FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Light Sentence for Six-Minute ACT UP "Riot"
3 April 2001
AIDS activists appeal convictions after judge orders one day in jail for
every three seconds of Project Inform protest.
"A riot is the language of the unheard."
-- Martin Luther King Jr., Address at Birmingham, Alabama December 31, 1963
San Francisco -- Department 210 of San Francisco Superior Court resembled a
scene from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" as a lynch mob of drug company
operatives crammed into the courtroom to watch the sentencing of ACT UP
members Todd Swindell, David Pasquarelli and Michael Bellefountaine for their
participation in an April 17, 2000, protest of the pharmaceutical promotion
group Project Inform.
AIDS Industry animus was palpable, despite the absence of torches and dunking
chairs, as the motley crew of non-profit executives, Morrison & Foerster
lawyers and deformed victims of AIDS drug side effects begged Judge Thomas
Mellon to lock up the controversial AIDS dissidents for one year as payback
for their part in last year's protest turned "riot." The judge, however,
opted for a far more lenient punishment after the defendants rejected a
3-year probation deal and despite numerous letters urging the harshest
sentence allowable for "HIV hate crimes" by six-figure-salaried AIDS execs
and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Ironically, the Mayor's written demand
arrived amidst alarming accusations leveled against him for inciting violence
after he reportedly tried to provoke a fistfight with a city supervisor who
criticized his office's do-nothing policy to end homelessness.
In the end, ACT UP members Todd Swindell and David Pasquarelli -- each
convicted of disturbing the peace, unlawful assembly and participating in a
riot -- were sentenced to 120 days in the county jail, one day for every
three seconds of participation in the six-minute "riot." Michael
Bellefountaine was ordered to complete 60 days in jail for a conviction of
unlawful assembly. The three were also fined $1,000 each and told to pay
restitution to any "riot victims" although by day's end it remained unclear
who was victimized by the activists' victimless protest crimes. Defense
attorneys Michael Guingona, Brian Petersen and Derek St. Pierre immediately
appealed the verdicts thereby halting imposition of the sentences until
future court review.
While activists admit that the sentences are overkill for first-time
convictions on misdemeanor counts -- none of the three had ever been
convicted of any crime, violent or otherwise, prior to the April 17 protest
-- they claimed victory in light of prosecutorial misconduct and powerful
political pressure in the case.
"Mouthpieces of AIDS Incorporated, including our city's corrupt mayor, wanted
us put away for 12 months. They'll be lucky if they get 12 weeks," commented
David Pasquarelli, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1995.
The four-hour sentencing hearing commenced with fast-paced legal arguments
that led to moving pleas for clemency by the gay activists and concluded with
a shrill rant by longtime pharmaceutical shill Hank Wilson who scored no
bonus points for screaming at the judge. Also off her mark was Assistant
District Attorney Ana Gonzalez who, after prosecuting AIDS activists in two
separate jury trials, has failed to secure guilty verdicts in over half the
charges filed against them, including the most serious allegations of violent
battery and resisting arrest.
"Our bought-off detractors have only succeeded in strengthening our resolve
to pursue the truth and alert the gay community that HIV is a hoax and AIDS
drugs are deadly," added ACT UP's Michael Bellefountaine, also HIV-positive.
The meeting disruption from which the charges stem occurred last April when
ACT UP activists confronted Project Inform Founding Director Martin Delaney
over his public about-face in promoting absolute patient compliance to
lifelong dosing schedules of experimental protease inhibitors. Angry
activists stormed the public forum to raise awareness that five years ago
Delaney, who has no formal medical training or license to prescribe medicine,
warned HIV positive gay men to get on -- and stay on -- combinations of new
AIDS drugs forever without missing a single dose. Missing a dose, he warned
in 1996, would create a "resistant virus that could be passed on sexually to
someone else" -- a frightening but bogus viral claim. However, in the year
2000, with alarming reports of deadly side effects and grotesque deformities
caused by protease inhibitors and a shocking reversal of federal guidelines
that previously urged doctors to "hit hard, hit early" with toxic anti-HIV
medications, Delaney and Project Inform quietly changed their tune to allow
once prohibited "drug holidays." Unfortunately, this revision arrived too
late for the thousands of gay men injured or killed by Project Inform's
now-abandoned terror message demanding absolute AIDS drug compliance.
"The Mayor and District Attorney need to get a clue: wasting hundreds of
thousands of taxpayer dollars to criminalize political protesters and stamp
out AIDS dissent won't fly in San Francisco," concluded activist Todd
Swindell. "We will not be silent while gay men are killed by corporate
David Pasquarelli: (415) 637-4666
Michael Bellefountaine: (415) 864-6686
Willie L. Brown, Jr.
Office of the Mayor
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 200
San Francisco, CA 94102
April 3, 2001
Honorable Judge Mellon
400 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Judge Mellon:
I am informed that you have scheduled a sentencing today for Michael
Bellefountaine, Jason Todd Swindell and David Pasquarelli. I urge you to
impose the maximum allowable sentence to deter future violent behavior of the
kind for which the defendants have been convicted.
As you know, the defendants, and the ACT UP San Francisco organization, have
been responsible for many acts of harassment and violence. Often, these
attacks have been directed toward a particularly vulnerable population: those
living with HIV, women, lesbians and gay men, people of color and their
advocates. Such hate-motivated crimes are particularly unacceptable in San
Francisco, where respect for diversity and compassion are core values.
Three weeks ago, I held a summit on violent crime. Our keynote speaker was
David Kennedy, a professor with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University. Mr. Kennedy argued, I thought persuasively, that the criminal
justice system must send clear messages to chronic violent offenders that to
continue to engage in violence will lead to clear and certain consequences.
Based on extensive research, Mr. Kennedy observed that chronic violent
offenders are, in fact, deterred from future violence when they recognize the
resources of the criminal justice system are focused on their conduct.
My own experience is instructive. Gerard Livernois, another member of ACT UP
San Francisco, assaulted me with a pie. Judge Goldsmith gave Mr. Livernois
the maximum sentence: Six months in county jail. I believe that sentence has
deterred violent behavior by Mr. Livernois whom I understand has not
participated in violent activities since his release from jail.
In this case, as in the case of Mr. Livernois, imposing the maximum sentence
will be instructive. A stiff sentence also will help reestablish a climate of
fairness and safety for the individuals and groups who have been subjected to
such attacks for too long.
Willie L. Brown, Jr.
San Francisco Chronicle
April 3, 2001
Run-In Continues To Anger S.F. Mayor
Brown likens Daly to Dan White
By Edward Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco -- San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, still angered over a
confrontation Friday with Supervisor Chris Daly, yesterday likened Daly to
former Supervisor Dan White, who 22 years ago gunned down Mayor George
Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
"We've had assassinations in this building," Brown told reporters in City
Hall. "I've been pied," he also said, referring to the 1998 incident in which
protesters hit him in the face with pies. They were later convicted of
"I'm not going to be the recipient of that," Brown said. "The world should
Daly suggested that Brown's high-pitched rhetoric was a way of singling him
out personally rather than talking about the policy issue -- homelessness --
that touched off the confrontation.
As for the Dan White reference, the 28-year-old Daly said, "I believe in
nonviolence," adding he doesn't own a gun.
"Let's get real here," Daly said. "I may have to ask for security myself," he
said. "I don't want to be a martyr."
Brown, 67, and Daly argued in the mayor's City Hall office during a meeting
over homeless policy. The two men and the others in attendance disagree over
who did what to whom.
Brown's version of events at the 15-minute meeting was that Daly had become
enraged, "used some fairly harsh words" and then gone for the mayor.
Daly said yesterday that Brown had entered the meeting in a belligerent mood,
possibly because Daly brought along representatives of the Coalition on
Homelessness, one of Brown's least favorite groups.
"I had no idea that brokering a meeting between the mayor and Homeless
Coalition was so radical," Daly said.
"The mayor doesn't know how to work with people," said Daly, a community
activist who was elected to represent South of Market's District 6 in
December. "It's evident from multiple meetings. It's to the point where his
conduct in these meetings is reprehensible."
He said the mayor had lunged for him, but had been restrained by Trent Rhorr,
the acting head of the Department of Human Services.
Daly's version of events was supported by several people from the Homeless
Coalition, who were at the meeting called to discuss contracts for running
the city's two biggest shelters. They put out a statement yesterday saying
that Brown had "lost his temper and lunged at the supervisor."
Things got heated after Brown said Daly was accusing the mayoral staff of
lying. Daly asked the mayor to address the coalition's positions, but Brown
refused, according to the statement released by the Homeless Coalition
staffers at the meeting.
"It then escalated to Supervisor Daly and Mayor Brown exchanging profanities,
and Mayor Brown stating that no one could talk to him that way," they said.
"Brown tripped over Rhorr, who was forced to hold him up. Daly then stood up,
with Coalition on Homelessness director Paul Boden preventing him from moving
Boden said he had seen more heated incidents at City Hall. "I don't think
they could have come to blows," he said. "I've seen (former mayor) Art Agnos
much more upset than Brown was, and for (state Sen. John) Burton it would
have been a coffee klatch."
Brown, however, yesterday upped the verbal assault and suggested that Daly
might have mental problems.
"I assume he will be closely watched because he clearly represents something
that is not rational," the mayor said. "He's got to be watched. We've had bad
things in this city."
Brown, since his election in 1995, has referred from time to time to
Moscone's assassination in his City Hall office. Brown, a close friend of
Moscone's, was about the last person to see Moscone alive before White shot
and killed him Nov. 27, 1978, in the mayor's office. White then shot and
killed Milk in Milk's office.
Former Supervisor Amos Brown, a mayoral ally, decried Daly's conduct.
"This is another reflection of the general climate of incivility and meanness
that's been directed against Willie Brown," Amos Brown said. "I think it's
time we bring it to a screeching halt.
"It almost harkens back to the days when we last had district elections,"
referring to the era when White was on the board. "I almost hate to mention
it, but it has devolved into an atmosphere in which Dan White killed Mayor
Daly's colleagues on the board weren't eager to comment on the record about
But one supervisor said a few members had told Daly yesterday to calm down.
"You're not a street activist any more, you're a supervisor," the supervisor
said was the gist of the message.
As for an apology, Daly said, "I'm sorry I responded in kind to the mayor. I
will apologize that I was lured into the mayor's finger-pointing politics."
ACT UP San Francisco
1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 * www.actupsf.com