Occupy Protester Faces Jury Selection
MANHATTAN (CN) - An Occupy Wall Street activist facing heavy jail time if convicted of felony assault of a police officer was the one "severely beaten" and groped by police, her lawyer said outside of court Monday.
"We are here this morning to commence jury selection in a case where an innocent woman is being accused of something that can send her to jail for seven years," National Lawyer's Guild attorney Martin Stolar said, referring to 25-year-old Cecily McMillan. "She's accused of assaulting a police officer and interfering with his official duties during the six-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street takeover of Zuccotti Park last March 17, 2012."
McMillan had been arrested alongside more than 70 people attempting to move back into the park that served as the former headquarters of their movement before the city evicted them.
A few women attending in support of McMillan at the press conference wore pink paper cutouts of hands over their right breasts, where McMillan maintains that New York City Police Officer Grantley Bovell grabbed her two years ago.
"We have photographs that were taken very shortly after Cecily was released from jail that indicate she had severe bruises on her right breast where she was grabbed and she reacted," Stolar said at the conference. "All the other bruises that she had were on her back and on her head when she was pushed down on her face and beaten by the police."
Stolar added that the photo of a bruise on McMillan's breast proves "proves pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt that she was assaulted by the police before she threw her right arm up and wound up apparently hitting the officer."
Officer Bovell is not accused, however, of any criminal wrongdoing.
Before trial, Stolar had lost an effort to search Bovell's personnel trial for evidence of misconduct. Such records are usually confidential, and the case was delayed from an original February start date as the parties wrangled over whether disclosure was warranted.
In support of his case, Stolar noted that a Bronx teenager had named Bovell as a defendant in a civil case claiming that police intentionally ran him over while he was riding his bicycle. Bovell also faced internal discipline for his role in a ticket-fixing scandal that grabbed headlines over the past three years. He was not one of the officers criminally indicted following a probe of such misconduct.
Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Ronald Zweibel ruled on March 19 that Stolar's evidence was irrelevant to his client's case.
"There is no indication that there is anything in Officer Bovell's personnel files that would provide evidence or a 'basis' to believe that he 'fabricate[d] an arrest after assaulting a defendant and claiming an injury in prior situations,'" Zweibel wrote.
With jury selection starting today, Stolar said he expects to call character witnesses attesting to McMillan's history of nonviolent activism and present evidence that his client was not protesting at all during the time of her arrest.
Clad in green, McMillan had been going to meet a friend from out of town to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Stolar said.
Playing down Bovell's injuries, Stolar said, "He had a little bit of a shiner. He was fine, and he was back and working that day."
His client, on the other hand, "suffered what appeared to be seizures and continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder," Stolar claimed.