March 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Dan Choi trial to resume March 28
Dan Choi, White House, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DADT, GetEqual, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Army Lt. Dan Choi was arrested after chaining himself to the White House fence. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The trial of gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi for his November 2010 arrest for chaining himself to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is scheduled to resume on March 28 in U.S. District Court in D.C.

The trial, which began in August 2011, has been on hold for more than a year over procedural disputes. The prosecutor initiated a highly unusual procedure known as a Writ of Mandamus that successfully overturned a ruling by the judge allowing Choi’s attorneys to argue that Choi was targeted for “selective” and “vindictive” prosecution.

Choi appealed the ruling barring him from using a selective and vindictive prosecution defense, but lost his appeals to higher courts.

At the White House protest, Choi and 12 other LGBT activists and supporters were charged with disobeying a lawful police order to disperse from the White House fence after each of them attached themselves to the fence with handcuffs.

The protest came at a time when many activists, including Choi, believed the Obama administration wasn’t pushing hard enough to persuade Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring gays from serving openly in the military. Congress has since repealed DADT.

Choi was the only one of his fellow protesters that did not agree to an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty to the charge in exchange for having the case dismissed if they weren’t arrested again at the White House within a four-month period.

He argued that he had a constitutional right to protest at the White House fence and called on the government to drop the charge without imposing any conditions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, the lead prosecutor, refused that request.

In addition to his constitutional argument, Choi’s attorneys cited a technical breach by U.S. Park Police officers who made the arrests. The officers ordered Choi and the other protesters to disperse from the sidewalk in front of the White House, but Choi and some of the others were standing on an elevated ledge on which the White House fence is attached, not the sidewalk.

Thus Choi was not legally bound to obey the police order, his attorneys argued.

One of his supporters, attorney and gay Army veteran James Pietrangelo, argued in an amicus brief last October that the case should be dismissed because Choi has been improperly denied the ability to call certain witnesses, including gay former White House staffer Brian Bond.

Choi’s attorneys argued at the trial in August 2011 that Bond exchanged emails with the Secret Service and others at the White House in what appeared to be an effort to single out Choi for harsher prosecution. The White House has declined to comment on those allegations, but lead prosecutor George called such claims completely false.

She has argued that Choi’s political beliefs and sexual orientation are irrelevant to the case and that Choi’s arrest was based only on his refusal to obey the police order to disperse from the White House fence.

In a statement released on March 5, Choi said George “has unrelentingly pressed this case for three years now, demanding the maximum jail sentence: 6 months in federal penitentiary.”

Choi added, “My applications to re-enlist in the Army were denied solely because of this trial. Whether it is to ‘teach me a lesson,’ or prevent my reinstatement, or bully those who practice free speech, this prosecution will not give up.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • What a waste by Angela George, the prosecution, of scarce judicial resources! Does anyone feel safer?

  • Dan is my friend. I not only admire and respect him, I adore him. He is sensitive and sweet and bright and brave. I am sorry that he has to go through this. It will not bode well for history that he is been prosecuted and persecuted. Please support him in any way you can.

  • He is such a media hound. Who cares?

  • Do the crime, do the time. Dan Choi has to realize that his actions were pointless. DADT was repealed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. Gays and Lesbians can openly serve in the military now and even get married.

    Dan Choi was naive enough to believe that Obama wasn’t doing anything about DADT while Obama and others were working hard behind the scenes to get it done. Even if Obama wasn’t doing anything, chaining yourself to a fence and denying tax paying tourists the right to visit the White House grounds for 3-4 hours to deal with a you is not going to make a difference.

    Dan Choi thinks he is fooling the public into believing that he will re-enlist. At a time when Gays and Lesbians in the military need positive role models in leadership positions in the post-DADT world, Dan Choi is running away from an opportunity to actually make a difference in the military.

  • Lt. Choi took action to put his career in the military at risk and be discharged for being gay. As a gay veteran myself who served in silence during DADT I can tell you it is a hazard to your duty as a soldier. To have to always be on guard about what you might slip and say or a stereotyped mannerism you might accidentally make. This forced “Closet Law” did not help GLB service member’s it did the exact opposite. It put our fellow brother’s and sister’s in arms at risk. We know this now because they repealed it! Lt. Choi the “media hound” as you might think he is brought the most public attention to DADT than any other single event. He was Discharged. Being discharged for something you are or being discharged for constitutional right to protest and being arrested for it, which caused his discharge under conditions at, is crippling to a soldier’s soul. To me Lt. Choi is and will be a hero for human rights, equality, and the military. This gay Vet SALUTES YOU SIR!


  • @ Willie Millard: anyone who GENUINELY cared about the issues rather than simply throwing monkey dung at Dan would know that 1. Mainstream media was reporting that there was talk by members of the Senate about giving up on the repeal bill; 2. Historians have credited the attention to repeal that Dan and others maintained with GETTING IT PASSED; 3. NO ONE was prevented from “visit[ing] the White House grounds” during the protest, even IF it had lasted for “3-4 hours” which it did not. Transparently, just like Mr. Riley above, because you offer no criticism of substance but rather ad hominems, you’re obviously just another Obambot angry that Dan and others have dared speak Truth about the failings of Your Lord & Savior Obama Christ. Well, you need to add Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin to your Hate List as he dared tell reporters ONE WEEK BEFORE the final vote on repeal that Mr. Obama STILL wasn’t doing all he could to help them pass the bill. So, if you REALLY cared about gay equality, you should be complaining about the President not those like Dan who lost their careers—and have to put up with demonization by members of an ignorant mob like you.

  • Diane and I will be at Dan's trial.

  • In a time when the government is looking to save money, jails and prisons are overcrowded, and prosecutors and courts overloaded, how can this possibly be a good use of resources?

  • Our court system is in tatters. This is a disgrace. Dan I salute you!

  • Godspeed Dan Choi.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved.