The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 67.0°F | A Few Clouds

Huang guilty of assault

By Andrea Lamberti

The only person charged with a felony during a Coalition Against Apartheid demonstration on April 6 was convicted Friday at the Middlesex County Courthouse.

In a trial without jury, Jennifer Y. C. Huang '90 was found guilty of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and of disturbing the peace, but was found not guilty of trespassing after notice. An appeal has already been filed.

Huang was given a 10-day suspended sentence in a correctional institution for the assault charge, and fined a total of $175 for disturbing the peace.

At the demonstration in front of the Julius A. Stratton Student Center last year -- during which CAA members erected a pro-divestment shanty to symbolize the plight of blacks in South African shanty towns -- Huang was the last of 26 protesters removed from the shanty.

Campus Police officer Lucy M. Figueiredo charged that as she was placing Huang in the van, Huang kicked her in the chest and bruised her. Due to her injury, Figueiredo was off work for three and a half weeks under the care of a physician, according to Campus Police lieutenant Edward D. McNulty.

During her testimony, Huang asserted that any contact between her and the police officers was incidental, resulting from the officers "pushing her in" the van.

Huang said the MIT police "lifted me up by my clothing" from the shanty site, "dragged me toward the sidewalk, handcuffed me face down on the sidewalk, and picked me up and placed me in on my face.

"I was only about a third of the way in the van. Then they lifted me up about four feet and threw me in head first. Then they were grabbing lower parts of my body to try to push me in further," she added.

Protester James J. Winebrake G, the only other witness called by the defense, testified that he did see Huang's foot "brush the arm of the officers," but that he did not see any other movement of Huang's leg or foot. Winebrake was also arrested during the demonstration, but walked with police into the van.

The assistant district attorney handling the case, Andy Pickett, emphasized that Winebrake did not resist the police and walked into the van. This contrasted the way Huang entered the van, because she had passively resisted the arrest by becoming "limp," and had to be dragged to the van.

After the trial, Huang felt that Winebrake's testimony had backfired because he had willingly walked with the officers. "We weren't expecting that," she said.

Pickett also emphasized that the prosecution did not "dispute the right to demonstrate as an element" of free speech. The state does oppose "going beyond the bounds of reasonable" conduct during a demonstration, he said.

At the end of the trial, Judge Arlene Hassett, who handed down the verdicts, said there was "no question. . . . The injury could not have occurred inadvertently."

For the charge of trespassing, the judge said there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and found Huang not guilty. Huang testified she did not hear the order to dismantle the shanty, given by Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 over a bullhorn, because she was inside the shanty, "chanting and singing" with other CAA members.

Jackie Church, one of Huang's lawyers, said the defense filed an appeal for a jury trial immediately after Friday's verdict.

Under the Massachusetts judicial system, a defendant has the option of waiving a jury trial and going for a judge trial, as Huang did. If the defendant is not satisfied with the verdict, Church explained, the defendant can opt for a trial de novo, which is a new trial with a jury of six people.

Judge did not oppose

a lighter verdict

At the end of the trial, Hassett told the district attorney that she did not oppose ruling a continuance without a finding -- which would have effectively eliminated the felony conviction -- for the assault charge. Before giving the state's recommendation, though, Pickett conferred with McNulty and then announced that the prosecution opposed a continuance without a finding.

"The Commonwealth would seek a guilty [finding, with a sentence of 10 days], suspended for one year," in addition to finding her guilty for disturbing the peace with a fine of $100, Pickett said.

McNulty said yesterday that he did not agree to the continuance finding "because of the injury to the officer," although Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin said the Campus Police would not have dropped the charges even if there were no injury.

With a continuance finding, the defendant is placed on probation for a period of time determined by the judge, after which the defendant may seek to have her record sealed.

25 other demonstrators

arrested that day

At the same demonstration, one student was arrested on the charge of trespass after notice, and 24 others were arrested for trespass after notice and disturbing the peace.

At the time, the protesters were offered a deal: If they would pay a court fee of $200, or serve 50 hours of community service, the charges would be dropped.

Four international students accepted the offer. The cases of the remaining students were later dismissed, with court costs. The court cost varied with each person -- from $100 to $200, or the equivalent in community service -- depending on the person's prior record, according to protester Steven D. Penn G.

All the protesters took the option of paying through community service, and completed their service last semester, Penn said.