Pro-family activism that makes a difference!

Pro-life activist Peter D'Attilio appears in court. Continued until Dec. 7. City appears to be digging in for conviction despite weak case.

POSTED: Oct 6, 2011

On August 11, pro-life activist Peter D'Attilio was arrested and beaten by police while handing out pro-life pamphlets at a public Catholic fair in Franklin, Massachusetts. The police then charged D'Attilio with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, which he vehemently denies. (See full MassResistance on incident report HERE.)

Peter D'Attilio after suffering beating by Franklin police.

This has become a nationally publicized case illustrating police harassment and brutality against peaceful pro-life activists. D'Attilio was also absurdly accused by police of conspiring to plant bombs at the event, and they ransacked his truck with bomb-sniffing dogs while he was being held inside the police station. He faces 2½ years in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines from the false charges filed against him.

D'Attilio is a staunch pro-life activist and religious Catholic who ironically is known for pacifism and never responding to provocation. He has no history of violence of any kind. But he was also accused by the Franklin police of assaulting the police officers, in addition to resisting arrest. The statements, accusations, and charges against him by the police are "full of lies," D'Attilio says.

Brief initial court appearance

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, D'Attilio appeared in Wrentham District Court with his lawyer, Stephen Foley, for the pre-trial conference. It lasted less than 10 minutes. The judge set Dec. 10 for the preliminary hearing. The prosecutor came clearly prepared to move forward for a trial. Attorney Foley said that he would move for dismissal of all charges.

Attorney Stephen Foley (left) confers with Peter D'Attilio (right) as Brian Camenker of MassResistance looks on, minutes before entering the courtroom in Wrentham District Court.

Police apparently digging in against D'Attilio

We've spoken to some legal experts about this, including a former prosecutor. The strong opinion is that the police have no credible case against D'Attilio, given recent Supreme Court rulings and the known (and apparent) facts of the incident. Basically, D'Attilio wasn't doing anything wrong and the police acted illegally.

But we also know that both the Franklin police chief and town council chairman have been getting a huge number of phone calls and emails from outraged citizens -- not only in Massachusetts but across the country and even from Canada. However, as a result, we were told, the police and town are likely to dig in and "show us" that they aren't giving in to anything. Plus, we suspect that given the police department's involvement with the virulent anti-family "No Place for Hate" campaign, they likely also have an emotional antipathy against the pro-family position.

So how will the police make their case? To be blunt, we were told, they will probably simply lie. That is, sadly, a common tactic, especially in these kinds of cases. But even then they will have to lie pretty blatantly because their actions were so clearly contrary to court rulings.

Stacking the "witnesses"

One interesting giveaway is the fact that the police report lists an unusually large number of "involved officers", a number generally consistent with a murder or other serious crime: Two detectives, a sergeant, and six patrolmen. All for a the arrest of one guy peacefully handing out pro-life flyers? (And also, the police report mentions that the flyers were "about abortion." Why is the flyer's topic mentioned there? It might make sense to mention the topic if it were advocating something illegal, or was pornographic, etc., but not in this case.)

We've been told this can happen when police know they have a weak case: Stack the list of official "witnesses." Thus, we will probably see a phalanx of police in court all testifying to the same well-rehearsed story about how D'Attilio "attacked" the police, or some similar tale. (A similar stunt happened in trial over the bogus Larry Cirignano arrest back in 2006.  Four policemen in a row gave identical testimony in court that clearly seemed to be a complete lie and even contradicted their own police report. Luckily, the jury didn't buy it and acquitted Larry.)

FBI watch list as a suspected terrorist?

In a recent email to a person questioning the incident, Franklin Town Council Chairman Scott Mason raised the ante by writing:

"It turns out that this guy has been on an FBI watch list as a suspected terrorist for quite some time. He has a history of attending similar events and causing problems. It is not the practice of the Franklin Police Department to unjustly arrest anyone."

That is outrageous and frightening. If D'Attilio is on any such list or under any such suspicion, then the FBI has some serious explaining to do. We intend to get to the bottom of this.

As for D'Attilio's "history of attending similar events and causing problems," he often hands out pamphlets in completely legal venues, but has on several occasions been harassed by local police who hold pro-family activity to a different standard than other legal activity. The "problems" that Mason says D'Attilio is causing are known as "exercising one's First Amendment rights."

Police hostility not an accident

The extremely hostile attitude against people with traditional values is not an accident. It is often tied to official policy in local police forces and emanates from the Obama Administration. For example, in 2009 a sub-group of Obama's federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a bizarre document warning law enforcement agencies that pro-life and other conservative groups are possible domestic terrorist organizations.

The DHS has also encouraged local police departments across the country to work with radical far-left "watchdog" groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC has compiled an enormous list of supposed "extremists" and "hate groups" which includes the Tea Party movement, US Reps. Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, the Family Research Council, anti-illegal immigration groups, pro-life groups, various Christian groups and, yes, even MassResistance.

Peter D'Attilio needs to be supported by all good people. This horrible twisting of justice must be fought. In many ways his future is your future.

We will continue to report on this.