At the Last Minute, Government Drops Case Against Lt. Choi, Cpt. Pietrangelo; Prosecutor: “I was ready,” Arresting Officers Present
WASHINGTON – Although the prosecution was ready to move forward and the arresting officers were present in courtroom 120 of DC Superior Court this morning, the government decided at the last minute today to drop the charges against Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. Apparently, Prosecutor Christine Chang was unaware of the government’s decision as she stated, “I was ready,” and wasn’t able to explain the last-minute decision not to prosecute.
“Today, truth was the victor against a demeaning, discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Lt. Dan Choi. “We won’t stop pressing for repeal and pressuring those standing in the way until the day comes when not one more gay or lesbian servicemember is fired. And, as of today, the President refuses to tell us when that day will actually come.”
“It is clear that the government was embarrassed and we were prepared to make them defend this antiquated and homophobic law. The government is afraid of having to defend this issue,” said Cpt. James Pietrangelo II.
“The subpoena was an embarrassment for them, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an embarrassment for them and, after three months of discovery and preparation, the government dropped the case because they know it’s an embarrassment.”
“Civil disobedience won today,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and co-director of GetEQUAL. “We’re thrilled today that Dan and Jim’s actions have been validated and that non-violent civil disobedience has been proven again to be effective in combating prejudice. We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dan, Jim and other LGBT active-duty servicemembers who are taking action to end this discriminatory policy.”
Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo were both facing two charges each of Failure to Obey a Lawful Order, pursuant to DC Municipal Regulations (18 DCMR 2000.2 (1995). The charges stemmed from the two men’s arrests on March 18th and April 20th when they chained themselves to the White House gate, in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, to protest the President’s lack of leadership on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“We were ready to put ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ on trial today, but it was clear the government was embarrassed to defend an indefensible policy,” said Mark Goldstone, lawyer for Lt. Choi’s and Cpt. Pietrangelo’s defense team. “Did the White House make a last-minute call to prevent this embarrassment from continuing? Clearly, someone did.”
Goldstone continued, “All fair-minded people should continue to agitate for actual and immediate repeal of this unjust, unfair policy. This is a big win for non-violent resistance to unjust policies and proves if you speak truth to power, good things can happen.”
“They declined to prosecute because the case would embarrass the government,” said Ann Wilcox, lawyer for Lt. Choi’s and Cpt. Pietrangelo’s defense team. “The President said it was important to pressure leaders like himself, and that is exactly what Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo did before and intended to do again today.”
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and
people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit www.getequal.org.