ACT UP Trial On Hold
October 20, 2000
Contacts: Andrea Lindsay: (415) 846-2238
Todd Swindell: (415) 864-6686
David Pasquarelli: (415) 637-4666
ACT UP Trial On Hold; Defendant's Charges Diverted ----- Prosecution's case falling apart as proof of alleged activist "violence" remains elusive
SAN FRANCISCO -- Six months after an ACT UP protest against the AIDS drug advertising agency Project Inform touched off a firestorm of media reports alleging anti-gay, anti-woman violence by demonstrators, the criminal case against the ACT UP Four has come to a grinding halt.
The trial, scheduled to begin Friday, October 13, 2000 was delayed indefinitely due to a controversial October 11 decision by Judge Thomas Mellon to deny the defendants a motion to continue. Attorneys for defendants David Pasquarelli, Michael Bellefountaine and Todd Swindell filed a writ for the Superior Court to review the denial of the motion. An order from the Superior Court, Appellate Division was signed which stayed all further proceedings until the writ could be heard.
The saga began on April 17, 2000 when activists from the controversial ACT UP chapter that proclaims "AIDS is Over!" and "HIV is a Lie!" interrupted a forum where Project Inform leader Martin Delaney trumpeted the so-called "new scientific advance" of structured treatment interruption -- that is, taking AIDS patients off little-studied and unbearably toxic protease inhibitor therapy. ACT UP members, who routinely argue against HIV testing and the use of experimental AIDS drugs, charged that Delaney's plug for treatment interruption, in light of a growing list of drug-induced deformities and deadly side effects, directly contradicted his past five years of urging strict and lifelong adherence. Activists accused Delaney, who has no license to practice medicine, of accepting drug company payoffs to deliberately downplay devastating side effects, an act of corruption they say his recent about-face cannot reverse considering that many who followed his original advice have been poisoned to death.
Despite Project Inform's wild accusations that ACT UP members punched, kicked, spat, threw rocks, knocked over tables and video equipment, and hurled anti-gay epithets at attendees, defendant Andrea Lindsay -- who faced the most serious charges -- was offered diversion on all counts. Activists are quick to point out that the prosecution previously insisted that there would be no deals made due to the claimed seriousness of the allegations and are now forced to reconsider due to lack of evidence and credible witnesses. Furthermore, activists say by removing defendant Lindsay from the case and failing to charge ACT UP members of color present at the April 17 incident, the prosecution is engaging in a selective witch hunt against the remaining three accused white gay men, two of whom have been diagnosed HIV antibody positive.
"It is no coincidence that the three most vocal ACT UP dissidents are being fully prosecuted while an offer has been made to essentially dismiss my charges," commented Andrea Lindsay. "These outrageous charges have all along been about shutting down community debate and framing us as racist, sexist and homophobic. The fact is, it won't work."
As the criminal case languishes, San Francisco's gay community eagerly awaits the decision by civil judge Ina Levin Gyemant on whether to grant Project Inform a three-year injunction and harsh stay-away orders on behalf of their employees against the accused protesters. ACT UP members deny all charges of inciting violence at the forum which turned ugly when irate audience members attacked the protesters absent any noticeable event security. They say they are confident that a San Francisco jury, once presented with the evidence, will find them innocent on all counts.
"We are political protesters not violent criminals," maintained defendant David Pasquarelli. "A jury will see through Project Inform's lies and understand that this is a case meant to demonize activists and silence the truth that AIDS is not contagious. We will be victorious."
Pasquarelli and codefendant Todd Swindell also face similar charges of assault, trespassing and battery for throwing fliers and spraying Silly String in the air at a city hearing convened to investigate Health Department Director Mitch Katz's claim that HIV is skyrocketing in San Francisco. That trial is set to begin on November 3, 2000.
ACT UP San Francisco 1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102 Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 * www.actupsf.com