Arraignment in Peace Park Case Held Over as Parties Try to Resolve Issues

An arraignment hearing last Friday, Jan. 24, in Jamaica Plain’s West Roxbury District Court in the alleged desecration of the Peace Park on Lowney Way was held over with the hope that the suspect in the case and the victims could work out the issues within the Restorative Justice program.

Diane Valle, of Charlestown, was charged late last fall with the criminal charge of causing injury to a church or synagogue with under $5,000 damages. The arraignment was moved to JP, and took place after one continuance.

However, before Judge Kathleen Coffey on Friday, the matter did not go forward as it is the hope of the court that things could be ironed out and a successful conclusion reached for the young people in the Turn It Around program, and for Valle.

“I do hope your discussion are productive and this matter can be worked out,” said Judge Coffey.

Without an arraignment, the charges do not yet go onto the record and are still only pending. If an agreement can be worked out, the charges will never be officially filed. However, representatives for the Charlestown Coalition, which sponsors Turn It Around and coordinated the construction of the Peace Park in 2018, said they are still very much interested in the arraignment going forward if things cannot be worked out.

Valle’s attorney, Seth Orkand, said his client is interested in meeting with the group and resolving the matter. He said she was only trying to beautify a park that had fallen into disrepair since it opened in the spring of 2018.

“Ms. Valle is looking forward to meeting with members of the Charlestown Coalition in an attempt to resolve this matter, as she and the abutting neighbors of Mount Vernon Street Plaza have attempted to do since May 2018,” he said. “After the parties complete the recommended DA’s Office’s Restorative Justice Program, we expect the charges to be dismissed. Ms. Valle and her neighbors hope that all members of the community work together to improve Charlestown’s parks for all to enjoy.”

In a statement, Coalition Director Sarah Coughlin said Restorative Justice only works if there is accountability, and they will be looking for that first and foremost.

“Restorative Justice can be an extremely effective remedy, but it requires accountability,” she wrote. “We remain hopeful that we can reach a meaningful solution for everyone involved, one that includes justice, equity, and healing for the young people of our Turn It Around youth group and the community. This matter is now in the hands of the court system, and we look forward to a speedy resolution.”

The next official court date in the matter will be on Monday, March 16, in the JP courthouse.

The Peace Park was launched in March 2018, with young people from the Turn It Around youth group repurposing the dilapidated park at the time for a place to remember those murdered or lost to addiction. The effort was funded by a City grant and done with the proper permits. Using remembrance rocks, members of the community and the young people painted names of those lost and placed them at a memorial in the back of the park. However, some neighbors protested to the re-use from the get-go, as well as the design and color-schemes.

Valle was one of those neighbors.

This fall, members of the Charlestown Coalition and the Turn It Around group found that the park had been torn up, the stones removed, memorial plaques taken off the benches – as well as a couple of shade trees chopped down. It brought a massive backlash and Valle was suspected of having done it. She was charged with that crime in Charlestown District Court in late November.

In the meantime, now, Coughlin said they are forming a task force group to come up with a sustainability plan for the Peace Park so that it continues to be maintained properly going forward. Volunteers are welcome. Anyone would like to participate, contact Shannon Lundin at [email protected]

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