Northampton judge postpones motion for dismissal in Vassell case
A judge of the Superior Court of Hampshire County has postponed a motion on Tuesday March 2 to dismiss the case against former University of Massachusetts student Jason Vassell until March 26. The motion was proposed in late 2008 by Vassell’s defense team, and seeks to dismiss the charges against Vassell based on claims of selective racial prosecution.
The pre-trial hearing for Vassell was to be presented at the court house in Northampton on Tuesday, but it was rescheduled at the request of the prosecutor for the case against Vassell, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Farris. The postponement was requested on the basis of the prosecution, stating its need to review files related to the case against Vassell.
Regarding the motion to dismiss, the pre-trial hearing was held in order to discuss the defendant’s plea to discharge the indictment against Vassell.
Vassell was arrested Feb. 3, 2008 on charges of aggravated assault for allegedly stabbing two white males in a contentious altercation at MacKimmie Hall. According to his defense team, Vassell acted in self defense, as his attorneys and supporters hold he was first taunted and then assaulted by the two men he ultimately stabbed. The males involved in the aggravated assault against Vassell were identified in police reports as Jonathan Bosse and John Bowes. Currently, Bosse has faced no charges. Bowes was charged with civil rights violation, but was later acquitted on March 13, 2009. He was sentenced with one year probation and a $200 fine. As for the now 24-year-old Vassell, he could be facing a maximum of thirty years in prison for two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
This pre-trial hearing was the first in six months. It has been two years since the assault, and no verdict regarding Vassell has been decided upon by the courts.
“It’s terrible how they have railroaded him these past two years. Especially when the others involved received a slap on the wrist,” stated a Justice for Jason supporter, who chose to remain anonymous.
“What happened to the sixth amendment of the Constitution?” asked UMass student Joseph Muccio. “The constitution states that everyone deserves a speedy and just trial. I don’t see that happening here.”
In the brief, which supports the motion to dismiss the charges against Vassell, the defendant accuses the district attorney of engaging in selective prosecution on the basis of race. The trial has opened a series of debates regarding the question of civil rights in the Pioneer Valley. On Feb. 3, supporters gathered in Northampton with signs supporting Vassell, during a candlelight vigil to mark the two year anniversary of his arrest. One sign suggested that institutional racism was alive and well in the Pioneer Valley.
Caitlin Soto can be reached at email@example.com.