought and a clerk magistrate dismissed the charge brought by Sousa.

Now, a second member of the group has beaten an "accosting" charge, this one brought on by a city councilor who supports the mayor. According to The Herald News:

A clerk magistrate dismissed City Councilor Pat Casey’s attempt to press criminal charges against a Fall River man who posted an inappropriate illustration with her name on Facebook.

Casey, 79, a city councilor for 17 years, said she will pursue a civil case against the individual who posted the picture meme on the “Threw Up in Fall River” private group page on Facebook.

“I still think it’s terrible that you have to put up with such bad things,” Casey said. “They feel as if this is about freedom of expression, but to me, it’s not.”

During a Nov. 20 show-cause hearing in Fall River District Court, a clerk magistrate found no probable cause to sustain a charge of accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex, said defense attorney Patrick McDonald, who represented Jason Ramalho, the individual who allegedly posted the inappropriate meme.

“There was no threat found with the posting. There was neither a veiled or an actual threat,” said McDonald, who also represented John F. Creeden...

McDonald said he filed the same brief he used in the Creeden case to argue against Casey’s request.

I'm glad to hear the clerk magistrates in Fall River have enough common sense to throw out cases like these. Hopefully by now, the politicians and bureaucrats in Fall River have learned that it's better to grow a thicker skin than to try to throw people in jail over mockery and gossip.

In related news, as the December mayoral recall election draws near, CommonWealth magazine reports on a strange possibility: even if Flanagan is recalled, he may still be able to win back the mayor's office due to the large number of candidates on the ballot:

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan may pull off one of the most improbable election victories in history in three weeks: the odds are pretty good that voters on the same day will recall him from office for a variety of alleged misdeeds and then immediately reelect him.

The recall effort is gaining momentum because concern about Flanagan’s mayoralty has reached a fever pitch. But on the same ballot where voters are being asked to weigh in on the recall, they will also be asked to select a replacement. Flanagan has thrown his hat in the ring, along with seven other candidates. The early betting is that Flanagan’s rivals will split the vote and the recalled mayor will return to office...

The potential for that [outcome] to become reality was set in motion earlier this month when Judge Thomas McGuire Jr. ruled that the Dec. 16 vote for mayor will not be a preliminary election, with the top two finishers moving on to a runoff in January. That means all Flanagan needs to win is to gain a plurality of the votes cast. McGuire also gave Flanagan a bit of a lift, ruling that his name should be placed atop the ballot because of state election laws that mandate that incumbents be listed first. It was a win-win for Flanagan, who agreed he feels optimistic that the ducks are lining up for him to keep his job.

CommonWealth speculates that the other person most likely to win the election is Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, which would be an interesting outcome considering Flanagan previously worked under Sutter at the district attorney's office:

[Shannon] Jenkins, [a] UMass Dartmouth professor, said most people in the area believe Sutter has the best chance of defeating Flanagan. With his name recognition and campaign machine, Sutter could pull in the majority of votes from those who want change in what she thinks will be a low-turnout affair.

Whatever the outcome is, only time will tell.

Mass. state trooper tries to steal man's cellphone

On June 30, a man named Johnny was sitting in the passenger seat of his wife's car when they passed by the scene of an accident. Johnny took out his cellphone and began recording. A Massachusetts state trooper spotted him, approached the car, and ordered them to stop.

The trooper reached into the car in an attempt to steal the phone.

"Why are you taking pictures?" the the trooper demanded. "Why are you taking pictures?"

"Because I can and you can't touch my phone," Johnny replied.

"Keep going," the trooper barked. "Keep driving."

At this point, they drove off.

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The video was uploaded to YouTube by "chzbizman," a friend of Johnny. According to the description of the video posted on YouTube:

this incident took place at around 4pm on june 30th 2014. my friend johnny was going home from a day at the lake with his wife and kids when he came across a car accident. he was the passenger in the car and decided to pull out his cell phone and record what had happened. his wife never stopped and continued through the accident scene slowly while johnny started recording. at the point they approached the accident scene a state trooper reached inside his vehicle and tried to grab his cell phone. words were exchanged and they continued on. the point is when will certain law enforcement stop abusing their power and try to restrict our 1st american right. photography is not a crime. thank you

This isn't the first time in recent memory that a state trooper has tried to interfere with someone video-recording. Late last year, The Bay State Examiner's Maya recorded a state trooper who pulled her over and he threatened to steal her camera. Last month, state police pulled over a medical marijuana patient, searched his car for no apparent legal reason, and took his medicine. He attempted to video record the traffic stop, but the troopers took his phone, turned it off, and did not give it back until the traffic stop was over.

I've reached out to chzbizman and Colonel Tim Alben, the head of the state police, for more information about this video.

Update (7/9/14): The Massachusetts State Police actually take photographs of the aftermath of car accidents so they can post them on their Facebook page, highlighting the absurdity of this trooper's attempt to stop Johnny from recording.

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Update (7/11/14): After I asked him about the video several times on Twitter, Tim Alben responded to some of my questions.

Alben indicated that the state police would not take any action against the officer in the video unless Johnny files a formal complaint first. He also refused to provide the name of the officer in the video.

Alben said the state police respect the First Amendment, but said they will try to "do better in this area of video recording" in the future. He said he would write about what steps the state police are taking to improve on his blog in the next few weeks.

You can read the entire exchange here:

Friday links (6/27/14)

The Massachusetts law which created protest-free "buffer zones" around abortion clinics has been ruled unconstitutional by a unanimous Supreme Court. The mayor and police chief in Brockton want to install hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the city and have a plan to force private businesses to install them.

5 people shot at a birthday part in Lowell.

MuckRock user makes a public records request for emails between the Boston Police Department and NSA.

Boston-based firm plans to develop technology to fight internet censorship.

Deval Patrick has signed a bill that will raise the state's minimum wage.

Senators working on legislation to stop government agencies from abusing an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

Bomb threat charge against Kevin Edson dropped

In a win for freedom of expression, the bomb threat charge against Kevin "Kayvon" Edson has been dropped. Edson was arrested on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing when he was spotted walking around with a backpack with a rice cooker in it while shouting "Boston Strong." "Suffolk County district attorney’s spokesman Jake Wark said Tuesday that based on the evidence the state could not prove that Kevin Edson communicated a clear threat with an explosive device," the Associated Press reported.

Despite the sensational coverage the story has received, there have never been any allegations that Edson claimed to have a bomb or threatened anyone. Edson reportedly told police that his bizarre behavior was a piece of performance art. Some news reports claim he placed his bag on the ground like the Boston Marathon bombers, but this is contradicted by the police report on his arrest which indicated that he had possession of the bag until it was taken and blown up by police.

In an article published two days ago, Maya of The Bay State Examiner criticized the police for arresting Edson. "The Boston police have made a mighty power grab here, claiming and exercising the ability to arrest a citizen for free expression that they don’t like. If shouting while wearing a backpack is illegal, then most protests I’ve attended are also now illegal," she wrote.

Edson still faces charges of disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, disturbing a public assembly, and possession or use of a hoax device, which he has pleaded not guilty to.