Before a packed courtroom in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, Terrence
McGuckin, known to 2600 readers as layout artist ShapeShifter, was found
guilty on two of six charges related to his arrest at the Republican
National Convention in Philadelphia in August.
The prosecution began by dropping its controversial accusation that
McGuckin's cell phone was an instrument of crime. But the case they
presented with the remaining charges contained virtually no evidence
of a conclusive nature.
The sole witness for the prosecution was Detective Angelo Parisi, an off-duty police officer
from Washington DC who had been wandering through Philadelphia streets
during the convention filming demonstrators. He claimed to have seen
McGuckin in a crowd of people talking on a cell phone. The officer
claimed he saw the defendant point in a certain direction and that
the 10-15 people in his group moved in that direction. However, the
officer failed to capture any of this on his video camera. He claimed
that McGuckin then proceeded to the corner of 12th and Arch where he
again spoke on his cell phone.
At this point, Parisi described a demonstration on 13th and Arch where
protestors blocked an intersection for around 20 minutes. The implication
was that McGuckin was coordinating this demonstration, even though he
was never even seen by the officer at this intersection nor was he
overheard saying anything to anyone. Ironically, the demonstration
in question resulted in no arrests because protestors dispersed after
getting a warning from police.
A brief videotape was shown to the courtroom which consisted of chanting
demonstrators and a few people sitting in the street. There was no
noticeable sense of chaos nor any unpleasantness in the entire video.
And strangely, McGuckin didn't appear once in the entire screening which
led many to question the relevance of showing the tape in the first place.
Parisi claimed McGuckin was captured on video later in the tape but didn't
show it since he was just walking down a street.
The defense claimed that the "entire case [was] speculation" and pointed
out that Parisi had even failed to mention any of these details in a report
he had filed with the Philadelphia police the day the video was shot.
This, combined with his inability to capture McGuckin on videotape,
strengthened the defense's allegation that McGuckin was not actually
observed doing anything illegal. It was also pointed out that the only
witness presented by the prosecution was an off duty cop from another
city. If McGuckin was really one of the masterminds behind the unrest,
wouldn't more witnesses have come forward?
The prosecution exclaimed, "He could have said anything!" when asked if
they actually knew what McGuckin had said while speaking on his phone.
In exasperation, the defense remarked, "This case is even weaker than
In the end, the charges of obstruction of justice, reckless endangerment,
and failure to disperse were thrown out. However, Judge Lydia Kirkland
found McGuckin guilty of disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway.
It's hard to imagine how this decision was reached since he was seen
doing neither of these things, not even by the prosecution's sole
witness. It's also difficult to understand why the defense never brought
up the fact that McGuckin had been held in prison for a week on half
a million dollars bail. The same people responsible for that seemed to
have no problem with a sentence of three months' probation and a fine
of $135.50, which is what McGuckin ultimately wound up getting. Quite
simply, the whole thing just doesn't add up.
In another case scheduled for the same day, Ruckus Society leader
John Sellers - who had been held on one million dollars bail - had his
entire case dropped by the prosecution. One of the reasons initially
given by the authorities for the incredibly high bail was fear that the
defendants wouldn't appear in court. In actuality, they all did - with
their families, friends, and supporters. Sellers had traveled all the
way from California to defend himself, only to be told that the case
had been closed.
It was the view of many spectators that the cases' sole purpose was to
cripple and punish the protest movement. The lack of any real evidence
presented on Tuesday certainly bolsters that claim. The large number
of people who showed up and the continuing fight by remaining defendants
proves that the government's tactic ultimately backfired.
Despite the relatively minor penalties now involved, McGuckin and his
attorney vowed to immediately appeal the decision on principle. And the
good news for 2600 readers is that our layout artist won't be rotting
in prison in the interim.