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Charges Dropped Against Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo Over White House 'DADT' Arrests


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Choi and Pietrangelo with attorneys Ann Wilcox and Mark Goldstone outside the coutrroom today, tweeted by Scott Wooledge.

Charges against Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo were dropped today before a trial could begin over their arrest in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest in front of the White House.

The AP reports:

"Lt. Dan Choi and James Pietrangelo, a gay army captain honorably discharged for disclosing his sexual orientation, were in court Wednesday on charges of failure to obey police orders during the March and April protests. All charges were dropped against them. Choi and his attorney had subpoenaed President Barack Obama to appear, but an attorney for the prosecution said the subpoena wasn't served. Prosecutor Christine Chang declined to comment on why the government dropped the case. Choi said he believes Obama administration officials didn't want to draw attention to the policy.

Said Paul Yandura to Americablog: "It's clear that they were embarrassed that we were going to expose the fiction that repeal is finished or imminent. They were embarrassed that we subpoenaed the President and were going to use his words. It's clear that civil disobedience was the winner today."

Choi later tweeted:

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Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo on Trial Today for DADT Arrest

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UPDATE: The charges have apparently been dismissed by prosecutors.

Captain Jim Pietrangelo and Lt. Dan Choi will stand trial in D.C. Superior Court today at 10am.

Case summary: "Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II are each charged with two counts of Failure to Obey a Lawful Order, pursuant to DC Municipal Regulations (18 DCMR 2000.2 (1995); these charges stem from arrests at the White House sidewalk, on two separate occasions, March 18, 2010 and April 20, 2010. They face a nonjury trial on both charges, on Wed., July 14, 2010, in Courtroom 120 of DC Superior Court. This Court is located at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. These are relatively minor charges (the Defendants may only be fined, from $100 to $1000, and may not receive jail time for these infractions). However, the Defendants seek to use their trials to highlight the ongoing effects of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law and policy of the U.S. Armed Forces toward gay and lesbian service members"

In late June, the two soldiers subpoenaed President Obama in the trial, seeking to compel his testimony, explaining:

"The subpoena of the President is necessary for the defense to prove that Defendants were following and obeying lawful orders or directives by their President and Commander in Chief, and were therefore under an obligation and authority to act as they did in order to pressure him - in a non-violent, visible way - on this important public issue. In addition, these statements support the contention that Defendants were acting out of necessity, in order to prevent discrimination and greater harm to gay service members now serving."


Choi: Upcoming Trial Is "A Badge Of Honor"

1 Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, the gay Army officers arrested March 18 and April 20 for handcuffing themselves to the gate around the White House, will go on trial July 14 for two counts of failure to obey a lawful order stemming from protest actions.

If found guilty, they could each pay up to $1,000 as a fine.

The Washington Blade has an interview with Choi, who explains his reasons for his actions and says he isn't concerned with any punishment he receives (jail is unlikely):

"To be able to stand up and get punished and to continue to sacrifice in a visible way is a badge of honor on behalf of those people who have not yet been able to do the bare minimum of their steps toward gaining dignity—and that is coming out."

President Obama was recently subpoenaed as a witness but is not expected to be compelled to appear in court.


Lt. Dan Choi Subpoenas President Obama in Trial Over White House 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Arrests

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Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo have subpoenaed President Obama in their trial on minor civil disobedience charges surrounding their arrests for chaining themselves to the White House fence on March 18, reports Ben Smith at Politico:

The subpoena seeks to compel the testimony of President Barack Obama who has, on several occasions as President and Commander in Chief (and previously as a Senator and Presidential Candidate) called on the LGBT community to "pressure" him to change the DADT law and policy, thus allowing gay service members to serve their country openly and honorably.

The subpoena of the President is necessary for the defense to prove that Defendants were following and obeying lawful orders or directives by their President and Commander in Chief, and were therefore under an obligation and authority to act as they did in order to pressure him - in a non-violent, visible way - on this important public issue. In addition, these statements support the contention that Defendants were acting out of necessity, in order to prevent discrimination and greater harm to gay service members now serving.

For the full background on that day of civil disobedience, click here.

And the full memorandum from their defense counsel here.


Colin Powell: 'Perfectly Acceptable To Get Rid Of DADT'

A couple of politicians took to the airwaves during Sunday morning's political talk shows to discuss "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colin Powell, who back in February revealed that he supported the repeal of DADT, was a guest on ABC's "This Week" and was asked why he's changed his mind about the policy.

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"Things have changed. That was 17 years ago." He also added that, "I am personally of the view now that attitudes have changed and I think it is perfectly acceptable to get rid of the law and the policy but I think before we actually do it we have to hear clearly from the officers and the men and women who are charge of executing the policy."

“I think it's important to listen to the troops who are affected and take into account the views of the senior leadership and military leadership of the armed forces.”

Watch a clip of Powell on "This Week" AFTER THE JUMP.

Also this morning, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and told Candy Crowley he thinks Congress should have waited before voting to repeal the policy last week.

Politico reports:

Mullen, who backs the repeal, said a provision that requires the White House to "certify" the change gives the military great leeway in when and how to phase in the controversial changes.

"Ideally, I would certainly have preferred that legislation not be brought forward .. until we are done with that review," he told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union."

"That certification is key in terms of when we would be ready to implement it and whether in our judgment how much the change is going to effect the things that are at the top of the list for me – readiness, unit cohesion, recruiting and readiness," Mullen said. "It makes this review… that much more critical."

Meanwhile Lt. Dan Choi Capt. Jim Pietrangelo are spending their Memorial Day weekend by continuing the dignity fast they began a few days ago in protest of DADT. Watch the two speak after two days of going without food AFTER THE JUMP.

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Continue reading "Colin Powell: 'Perfectly Acceptable To Get Rid Of DADT'" »


Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo to Embark on Hunger Strike Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Compromise

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More from Lt. Dan Choi:

Immediately following congressional mark-ups on the National Defense Authorization Act 2011, Captain James Pietrangelo and I will commence a fast in pursuit of Equality and Dignity. We have three demands of President Barack Obama.

DEMAND #1: End the Comprehensive Working Group "Study," which insults the dignity of all Americans.
DEMAND #2: End "Don't Ask Don't Tell" discharges forever.
DEMAND #3: Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.

This action is not organized in the name of any organization.

As you may recall, Pietrangelo has joined Choi in previous acts of civil disobedience, chaining themselves to the White House fence on March 18.

Choi adds: 

"In response to the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voting on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, forces are mobilizing for non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. Veterans are ready to spend Memorial Weekend in prison. Fasting will also commence. The simple demands are (1) End DADT firings. (2) Enact non-discrimination. (3) End the insulting, wasteful study. The community knows that the President does have within his power to end the discharges immediately. The President has not responded authentically in ending the firings and inherent discrimination. This has set into place a call to action that can no longer be ignored. It is going to met with the same degree of seriousness that it brought on the lives of those living under DADT. It is a matter of life or death which will be honored through civil disobedience and fasting. This is a formidable call to conscience which invites all to stand in Equality and Dignity."

Choi has been critical of the so-called "compromise" on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", calling it a "delay".

Choi criticized Obama's lack of leadership on Tuesday night's Joy Behar Show on CNN. Choi also posted a YouTube video with some of his thoughts.

Watch the clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

Choi

Continue reading "Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo to Embark on Hunger Strike Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Compromise" »


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