Four arrested in UMass protest crackdown take diversion program

Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown

Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown GAZETTE STAFF PHOTO

Staff Report

Published: 07-08-2024 4:30 PM

Modified: 07-09-2024 10:31 AM

BELCHERTOWN — Four people arrested during the breakup of a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Massachusetts campus in May agreed to dispositions Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court in which they will enter a four-month diversion program, allowing their charges to be dismissed should they stay out of trouble, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Throughout the week, dispositions are taking place for the 134 people taken into custody on a variety of charges, including trespassing, resisting arrest and refusal to disperse.

In addition to the four people who accepted the diversion program, 16 defendants who were scheduled for a pretrial conference asked for more time to consult with their attorney. Those cases were continued to Sept. 16.

Eastern Hampshire District Court Judge Bruce S. Melikian will hear cases in batches of around 20 defendants every day this week, and into next week. The defendants include UMass students, UMass faculty members and people from the community.

“As our prosecutors have reviewed hundreds of hours of police bodycam footage, they have offered defendants dispositional arrangements that are in keeping with their behavior at the time of arrests,” Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement. “Our office sees no reason to be punitive to defendants who were peacefully protesting, engaging with democracy, and exercising their right to speak freely.”

“We believe the offer of a diversion opportunity is just and fair, in keeping with the circumstances of each case,” Sullivan said.

District Court Chief Michael Russo, working with other Northwestern assistant district attorneys, are handling the plea negotiations.

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