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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Protesters Remain Guilty

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge has tossed a motion to withdraw the guilty pleas of two protesters who were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence in protest of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

In November 2010, police arrested 13 protesters who refused to disperse after handcuffing themselves to the White House fence. All but one defendant accepted a deferred sentencing agreement in exchange for pleading guilty.

Miriam Ben-Shalom pleaded "guilty but I am not a criminal," and criticized Don't Ask, Don't Tell further in an additional statement. "Today I stand here before this court being required to make a plea concerning criminal conduct misdemeanor of appropriately protesting a bad law," she said.

The only protester to decline the plea was Daniel Choi, a gay former Army officer who whose protest of Don't Ask, Don't Tell brought him into the national spotlight.

Choi was eventually acquitted at trial, and the D.C. Circuit is considering the appeal.

Meanwhile in September 2011, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay dismissed the charges against the 12 protesters who signed the deferred sentencing agreement.

Ben-Shalom and another protester, Ian Finkenbinder, then moved to withdraw their pleas.

Congress repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell a week later on Sep. 20, 2011. Kay refused the motion to withdraw last week.

"Accordingly, no live controversy existed on the afternoon of Sep. 13, 2011, when defendants expressed their desire to withdraw their guilty pleas," he wrote. "Without a live controversy, this court lacks jurisdiction to grant any relief to defendants, including the withdrawal of their guilty pleas."

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