Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Little Larry Cirignano Visits Court

I don't believe locking eyes with jurors is going to cut it, not for the middle-aged guy charged with tossing a young woman to the ground and saying his rights are worth more than hers. Yet today in Worcester District Court, he tried and that was just one peek into Larry Cirignano.

Unfortunately, neither the prosecutor nor the judge called the defense attorney on his conflation. Cirignano was executive director of CatholicVote, a private political advocacy group centered on reversing marriage equality in Massachusetts. His lawyer referred several times to his client doing the work of the Catholic Church. Of course, legally, the church cannot involve itself in such "work." In addition, while local Archbishop and Cardinal Sean O'Malley poses with Cirignano for pictures, the latter is not an employee of the archdiocese or any church arm. He may be up to dirty tricks that Pope Benedict approves of, but he's on his own as far as the church must be concerned.

My Fabulous Worcester Adventure

People pluses for the trip to today's opening of the trial include:
  • Chatted with some nice folk I seldom see, like Bay Windows' Ethan Jacobs and Pie and Coffee's Mike Benedetti, who are each very pleasant and bright.
  • Did not have to share space with the bad karma guy, Brian Camenker of MassResistance and Petulant Parents or whatever he calls it. (He walked in as court recessed for the day.)
Short the motions, we did not have a lot of action in courtroom 23 (fourth floor of the new Worcester court at 225 Main Street for those who can attend Wednesday, Thursday or Friday). There was time and proximity to gawk and surmise.

Varied Agonists

Sarah Loy, in her late 20s, is not threatening by anyone's standards. She is quiet, mousy, full bodied, with a warm smile and gentle mannerisms. In court on Tuesday, she wore a heavy gray sweater over a white shirt with black trousers. Her shoulder-length hair had a pony tail held by a scrunchie.

I spoke briefly with her to introduce myself, but intentionally did not interview her in case she was not to talk about the trial until she had given her testimony. She seems as pleasant and sincere as she looks.

Larry Cirignano gives a very different impression. He is what my grandparents' generation called slick, not a nice description. He gives the sense that he wants an advantage, the kind of guy you count your fingers after shaking his hand.

He arrived early and alert. He was black — wingtips, suit, and hair. He wore lawyerish wire rims and a dark tie with strong diagonal stripes and what appeared to be geese on the wing (probably those pesky Canada geese). His fashion statement was a GQ pocket square. His handkerchief had four points and seemed to have been pressed by a stream roller to wafer thinness. His thick hair was trimmed to a flatness that looked like you could roll out pie dough on top of his head. His appearance screamed, "Control!"

In this chair for most of five hours, he was still and seemingly relaxed. Larry is cool. He turned his head only when it was to his advantage — facing the judge, facing the jury, and even once smiling at Bay Windows reporter Ethan Jacobs. Also, perhaps it was the training of masses and standing, genuflecting and crossing at the right times, but whatever, he was eager to stand respectfully whenever it might please Justice David Despotopulos. There's no fault here; Larry is savvy.

The attorneys for prosecution and defense were not as remarkable. Assistant DA Joseph Quinlan is short and slender, with a winning smile and an odd scar in the middle of his right cheek. He dresses like he was in the old Filene's Basement picking up $100 suits at 65% off before that location clothes. Larry was much snazzier.

For the defense, Michael Gilleran (Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge) is stout and nearly bald with a white tonsure. Larry outdresses him too.

Legal Jousting

Mike was no jolly fellow though. When it came to making motions, he was brutal, or tried to be. He wanted to ask juror qualifications with heavy political portents of the trial, such as did potential jurors have beliefs about not letting the public vote on the anti-same-sex marriage amendment.

The judge denied that and denied both of their requests to insert religious queries. Instead, he got them to agree to general questions to be resolved at the sidebar for any juror who had concerns with those.

Gilleran also tried to control the plaza rally permit question. On the one hand, he cited numerous vaguely related case laws to suggest that if MFI had a permit for a rally, they could use reasonable force (shoving protesters instead of motioning for the cops?). On the other, he wanted to exclude the actual permit the group received, which did not use such exclusionary wording. The judge was nice about saying so, but he said the trial would mix it up and sort 'em out. He added that the city definitely had the right to limit activities by permit.

Justice Despotopulos was also a bit of a caricature physically, in a good way. From his robe to his head, he was all in black — hair, eyebrows, glasses and five o'clock shadow. When he was amused by Gilleran's more absurd requests, you could see it in his raised brows.

He seems to have fun on the bench. At one point, Gilleran intoned that Cirignano was entitled to a jury of his peers. While this was surely not news to Despotopulos, the eyebrows popped up again and he chuckled in asking whether this meant they had to share Larry's beliefs on gay marriage.

The jury seemed benign enough, but aren't there any Black people in Worcester? The pool of three dozen had two, one of whom ended up impaneled in the six plus two alternates. It was a very blue-collar looking group, not at all slick. After the sidebars and a couple of peremptory challenges by each lawyer, Larry ended up with five men and three women.

As they were seated, Larry turned his gaze to the jury box and stared, apparently going for a human connection.

More Than A Misdemeanor

This trial is one of many opportunities to inform the extreme right wing sorts that they can't count on getting away with stifling others, much less physically attacking them. We who disagree with them and watch them have obligations too. First among those is to draw attention to what they are about. When they want to strip other Americans of the rights and privileges they relish, we must say that plainly. Everyone from voters to their peers to lawmakers to police need to see them for what they are and what they do.

If the Larry Cirignano sorts want to do their evil while pretending to be quintessential Americans, we must point out when they want to rob real Americans of their rights. That has been what Cirignano has been about professionally for a long time, earning a living trying to deprive homosexuals and others of equal rights. I call Larry out. That's not what America is about.

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1 comment:

John Hosty said...

Great work here, especially with the details. I shamelessly stole the first paragraph and put it on my blog, along with a link to your so they can come here and read the rest.

I can't imagine that a jury will find him innocent with all the proof piled against him. but then again I have a hard time understanding why Ben LaGuer was ever convicted. This is after all his old stomping ground. Let's hope that the people chosen understand Larry desire to pull a fast one, and they act accordingly to prevent that from occurring.