Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A different kind of animal house

Hadley Court set a new precedent this week. James Connelly, a junior at UMass, signed an agreement to publicly apologize to the Amherst Police Department while standing out on Main Street in a toga. Arrested last weekend for organizing a Toga Party on Rte. 9, Judge Nancy R. Dusek-Gomez condemned Connelly at his arraignment for making an offensive comment to a female officer while imprisoned.

Without a closer look into the incident, it would seem like the story of a punk kid who stepped on the wrong polished shoes and paid the price. There was a large gathering at his house, kegs were tapped without a permit, he was underage, and he insulted a female police officer. Local news and official reports have made it seem that it was Connelly’s suggestion for the public apology dressed in full roman garb. He signed the papers, he agreed to it. Judge Gomez, along with a $300 fine, 4 months probation, and alcohol class, saw fit to include this act of penance. Justice was served, right? Wrong.

Mike Cunningham, a roommate and subsequent cellmate of Connelly, tells a different tale. Beginning with the night of his arrest Connelly was left in nothing but his boxers, his toga being removed under jail protocol that hopes to prevent any long object like a belt to be used for potential suicide. Repeatedly asking for a phone call and a blanket, Connelly received neither.

As Cunningham put it: “I watched the officers tease him. He’s a good kid, but I guess he just snapped, and eventually told her [the female officer] to go suck his dick.”

Connelly is indeed an honors student at UMass with no previous record, but because of his one insult, he has given permission to undergo Corporal Punishment, Hadley Court is going to publicly humiliate him, when all other equal misdemeanors would simply require that the defendant complete a diversion program.

Sure he signed off on it, unwisely sealing his fate, but what would you have done? At the arraignment, Cunningham remembers that Judge Gomez berated Connelly in the middle of the court room, asking him if he would talk to his mother that way, and asking if he was sorry. Getting his turn to speak, Connelly expressed his desire that he had never said it, stated that he was not that kind of person. According to Cunningham, Judge Gomez then interrupted Connelly, abruptly asking if he was willing to dress up in a toga on Friday afternoon in front of the police station and apologize for his words.

Again, what would you have done? You are scared, and being verbally attacked by fully adorned judge, bearing down at you from across a desk and gavel. Connelly heard “diversion,” he processed “no record,” and conveyed his desires for judicial redemption by saying the easy “yes.” Many of us at that flashpoint, where time speeds by without time to think, would have done the same.

Why was this UMass student coerced into public humiliation? He already spent the night in a cold concrete room, in nothing but his underwear, being ridiculed by the police, why must he now apologize to them by undergoing cruel and unusual punishment?

The actions suggested by Judge Gomez go well beyond any requirements under law. What this incident reflects is instead the utter ignorance of the law system that regulates UMass students. With little else more extraordinary than busting parties, the police and courts have become frustrated. They can’t seem to curb the problem which only gets worse every year. The more they tighten the net, the more students aggressively resist. Along with this clamp down, they seem to become more belligerent, and as a result, students like James Connelly get stuck in the middle.

To further the exposure for Connelly, news crews from NBC were at his apartment, the scene of the crime, in an effort to get an interview about Judge Gomez’s “unconventional orders” (to quote the Daily Hampshire Gazette). Attempting to remain out of the penetrating light, Connelly has remained silent, but that has not stopped this story from hitting local news.

Connelly’s sentence is a manifestation of the abrupt and abrasive enforcement policy on campus. The Police and Courts are cracking down, harshly trying to stamp out the brush fire that is collegiate drinking habits. In James Connelly’s case, they are trying to do so through fear and humiliation. Will it work, or will it only bring forth spite and hate to last a lifetime?

Today Connelly is supposed to give a public display of his atonement. Sometime in the afternoon, he has to stand alone with a good probability of cameras surrounding him, and pretend he’s sorry.

This editorial reflects the opinion of the Collegian staff.

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