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Scituate officials respond to bonfire dust-up, while Humarock residents deal with court cases

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 22, 2012 02:35 PM

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Over a month has passed since Humarock residents clashed with police over bonfire regulations on the third of July, but the case is still moving through court and Scituate officials have just recently issued a response to residents' complaints about that night.

Of the five men arrested on the beach that night for alleged disorderly conduct, only 48-year-old William Shea has had the charges dismissed after paying a $150 fine.

The remaining men -- 17-year-old Matthew Proctor, 70-year-old Michael Joyce, 30-year-old Michael Shea, and 68-year-old Jack Kwesell -- have either yet to be arraigned or will face pre-trial hearings in September.

The conflict grew out of Scituate's decision in June to ban bonfires on town beaches. For more than a decade, beach bonfires had been a local tradition around the Fourth of July. The stockpiling of wood on beaches was also banned.

According to police reports filed through Hingham District Court, the current dispute began on July 3, when police found a number of stacked pallets on Humarock Beach.

A front-end loader was being escorted by an officer onto the beach to dismantle the stacked wood. when the officer encountered 75-100 people at the opening of Ocean Front Street allegedly standing in front of the loader to block its path.

Back-up was called and several more officers arrived on scene. According to the report, police officers approached the crowd and asked the people to move back, yet “the crowd/mob was unruly and non compliant.”

Among the crowd was Joyce, who allegedly refused to move and eventually turned his back to officers who asked him to do so. He was subsequently grabbed by officers, who put his hands behind his back and began to move him away from the crowd.

According to the report, Joyce was yelling at officers during the arrest and not cooperating. A state trooper then came over to assist in the arrest. After ordering Joyce onto his knees three times so that he could be handcuffed, Joyce was forced to his knees and handcuffed, police said.

Later in the back of the cop car, as police removed the handcuffs from Joyce’s wrists, they found that he was bloody. As a result, he was transported to South Shore Hospital.

According to Joyce's lawyer, Michael Judge, the town had initially offered to dismiss the charges on payment of court costs; however, that offer has been withdrawn.

“They are not willing to discuss the case anymore,” Judge said. “It’s not the fine that’s the issue, it’s the fact that to resolve it the way [the town] wants, they want him to admit to what’s in the police report and he’s not going to … the allegations in the police report didn’t happen. It’s a fabrication.”

As a result, Joyce was arraigned on Aug. 15 and will have a pretrial conference on Sept. 19.

Judge has requested a discovery period to uncover all the police reports relative to the case.

While that case is ongoing, Michael Shea will have a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 19. Shea was arraigned on the disorderly conduct charges on July 5 after he allegedly charged a police officer after Joyce was arrested, according to a police report.

According to the report, officers pushed Michael Shea back when he initially charged officers and warned him to back off, but he did not comply. As a result, Shea was also arrested. His attorney did not return a call for comment.

Three other men were summonsed to court on charges of disorderly conduct shortly after Joyce and Shea were arrested on the same night.

According to additional police reports filed through Hingham District Court, both Proctor and William Shea were arrested after arguing with officers who arrived to help handle the Humarock dispute.

William Shea has since had charges dropped. Proctor has yet to be arraigned and hasn’t yet been charged.

Proctor has no attorney on record and did not return a call for comment.

Kwesell also has yet to be arraigned on the charges of disorderly conduct.

According to the police report, Kwesell was having a campfire in the sand behind his property. Officers saw the man put a pallet on the fire and went over to him, the report said.

Officers informed the man that he could have a cooking fire, but he could not add wood to the fire and especially couldn’t add a pallet to the fire. Half an hour later, the fire at Kwesell’s house had allegedly gotten bigger.

Officers spoke with Kwesell, who yelled at the officer and was “inciting the crowd with his tirade,” police said. As a result, Kwesell was handcuffed. It allegedly took three officers to control Kwesell during handcuffing.

According to attorney Liam Scully, who is representing Kwesell, he is negotiating a resolution to the case that will hopefully lead to a dismissal before he is formally charged.

“That’s what’s being negotiated, whether we would all agree to a dismissal and whether or not there would be anything to go along with it besides the dismissal. I don’t want to comment on the details of the negotiations because they are ongoing,” Scully said.

Scully said that although all these incidents happened around the same event and on the same night, the courts are treating them as individual circumstances.

“Now we’re looking at each case individually, and each individual has facts and circumstances, and Jack’s circumstances aren’t connected to the other folks,” Scully said.

If a compromise is not reached, Kwesell will face an arraignment on Sept. 27.

Meanwhile, residents have signed a petition and sent it to selectmen, asking to be heard about the events of that night.

In response, the town has written a letter to Humarock residents that they have posted on their website.

In the response, selectmen expressed support what the police did that night, said that the decision to ban bonfires was well thought out, and that police presence was at normal levels for that holiday.

Additionally, “reports from officers indicate that great care was taken to enforce the ban without posing any risk to the public. Radio transmissions confirm the degree of restraint exercised by police. Even those arrested were minimally charged and could have been charged for much more serious offenses,” the letter said.

Selectmen also said that in the future, they plan to be more specific about the types of cooking fires that can be allowed, will use different equipment to remove illegal materials brought onto the beach, and will work with beach associations and residents to educate people about bonfire bans, which will stay in place.

To read the full letter, visit here.

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