Depending on whom you ask, Massachusetts-based protest organizer Gregg Housh had a major victory - or a significant loss - in Boston Municipal Court this Wednesday. As reported in The Phoenix this past week in the feature "Battling Scientology," Housh faced charges of harassment, disturbing the peace, and disturbing religious worship for his involvement with the picket group Anonymous and his actions against the Boston Church of Scientology.
According to an Anonymous press statement that circulated earlier this afternoon: "On October 22nd Boston Municipal Court dismissed the charge of criminal harassment against 'Anonymous' anti-Scientology activist Gregg Housh, pending an order for the two parties to not approach each other."
Boston Church of Scientology attorney Marc LaCasse was quick to comment that Housh did not get off so easily. "Gregg Housh - under oath - admitted that the [evidence presented against him] was true. The document he signed is called 'admission to sufficient facts.' If it doesn't get any clearer than that..."
Legally speaking, charges against Housh were not technically dismissed. Instead he agreed to a Continuance without a Finding (CWOF), which the Massachusetts Criminal Defense Resource Page explains as: "Under Massachusetts Criminal Laws, agreeing to a Continuance without a Finding is not the same as pleading guilty. Technically, it is an admission that "there are sufficient facts to find you guilty" of the charges. Pleading to a CWOF will happen at a pre-trial conference as part of a plea agreement, if your attorney can get the prosecutor to agree." (For more about the legal side see this article from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly).
The good news is that all parties seem to be happy with the outcome. At least for now, it appears that Housh - who was placed on one year probation and who faces one year in prison if he enters within 100 yards of the Boston Church of Scientology on Beacon Street - avoided what promised to be a lengthy trial. On the other side, LaCasse says the outcome works for him: "My client simply wanted to be left alone."