Choi May Act as Own Attorney in Protest Trial
Military activist Dan Choi says he may represent himself in his trial for chaining himself to the White House fence in 2010 to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“I think for activists, especially for people who protest at the public square, there’s no more powerful thing and there’s no greater empowering moment than to stand before the judge and let them hear your own voice,” Choi, a former Army lieutenant, told the Washington Blade this week. He said he was inspired partly by the late gay activist Frank Kameny, who in the 1960s represented himself before the U.S. Supreme Court when he sued over his firing from a government job.
Choi, who dismissed his lawyers earlier this year, was one of several protesters who were arrested in November 2010 after handcuffing themselves to the fence. All except Choi agreed to plead guilty, with the promise that charges would be erased from their record if they did not get arrested at the White House again for four months.
Choi said he did not take that offer because he wants to be acquitted of the charge, disobeying a lawful order to disperse, which is a misdemeanor. He believes his action was not illegal and is protected by the First Amendment.
The Blade reported he may appeal to the Supreme Court “to challenge a procedural ruling preventing him from arguing at trial that he was targeted for ‘vindictive’ or ‘selective’ prosecution.” If he decides not to appeal or the high court does not accept it, his trial, which began last August, would resume in federal court in the District of Columbia.