Here’s The Law Gates Was Accused Of Breaking

Posted by | July 24, 2009 13:39 | Filed under: Top Stories

The particular section of Massachusetts code that Professor Gates was arrested for violating is explained on Gawker. It’s Chapter 272, Section 53.

Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.


Gawker’s John Cook breaks it down:

Gates is clearly not a street walker, railer, or brawler. His language may have “accosted or annoyed” someone of the opposite sex—the only female whose presence at the scene was documented is Lucia Whalen, but we don’t know how annoyed she was by Gates’ comments. Gates was clearly not “idle,” though he could be potentially be classified as “disorderly” or “disturbing the peace.” The latter charge is dependent on Gates’ being outside his house—presuming that his yelling wasn’t audible on the street when he was inside—which would have been the case had Crowley not refused to fully identify himself to Gates unless Gates followed him outside. Whether one can be a “disorderly person” in one’s own home isn’t clear. But we suspect that if one could, then Crowley would simply have arrested Gates in his home. There’s no evidence from Crowley’s report that Gates’ behavior escalated after they exited the house. In fact, the most offensive-sounding statement from Gates in Crowley’s report—”ya, I’ll speak with your mama outside”—was uttered while they were still in Gates’ home. The emphasis on the bystanders in Crowley’s report and the fact that Gates’ “tumultuous behavior” was taking place “in view of the public” implies that, in Crowley’s mind, Gates’ behavior was legal inside his home and criminal on his porch. In which case Crowley’s apparent insistence that he would only fully identify himself to Gates outside his house, because the “acoustics” were bad, sounds more and more like a trap to us.


What is clear is that the city of Cambridge has called the arrest “regrettable and unfortunate,” and said that dropping the charges was “in the interests of justice.” Crowley himself now says that he “regrets that I put the police department and the city in the position where they have to defend something like this.” So if Crowley wasn’t stupid, then what, exactly, does he regret?

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Copyright 2009 Liberaland
By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.

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