A Boston Municipal judge from Charlestown is at the center of the latest pushback against DA Rachael Rollins’s new rules for prosecution – as he denied her office’s request this week to dismiss several cases against counter-protesters arrested during the Straight Pride Parade on Aug. 31.
It drew comments from her on Tuesday night that he had overstepped his role in the legal process, and that she would fight back against it.
Judge Richard Sinnott, who was nominated by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2017, refused the request by Rollins’s office to dismiss charges against seven people prior to arraignment in exchange for completing community service. They had been arrested for charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct during the Straight Pride Parade counter-protest.
However, Sinnott refused the request and arraigned all seven of them, which means the charges will now show up on their permanent record if CORI’d.
Additionally, Rollins’s office also requested to dismiss three cases for lack of probable cause. Judge Sinnott accepted that for two cases, but arraigned the third case and set bail on the case.
Seven other individuals were requested by Rollins’s office to be arraigned on charges of assault, carrying a dangerous weapon and accosting. Judge Sinnott did arraign those individuals and they are expected to return to court later this fall.
It set up a major battle between the judiciary and the DA’s office – one that hasn’t been seen from this angle in years, if ever. That battle has been brewing since earlier this year when Rollins assumed her office and began a new policy of prosecution that differed slightly from former DA Dan Conley.
On Tuesday night, Rollins upped the ante on Judge Sinnott in a statement that said he was punishing the exercise of First Amendment rights.
She also said Judge Sinnott overstepped his role in the legal process.
“By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” she said in the statement. “At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety. Make no mistake: some people were appropriately arraigned and will be held accountable for actions that put the safety of the public and law enforcement at risk. For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech – many of whom had no prior criminal record – I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”
Before being nominated to the bench, Judge Sinnott had served as an attorney in Charlestown for 25 years in civil and criminal law. He was also a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserves and an Iraqi War veteran.
He taught law and human rights to international military officers at the U.S. Department of Defense Institute of International Legal Studies. He is a graduate of Boston Latin School, Norwich University and Suffolk University Law School. He is a lifelong Boston resident.