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Federal Trial Begins for Lt. Dan Choi, Over 'DADT' Arrest at White House: VIDEO


Lt. Dan Choi's trial began in federal court yesterday for protesting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with 12 other activists on November 14, 2010. Choi and the others chained themselves to the White House fence while chanting "I am somebody," "We do this for you" and "President Obama, Silent Homophobia." Choi faces 6 months in prison or a $5,000 fine for an obscure infraction of Parks and Wildlife federal regulations.

The 12 other activists accepted a plea deal, agreeing to a guilty plea in federal court for which they would serve no jail time if not re-arrested within four months. Choi would not accept the deal.

2_choi Brad Luna of Luna Media Group sent out the following on behalf of Choi's team:

Verbal orders by ranking US Park Police Lieutenant Robert LaChance cited a regulation often used to move protestors away from the White House sidewalk. LaChance and other police officers have been subpoenaed by Choi's legal team.

The defense legal plan will include a recounting of major demonstrations at the White House that won rights for many stigmatized minorities. Judge John M. Facciola remarked from the bench that the case bears resemblance to "a famous Birmingham Alabama case involving Martin Luther King" on March 18, 2010 during arraignment. The judge has also admitted video evidence of another iconic demonstration on May 1, 2011 celebrating the killing of Osama Bin Laden: a non-permitted spontaneous rally at which MSNBC news anchor Rachel Maddow was an eye witness. No demonstrators were arrested according to the evidence. Choi remarked: "Selective enforcement of regulations based on political or electoral profitability turns our honorable Park Police officers into nothing more than the armed political henchmen in third world countries. I believe a high ranking politician decided to ignore one gathering and federally prosecute another. Unlike Russia, China or Syria, free speech restrictions in America must be content neutral, regardless of who is trying to stay in power. America can be better than this: Yes We Can."

As late as Friday evening, Choi was offered a deal by prosecution but again refused. "It is crystal clear this prosecution lacks a solid case against Lt. Choi, and prefers not to be publicly embarrassed by having to justify this unlawful arrest. They prefer to impose fear tactics behind closeted doors " Feldman said.

The AP reports:

Choi's attorney Robert Feldman said Monday at the start of his trial in federal court in Washington that people arrested for protesting at the White House are usually charged in local court where the penalty for disobeying a police order is a fine of between $100 and $1,000. But Choi was charged in federal court, where he faces both a fine and jail time of up to six months.

"They want him to go away," Feldman said, suggesting that bringing more serious charges is a move to get Choi to be silent. "He is the gay man who is finally attracting the attention."

MetroWeekly has a thorough report on the trial:

After being dismissed for the day, Choi and Feldman held a news conference outlining their major arguments against the charges. First, they suggested that by bringing federal charges against Choi, the government was treating him differently from other people who have protested in front of the White House in previous years. Feldman referred to the testimony of one witness, a 22-year veteran of the Park police, who said Choi’s case was the first time he had been to federal court, rather than D.C. Superior Court, to testify against a protestor he had arrested.

Choi has been arrested three other times for similar actions, most recently during an environmental protest on Aug. 20. After that arrest, as well as one in March, he was charged in D.C. Superior Court.

Watch a clip of Choi and the other activists' arrests, as documented by the Washington Blade, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. More power to Dan Choi. It's quite clear his advocacy has political impact. I'm impressed he stands firm in the face of intimidation. And I'm quite certain he is shaming the administration into positive action.

    Posted by: tarraraboomdeeya | Aug 30, 2011 8:23:47 AM

  2. The most dangerous place to stand is between Dan Choi and any camera.

    Posted by: Jim | Aug 30, 2011 9:18:41 AM

  3. I'd be less skeptical about this one if I believed it was solely about the 1st Amendment and our quest for full equality instead of mostly about Choi's ever-growing love of cameras.

    Dan's cause is just. But his actions and words have become mostly driven by ego and anger.

    Posted by: K in VA | Aug 30, 2011 9:22:32 AM

  4. "They prefer to impose fear tactics behind closeted doors," Feldman said.

    Did he really say 'closeted,' or 'closed'?

    Posted by: Skye Winspur | Aug 30, 2011 9:44:50 AM

  5. Danny, dahlinck. You've had your 15-minutes of fame. Now just go away. You've become Reichen's evil-twin.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Aug 30, 2011 10:02:07 AM

  6. Ever since 9-11 no one is allowed that close to the White slight to GLBT issues, but during the war protests people who even went over the barriers were arrested and spent time in jail, much less getting close enough to chain themselves to the fence.

    Equal justice would not be served should they go to jail and he gets off. They either need to change the law back to the way it was pre-911 or make him serve jail time like other people.

    I mean, that's the point of protesting to that level. You know you will do jail time and that's why you do it.

    Posted by: Rin | Aug 30, 2011 10:04:08 AM

  7. yeh its time for Dan to get a real job and stop handcuffing himself to fences.

    DADT is soon history, (or is it already?) and the president continues to do more for our issues than any other president in history.

    Posted by: Jackie | Aug 30, 2011 10:14:19 AM

  8. It could be said that Lt. Choi did his job so damn well that he made his job unnecessary. Now he is what the majority of ex-soldiers are- people without any real world skills struggling to make a living.

    I appreciate his efforts, but I'm beginning to wonder exactly how long it will be before he begins his porn career.

    Posted by: Scott | Aug 30, 2011 10:54:14 AM

  9. What a conference of snark. Give me one Dan Choi over 100 knockers.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | Aug 30, 2011 11:00:04 AM

  10. No matter what I think of Choi -- and I think he's a very seriously mentally ill person who was probably not a great guy to begin with -- this protest was fundamental to what change we've achieved, he was singled out for harsh treatment and he is completely right to be fighting back in this trial.

    After this trial is over, I very seriously hope he gets the professional mental health help he clearly has not ever been getting.

    Posted by: ohplease | Aug 30, 2011 11:10:49 AM

  11. Even before I was one of the other 12 arrested with Dan in November, I would have said this: the only people who write the kind of slimy slurs against him above—and NOT A ONE with the balls to use THEIR real names—either don't know all the facts—or are simply Barackroaches who don't CARE about the facts.

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 30, 2011 11:31:56 AM

  12. Michael Bedwell, I have a fence for you to chain yourself to...
    Get over yourself.
    For all the good Mr. Choi has done, his behavior has become more than questionable. I dont know where it comes from, but he needs some time with a professional, for his own good.

    Posted by: JT | Aug 30, 2011 12:20:59 PM

  13. "JT" = "COWARD."

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 30, 2011 12:39:23 PM

  14. Choi definitely has a point about the Osama Bin Laden celebration. Selective enforcement of the law for political reasons is odious. It's a valid and biting statement. They obviously wanted to make an example of him but I hope he makes an example of them.

    Posted by: Timzilla | Aug 30, 2011 12:56:03 PM

  15. Ted - if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. If Dan Choi insists on being in front of the camera, good for him - what have you done lately to combat the homophobia in Washington? What has Obama done?

    Posted by: Steve | Aug 30, 2011 1:38:28 PM

  16. Thank you Michael Bedwell.

    Posted by: BRENDA | Aug 30, 2011 1:45:33 PM

  17. Michael Bedwell, if you don't confuse anonymity with cowardice, we promise not to confuse using your real name with desperate attention-seeking, misplaced superiority complexes and/or being in the least bit correct about anything.

    People have a right to their opinion, they're invited to post those opinions here, and they have the option of concealing their identities for any or no reason.

    Your lack of anonymity, regardless of your view to the contrary, is actually not a point in your favor.

    Posted by: justme | Aug 30, 2011 2:40:45 PM

  18. My Mum once said something to me that really stuck with me,

    "Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticize"

    I think we're seeing that in abundance here.

    Good on Dan Choi, keep on fighting the good fight and kicking against the pricks (to quote Nick Cave) I say!

    Posted by: Josh | Aug 30, 2011 8:01:42 PM

  19. People try to demean others by calling them mentally ill.

    If all people acted just like they were expected to act (as in the Matrix, if you will) then we as a society would never raise our collective consciousness to secure rights for any oppressed community.

    Why is that those who wish to help unfailingly reveal their identity and those who wish to criticize predictably hide behind anonymity?

    This dynamic is identical to the construct of those who choose to "come out" and those who wish to "maintain privacy"

    Robert Feldman, Eaq.
    Lead Counsel Pro Bono for
    Lieutenant Dan Choi
    14 Wall Street 20th floor
    New York, New York 10005

    Posted by: Robert | Sep 6, 2011 6:50:03 AM

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