Former Army Lt. Dan Choi to Represent Himself at Trial
Former Army Lieutenant Dan Choi says he is now representing himself in the court case resulting from his arrest during a White House demonstration two years ago against the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.
The gay rights advocate tells OutQ News that after “a long period of hand-wringing,” he decided to dismiss the lawyers representing him in a trial stemming from the November 2010 arrest.
Choi–along with about a dozen other activists–chained himself to the White House fence to protest the ban on open gay service. While his fellow protestors accepted a plea deal to avoid a trial, Choi refused the offer, citing his First Amendment right to free speech.
Though Choi says he appreciates the work his attorneys have done for him so far, he has decided to follow in the footsteps of “early mentors” like gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who personally argued his case before the U.S. Supreme Court in the late 1960s.
CHOI: If you’re able to sound the alarm with your voice out in public, in the public square, then you might as well do that to the judge–allow that judge to hear your voice directly without a lawyer trying to tell you what’s in your best interest.
Choi says while he is still receiving some legal advice, he is “[going] alone on this” since several lawyers and gay rights groups have DECLINED to support him with his case.
Choi is arguing that he was targeted for “vindictive” and “selective” prosecution because of both the nature of the subject–the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy–and his role as a vocal activist. And the judge overseeing the trial–Magistrate Judge John Facciola–seemed to agree.
But a U.S. DISTRICT judge ruled last October that Facciola could NOT take into account whether prosecutors were treating Choi more harshly. He said Choi’s lawyers should have raised that issue BEFORE trial.
If convicted of a misdemeanor, Choi faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a fine.