FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: March 16, 2001
ACT UP Cleared of Violence During Six-Minute "Riot"
Victory declared as San Francisco jury finds AIDS activists not guilty of battery against Project Inform employees.
SAN FRANCISCO -- After 20 hours of deliberation that capped off a dramatic two week trial, a San Francisco jury unanimously acquitted two ACT UP members of battery against organizers of a pharmaceutical industry AIDS treatment forum. Activists David Pasquarelli and Todd Swindell were each cleared of violent battery charges alleging they hurled rock hard pills into the face of Project Inform Founding Director Martin Delaney. Similarly, Pasquarelli was found innocent of another battery charge stemming from accusations that he injured Project Inform staffer Judith Leahy-Hogan by deliberately shoving her to the ground during the April 17, 2000 ACT UP protest.
Pasquarelli and Swindell said they plan to appeal guilty verdicts they received on charges of riot, unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace -- convictions they say resulted from Judge Thomas Mellon's introduction of unfairly prejudicial evidence and confusing, last-minute jury instructions urging prosecution under the legal loophole of principals, aiders and abettors. ACT UP activist Michael Bellefountaine, who was found guilty of unlawful assembly but acquitted on riot and disturbing the peace charges, also plans to appeal.
"According to the District Attorney, the only reason they pursued this case in court was because of the violent battery charges, which ultimately didn't hold up," commented Bellefountaine. "Instead, by employing a back door legal technicality, a lawful protest was transformed by the D.A. into an unlawful six-minute 'riot.' This anti-activist maneuver will have a chilling effect on all political protesters and community organizers in San Francisco and we plan to fight it."
The forum disruption occurred last April when ACT UP activists confronted Delaney over his public about-face in promoting absolute patient compliance to lifelong dosing regimens of experimental protease inhibitors. Angry activists stormed the public forum on Structured Treatment Interruption to raise awareness that five years ago Delaney, who has no formal medical training or license to prescribe medicine, warned HIV positive gay men to get on -- and stay on -- combinations of new AIDS drugs for life without missing a single dose. Missing a dose, he warned in 1996, would create a "resistant virus that could be passed on sexually to someone else" -- a scary but thoroughly unsubstantiated viral claim. However, in the year 2000, with alarming reports of deadly drug-related side effects and grotesque deformities caused by protease inhibitors and a shocking reversal of federal guidelines that previously urged doctors to "hit early, hit hard" with toxic anti-HIV medications, Delaney and Project Inform quietly reversed course by changing their tune to allow once prohibited "drug holidays." Unfortunately, this recommended revision arrived too late for the thousands of gay men injured or killed by Project Inform's now-abandoned terror message demanding absolute AIDS drug compliance.
Activists charge that despite months of one-sided media reports, advertising campaigns and a boycott of ACT UP coordinated by Project Inform that characterized the defendants as "misogynistic, pill-throwing thugs," the jury rejected personal testimony of an ACT UP assault from Delaney, Leahy-Hogan, and coworker Brenda Lein as lacking credibility and truth. Furthermore, ACT UP members are quick to point out that while the jury chose to convict demonstrators on charges of participating in a riot, they were not accused, charged or convicted of the more serious crime of inciting one. Activists say they plan to file charges of their own against Project Inform's Leahy-Hogan and hotline volunteer Bill Cagle after it was revealed during criminal testimony that Leahy-Hogan led angry audience chants of "Shame! Shut Up! Get Out!" and Cagle incited audience members to violence by physically assaulting ACT UP protesters David Pasquarelli and Andrea Lindsay and by screaming obscene fighting words at them to drown out their message about AIDS drugs.
Astute jurors also picked up on inconsistencies in the testimony of Project Inform employee Sana Chehimi and Survive AIDS! member Hank Wilson regarding outrageous allegations that gay-identified ACT UP activists yelled "Die, Faggots, Die!" at the April 17 protest. During the defense team's closing arguments, jurors nodded in agreement with the conclusion that, given the mob scene initiated by Project Inform employees and volunteers, it was far more likely that the epithet, if said at all, was shouted at the unwelcome AIDS dissidents by out-of-control audience members.
"It's no surprise to community watchdogs who have kept an eye on Project Inform since its inception as a drug smuggling ring through years of conducting illegal medical experiments on gay men to its present incarnation as an unethical pharmaceutical front group that the organization has a serious credibility problem," commented HIV-positive protester David Pasquarelli. "Martin Delaney testified under oath that he gets paid 0,000 a year yet all he does is push drugs and lie about the damage they cause. The jury saw through his deceptive claim that he was assaulted by ACT UP members. His uncritical promotion of protease inhibitors has been exposed as a drug company financed sham. AIDS is over and so is the reign of terror, corruption and greed promoted by this madman with a messiah complex."
Excerpt from the book "Acceptable Risks" by Jonathan Kwitny:
When it became clear they weren't going to agree on parallel track, [FDA Commissioner] Young steered the conversation to religion -- something he knew had been a major part of both their lives. He knew Delaney had been in a seminary, and they talked about it and Young's own dedication to fundamentalist Christianity. Young proudly told him that the Christian community Young lived in had just taken a group of black women with AIDS into their homes.
"You know," Young told him, "Jesus said, 'What you do to the least of these you do to me.' But" -- and he paused -- "it's always been difficult for me to understand homosexuality. How men could be that way with each other. But I think you're a fine person, and that shouldn't stand between us." Then the conversation returned to religion.
It was good to be reminded of the human side of your adversary, Delaney thought. He also wondered what all the reporters who were targeting him -- not to mention other AIDS activists -- would say if they knew about this conversation."
(Account of a July 19, 1989 meeting between Martin Delaney and FDA Commissioner Frank Young, an ultraconservative Reagan appointee, homophobe, and advocate of Food and Drug Administration deregulation for dangerous anti-HIV drugs.)
ACT UP San Francisco
1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 * www.actupsf.com