Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Alicia Boyd ACQUITTED of All Criminal Charges

They try. Oh, they try.

I am delighted to report that the criminal charges brought against the fearless anti-gentrification activist, founder of MTOPP, the Movement To Protect The People, Alicia Boyd, have come to naught.

After a trail lasting 6 days in Brooklyn Criminal Court, it took the jury all of 21 minutes to unanimously reject the prosecution's charges of obstructing government business, disorderly conduct (2 counts) and resisting arrest. This victory deserves to be celebrated by all New Yorkers angry that their city is being taken from them, block by block, house by house and shop by shop.

I had taken a walk thinking it would take at least hour for the verdicts to come in. I'm told shock was evident on the faces of the prosecutors as well as the judge as the verdicts were read aloud. So confident were they of a conviction that NYPD was posted in the hallway, assumedly to quash the expected ruckus as she was remanded to Rikers. Their confidence was ill-advised; those of us in the gallery, watching the faces of the jurors throughout the proceedings, were every bit as confident of an acquittal. Several jurors were people of color and residents of gentrifying neighborhoods including Bed-Stuy and Williamsburg. They see the corruption and displacement that is epidemic in this town. No way were they going to lock up a fighter on their behalf.

The three members of CB9 who testified as expert witnesses for the prosecution could not agree on how many people were on the land use committee on the night in question, nor how many of them were eligible to vote, nor what constitutes quorum. Their conflicting testimonies brought into high relief the lawlessness of Brooklyn CB9 beginning with a complete lack of understanding of the rules governing the conduct of community boards (City Charter, Open Meetings Law, their own By-Laws), and contempt for residents who dare to question their decisions.

The self-dealing Ben Edwards, a real estate broker from landmarked Lefferts Manor and former chair of the ULURP Committee, referred to the protestors as no more than "troublemakers," denied knowing what "gentrification" is, admitted never having spoken to any of the protestors in any forum, knew nothing of a petition with 4,000 signatures protesting the submission of a request to City Planning for a "study." Mr. Edwards stands to make some serious coin on the condos and co-ops DCP has in mind for un-Landmarked Black Crown Heights.

Making an issue of quorum was something of genius move on the part of the defense, led by Boyd's two attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, First Amendment specialist Jonathan Wallace (below, left) and criminal defense attorney Martin R. Sollar (right), long may they run. One cannot obstruct government business if quorum has not been established, you see. Such is not a legal meeting. A vote on the resolution to City Planning should never have been taken.

In my opinion, by bringing these charges against Boyd, Brooklyn CB9 was attempting to kill the protest movement by locking up the leadership. Let's not forget that a charge of Assault with a Deadly Weapon was also levied, also unsuccessfully, against MTOPP's Maxine Barnes by board member Evelyn Williams, for allegedly throwing a piece of paper that resulted in a paper cut to Williams's face. Williams wore one of those little round band-aids that comes in the variety package during her ridiculous recovery. History has proven cutting off the head to still the body to be an effective strategy. Boro Prez Eric Adams, the former state senator from this area, should be ashamed of his assumed role in pursuing such a strategy. Which side is he on? Sing with me.

Also shocking was the tearful revelation by former District Manager Pearl Miles that she had been convicted of prostitution under an alias prior to being hired by CB9 30 years ago. Prior to Miles' perfunctory dismissal over a year ago, Miles was the highest paid, longest-serving DM in the city of New York, a job she held for 20 years. She was thrown under the bus by CB9 in order to make a previous lawsuit brought by Boyd go away. Miles is, of course, bringing a lawsuit of her own against them. Chickens, roost, etc.

The prosecution relied heavily on video evidence. Let's talk about that for a moment. There were two cameras on tripods that night, in addition to cellphone cameras. The tripod cameras had the same owner; they faced each other, but only one video was posted to the internet. Maxine Barnes, knowing of the other camera angle, obtained the reverse view from the videographer, to use in her defense. Boyd's prosecutors used a compilation video that neatly excised perhaps single second, the moment where a collapsible banquet table was overturned atop the squirming Alicia Boyd, who had dropped to the floor when approached by police.

In creating a compilation video using evidence from another case the DA's office broke I don't know how many rules, but I'm advised that this is a very serious offense. The prosecutor claimed the tape had been posted to the MTOPP Facebook page and insinuated that Maxine Barnes, a professor of technology at the New York City College of Technology, had posted it, using her expertise. Because we all know only an expert can post a video link to an open Facebook page. The idea was to blame Boyd for nearly being crushed by the heavy metal table. Nonsense. About a hundred of us, myself included, were in attendance at the raucous protest of May 19, 2015. My recollection is that the cops both turned over the table and, with the help of protestors, prevented it from falling on her. Perhaps you would like to try to upend a banquet table with one hand while lying on the floor.

The judge, name unknown to me, a young, ambitious Latina for whom I have some sympathy since Hispanics have been disgracefully prevented from ascending to the bench for decades, should never have allowed a compilation video of unknown origin to be admitted into evidence. It should also be noted that she allowed the prosecution seven (7) adjournments but refused outright to allow a second for the defense. She also refused to provide the jury with the City Charter rules governing community board committee votes, rules that made a joke of the prosecution's assertions. Sigh.

I don't usually have praise for the criminal justice system, but in this case the people were heard. Not The People as represented by the DA's office, but the people of the city of New York who are being forced from their homes and out of business by skyrocketing prices for co-ops and condos in full-on hideous towers made of cheap materials where once stood brick and frame houses and 6-story apartment buildings. WE, the people, spoke today, in no uncertain terms. Since the verdict, self-dealing CB9 chair Demetrius Lawrence has announced his sudden retirement from the board. Apparently the demands of his new job as some kind of technology officer with the Blackstone Group, "the largest real estate private equity firm in the world today with $103 billion of assets under management," by their own description.

In fact, despite the entire board recently having undergone training in the Open Meetings Law, Chairman Lawrence had issued new Rules of Conduct for all CB9 meetings which banned speaking out of turn, placards, raised voices, video- and audio-recording and other violations of First Amendment rights under threat of arrest. Both Boyd and I made it clear during the Public Comment period last month that adoption of these rules would result in a federal case. The rightly terrified Vice Chair, Dr. Zorina Fredericks, standing in for the absent Lawrence, wisely tabled the matter for further consideration.

Now we wait. We wait to see what Judge Saitta, the State Supreme Court judge who has delayed his rulings in Boyd's two other cases against CB9, while waiting to see what happened in Criminal Court. One case, to which I am a party, seeks to have the request to City Planning for a study rescinded for a second time. The other seeks to prevent the ethically-challenged Carmen Martinez from becoming the new District Manager. I am, we are, very hopeful.

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