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Discharged Iraq war veteran, gay activist Dan Choi on trial for DADT protest

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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Lt. Dan Choi, the openly gay Army veteran and gay rights activist who was arrested outside the White House for protesting against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” testified in federal court on Tuesday that he is willing to go to jail.

Choi has reportedly rejected a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors, according to a report by Metro Weekly.

Choi (center) during a Nov. 15, 2010 protest at the White House.
Associated Press file photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Under the offer, the government would agree to dismiss the charge against Choi as long as he avoided arrest for four months.

“They made us a new offer. We laughed,” Choi said on Friday, via Twitter.

Choi was in court this week to answer to a charge of disobeying police orders to leave the area in front of the White House during the November 2010 protest.

“The right to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves is more than a privilege,” said Choi, his voice rising with emotion during a cross-examination that turned confrontational at times. “It’s a moral responsibility and I take that seriously.”

Choi said he could not recall details of his arrest, but likened the scene to a “combat zone” and recalled being struck by what he considered to be aggressive and demeaning tactics by the U.S. Park Police officers who showed up.

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He said was flabbergasted he was on trial in the first place when people went to the White House to cheer the U.S. military raid that led to the death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. He said those people gathered at the same fence but never faced any sanctions.

“What’s the difference?” Choi demanded … “You have not given me a reason why my free speech should be curtailed and their free speech should be amplified.”

Associated Press, via The Washington Post

During the protest, a total of 13 people handcuffed themselves to the fence, chanting “let us serve.” The remaining 12 demonstrators accepted a plea deal where they agreed to plead guilty but serve no jail time if they are not re-arrested within a certain time.

Choi, and Iraq war veteran, announced he is gay on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on March 19, 2009, prompting the U.S. Army to initiate discharge proceedings. His discharge became effective on June 29, 2010.

Since outing himself, Choi has become a vocal opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — he is one of more than 14,000 servicemen and women who have been discharged because of their sexual orientation. The ban has since been repealed and scheduled to formally end on Sept 20, 2011.

If convicted, Choi could face up to six months in jail and a fine.

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