THE 10 PEOPLE arrested at a Lawncrest town-hall meeting in March protesting the death of Brandon Tate-Brown in Mayfair were acquitted yesterday, eliciting shouts of joy inside the Criminal Justice Center.
They had shown up at the meeting, where District Attorney Seth Williams and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey were present, to protest the District Attorney's Office's decision to not file charges against two cops involved in the fatal shooting of Tate-Brown, 26, in December.
Municipal Judge Joyce Eubanks, after viewing a nine-minute video of the loud and noisy protest, and after hearing testimony from prosecution witnesses - primarily police Civil Affairs Unit Lt. Joseph O'Brien and community activist Greg Bucceroni - acquitted all 10.
The 10 included Mallori Lofton-Malachi, 27, a professional soccer player; her sister, Megan Malachi, 34; and their sister, Morgan Malachi, 32.
They also included Asa Khalif, a/k/a Earl Pittman, 44, who is a cousin of Tate-Brown's; and Scott Williams, 26, a University of Pennsylvania student.
The other defendants were: Caleb Gallus, 30; Durmel Coleman, 23; Carmen Spoto, 22; Joseph Quinn, a/k/a Quinn Dougherty, 22; and Rufus Farmer, 32.
O'Brien testified that at the 7 p.m. town-hall meeting, about 40 protesters were standing and 60 other people were sitting in the audience.
He said that before Ramsey could start speaking, the protesters walked from the back of the room shouting, "Shame, shame, shame!" then got in front of the speakers, who were sitting at tables. O'Brien said he told the protesters at least 10 times to back up. "They just refused to back away from the tables," he said.
He identified all 10 defendants as protesting at the meeting.
He said that at one point he felt a "push" coming toward him.
When asked by the judge to cite what each individual defendant had done, O'Brien again said that the protesters refused to back away. "I did see different melees breaking out," but "I didn't physically arrest" any of the defendants, O'Brien said.
Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Fair, O'Brien named the Malachi sisters, Spoto, Williams, Khalif and Farmer as defendants who refused to back away.
In the video shown in court yesterday, the protesters, holding up signs, are heard loudly shouting, "No justice, no peace!" as they walk toward the speakers.
One woman curses at the officials, jabbing her finger at them.
The protesters then shout, "Shame on you!" while jabbing their fingers at the speakers sitting at the table. A woman protester answers the chant by screaming, "Pigs!" at the law-enforcement officials.
A scuffle then ensues between protesters and police, but it is not clear who started it. The scene gets more chaotic, with people jostling about and protesters shouting, "Hands up, don't shoot!" as they clash with cops.
Several defendants are clearly seen in the video - available on YouTube - shouting and clashing with police.
Bucceroni, 51, testified that when the meeting devolved into a "push-and-shove match" and chairs were thrown, he was hit in the back with a chair and an elderly woman near him fell.
As he was trying to help that woman up, he said, he saw Spoto trying to run toward the cops. Bucceroni said he was trying to make sure that Spoto didn't run over the elderly woman when Spoto "pushed me. He spitted on me. He threatened to kill me. He called me a racist KKK cop."
During cross-examination, Lawrence Krasner, one of two attorneys representing the 10 defendants, asked Bucceroni about his profile on the website Gangsters Inc., which says Bucceroni had been a mob associate. He also questioned the veracity of Bucceroni's LinkedIn page.
Bucceroni contended he had been a mob associate, but also said he now works to develop good relations between the community and police.
Michael Coard, the other defense attorney, argued in his closing argument that what Bucceroni said about Spoto didn't happen. He also contended "these activists were engaged in noble activism" and the "police overreacted" by arresting them.
Krasner, in his closing, said the protesters had a "legitimate purpose" to be there, and were demanding the release of a video showing Tate-Brown's shooting, the names of the two cops involved and an independent investigation of the shooting.
Assistant District Attorney Christina Pastrana argued that the protesters had the opportunity to speak to the law-enforcement officials at the meeting, but did not have the right to "create a physical risk, a hazard to the people" attending.
"These individuals refused commands from law enforcement in a highly tense situation" and "created a risk of physical harm to the others," she said.
The city on Tuesday released the names of the two cops - Nicholas Carrelli and Heng Dang - involved in the Dec. 15 shooting death of Tate-Brown.