Controversial Assault Case in Swampscott Heads to Trial

People in Swampscott, Massachusetts remain divided over a controversial assault charge stemming from a political protest last year

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Swampscott has been the site of a number of political protests in recent months.

For weeks, however, supporters of 32-year-old Ernst Jean-Jacques have gathered in town to demand that an assault case stemming from one of those protests be dismissed -- and the case is going to trial.



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Jean-Jacques disputes a police report that alleges he “clenched and closed his fist” before punching a woman. His attorney argues that he was trying to take a water bottle away from the woman as she threw water on him.

“No more than four minutes went by from the time water was thrown on me to the time I was removed off to the side, the time they did their investigation and the time I was put in cuffs," Jean-Jacques said.

After being the site of numerous political protests last year, some in Swampscott have come to the 32-year-old's defense, though people remain divided on the issue.

Two members of the town’s Select Board have called on District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett to dismiss the assault and battery charge against him.

Murat Erkan, Jean-Jacques’ attorney, cites video from "various angles and at various speeds," which he said demonstrate that "at no point did Ernst strike this woman after she assaulted him.”

Jean-Jacques and his attorney argue that race is playing a role in this case, but an independent review found that Swampscott Police had probable cause to make the arrest and found no evidence of bias.  

The report did, however, find flaws in the Swampscott Police Department’s post-arrest investigation. Police did not interview Jean-Jacques prior to his arrest, document all statements or verify that he hit the woman, according to the report.

“Why wasn’t she arrested because she admitted it? She’s caught on camera," Jean-Jacques said.

Last week, a judge made an unprecedented order to hand over a copy of that independent investigation to Jean-Jacques’ attorney. After being charged, Jean-Jacques lost his job caring for the elderly. He’s due back in court on June.

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