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6.23.2007

guilty verdict for "quincy 4"

The "Quincy 4" verdict is in... they've been found guilty. Three of the four Asian Americans arrested last year amidst accusation of racism and police brutality against Quincy, MA police were found guilty Friday of resisting arrest or disorderly conduct or both after a jury deliberated less than three hours: Guilty verdict in Quincy fracas. More here: RACISM ALLEGED: 2 get jail for disorderly conduct. The courtroom was apparently packed with community activists and supporters of the Quincy 4. Xenon wrote to me with his take on the proceedings, after a long, emotional day:
i'm sure there will be more formal statements coming in the next few days, but right now community organizers are still reeling from the verdicts and the sentences. the above "newsflash" style article neglects to mention that even the prosecution and district attorneys recommended only probationary sentences, with no prison time. in fact, the defendants were offered pre-trial plea bargains where they could get reduced probationary sentences if they simply "admitted guilt" and apologized to the police. but because the defendants proceeded to take their case to court and fight to prove their innocence, the judge decided to go one step further with punitive measures. we believe that this was further exacerbated by several factors. primary amongst these was because there was such a large community outcry, and because the public condemnation of police conduct (along with a formal complaint filed) was very much a liability in the midst of the local authorities' much (self-) vaunted "outreach" efforts to the new asian immigrant community. it was obviously an embarrassment for them to have crowds of people, (many of them elderly residents who speak no english, in addition to high school students, and other supporters from other communites) packing the courtroom each day, creating such a commotion in the courthouse.

as if this wasn't enough, because the verdict was rendered at the close of the business day, the two victims currently spending this night (and the next ten) in prison will not be fully "processed", and as such have no phone or visitation rights from even their immediate family. one of the condemned is the newlywed man for whom this very offense was visited upon him 14 months ago on his engagement night. his wife will not be allowed to speak with or visit him for the duration of his incarceration.

further details will be forthcoming, either from myself, or as is much more likely, via others more intimately involved in the ordeal. it should be noted that there were several racial dimensions in the case, including the police officers' persistent testimony of the defendants as "threatening" them with "fighters' stances" and "feeling threatened" because the officers (all white) could not understand the victims' yelling and screaming in cantonese. also at issue was the ritual of a traditional chinese "engagement party", which involves formal family visits and exchange of dowries, etc.. the prosecution constantly tried to equate this with a western engagement or "bachelor/-rette" party, where the alcohol flows much more freely. (the defendants' probationary sentences will now also include mandatory AA meetings and random drug testing.)
Here's the official press release from the Chinese Progressive Assocation, the group the Quincy Officer's Assocation president called a "radical activist organization" (ha):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Lydia Lowe (617) 851-1327
Zenobia Lai (857) 919-0565
Lisette Le (617) 970-0052

June 23, 2007

COMMUNITY STUNNED BY QUINCY 4 VERDICTS

A six-person jury delivered its verdict yesterday evening in the case of the "Quincy 4," four Asian Americans charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in an incident involving the Quincy police.

One defendant, Howard Ng, was found innocent of disorderly conduct, while defendants Karen Chen, Quan Thin, and Tat Yuen were found guilty on either or both charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The four were adamant that they were falsely charged after being victims of police brutality in the early hours of April 30, 2006 in front of the Super 88 market on Hancock Street.

The case had attracted local attention when defendant Karen Chen, a former Community Organizer at the Chinese Progressive Association, and eyewitness Joanna Ng filed a complaint of police misconduct with the Quincy Police Department last year. The four defendants continued to attract strong support from the Chinese community throughout a year of pre-trial proceedings and court postponements. During this week's five-day trial, supporters had to sit outside the courtroom for hours because the courtroom was over-packed and the judge would not allow people to stand.

The jury heard from seven witnesses over the course of the five-day trial, including six law enforcement officers and one eyewitness who was a friend of the defendants. The prosecution painted a picture of a drunk and unruly mob which surged against the officers and made them fear for their lives, calling forth several police witnesses to say that the group had yelled profanities and some had swung punches. The defense pointed out inconsistencies in the officers' testimony and between their court testimony and written reports. Most had been asked to write reports after the complaint of police misconduct had been filed. A civilian eyewitness described an unprovoked attack and use of pepper spray by a Quincy police officer, followed by a brutal series of arrests which left Chen with a black eye and bruises and Yuen with a concussion. The prosecution questioned the witness' account as both biased and involving more details than her original complaint.

Following the verdicts, the prosecution requested sentences of 18 months' probation for Chen and two years' probation for Thin and Yuen. Judge Mary Orfanello, instead, slapped Thin and Yuen each with a six month suspended sentence with 10 days of incarceration and two years' probation. Because witnesses had testified that Thin was drunk on the evening of the incident, she further sentenced him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three days per week for the entire two-year probation period. All three must pay one-time fees as well as $21 per month into the probation system. Thin and Yuen were immediately handcuffed and taken into custody, without even allowing them to say goodbye to family members present. No visitors are allowed during the 10 days. The community audience in the closely packed courtroom was visibly stunned as the judge announced the verdicts and unusually harsh sentences for what are normally considered minor offenses.

All four defendants had earlier been offered a plea bargain agreement known as pre-trial probation, in which they could have voluntarily entered probation to avoid incarceration by writing a letter of apology to the Quincy Police Department and signing an agreement not to sue the department.

"We didn't take it, because we did nothing wrong. Why should we have to apologize to the police for what they did to us?" said Karen Chen.

The defendants expressed gratitude for the community support they received during the trial. Supporters came from within the Asian American community as well as from white, African American, and other immigrant communities. Community supporters will hold a post-trial discussion today and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was beaten to eath in Detroit by two white auto workers amid rising anti-Japanese sentiment. Chin's two killers were convicted but never served a day in jail.
There was originally scheduled to be a screening and discussion of Who Killed Vincent Chin? this afternoon, part of the National Townhall on Hate Crimes, but community organizers now feel compelled to hold an emergency strategy session following the film, concerning the next for the community resulting from the verdict. It wil be held today, Saturday, June 23rd, 2:00pm at 665 Hancock St., Quincy, MA.