Boston's district attorney can't be forced to prosecute a protester arrested during the recent "straight pride" rally, a Supreme Judicial Court justice ruled Monday, handing her a victory in a weekslong spat over her office's powers.
The ruling comes after Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins filed an emergency petition last week after Boston Municipal Judge Richard Sinnott denied requests from the DA's office to dismiss charges against seven of the protesters who were arrested.
Sinnott's efforts to force the prosecution of protester Roderick Webber infringed on Rollins' powers as a prosecutor in a separate branch of government.
"Fundamentally, the judge had no authority to 'deny'" Rollins' decision not to prosecute, Justice Frank M. Gaziano wrote.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
The Boston Globe first reported the ruling.
Rollins had filed an emergency petition with the SJC, Massachusetts' high court, when Sinnott wouldn't let her drop the prosecution.
Gaziano's ruling was only in one protester's case, but Rollins said at a news conference Monday that the ruling crystalizes a long-entrenched principle that allows her office to drop charges where it sees fit.
"We have a really good opinion now telling us something we knew since 1806," she said.
Prosecutors nationwide have long had discretion on whether to bring charges in certain cases. Monday's ruling noted that the only exception is "instances of scandalous abuse of authority," which and in this case that "hardly qualifies."
The parade, which organizers said was about celebrating the heterosexual orientation, drew a few hundred participants, many of them vocally supporting President Donald Trump, and hundreds more protesters.
While Rollins' office moved to drop charges against some of the protesters, she has stressed she was still pursuing charges against others facing more serious offenses, and she noted that again on Monday.
Rollins also said she's been told that four police officers injured by protesters during the parade have yet to return to work and that eight of the three dozen people arrested at the parade were immediately sent for arraignment on charges like assault.
"Any indication that this administration does not take seriously violence against law enforcement or the community is false," she said.
Boston's police union had cheered Sinnott's position and called for everyone arrested at the parade to be prosecuted. Its officers had been pelted with rocks and bottles of urine, they said.
On Monday, the union reiterated its displeasure that Rollins hadn't chosen to prosecute everyone who was arrested.
"It tells people that they can be disorderly and resist arrest because it won't be prosecuted anyway. It only puts police officers in more danger and it's insulting," said Larry Calderone, vice president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, in a statement.
Sinnott also drew outcry in the protesters' initial court hearing when he held a defense lawyer in contempt and had her detained for hours when she read from case law suggesting he had no authority to overrule Rollins' decision not to prosecute some defendants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.