You are not America

Swampscott Police and Essex County DA: Black man guilty until proven innocent

Last Saturday at a Swampscott standout, a Black Lives Matter supporter, Ernst Jean-Jacques Jr. was charged with felony assault and battery on a person 60 years or older, a woman who is a far-right Dianna Ploss/Trump supporter. 

That much is not in dispute, but everything else is.

Did Jean-Jacques commit the assault? Swampscott Police alleged that Jean-Jacques punched eighty-year-old Linda C. Greenberg, of Swampscott. Most might think so from reading the initial front-page story in the Lynn Item. A closer examination of the police report and videos and screen captures of the incident raises a whole lot of inaccuracies and inconsistency in statements both from the police and noted witnesses to the case.

The Jean-Jacques defense has shared evidence that seems to cast big doubts on the Swampscott Police narrative.

But again you wouldn’t likely see that looking at social media, Facebook townie hate-groups, and local news rags. 

Let’s start with a trashy front-pager from the Lynn Item, “Man Charged With Assaulting An Elderly Woman At Swampscott Trump Rally” that leads with bullshit, “Suddenly, seemingly without any provocation, Jacques Jr. throws a punch across the barrier, appearing to strike the woman in the chest, though the video is obscured at the last minute, so a viewer can’t see the punch connect.”

The Ploss video, that the police report references, definitively shows liquid thrown at Jean-Jacques which seems to come from Greenberg. It sure doesn’t definitively show a punch being thrown.

Yet Swampscott Officer Brendan Reen claims in the police report that “Jacques responded by punching Greenberg with his right fist”. Reen makes the conclusive statement relying on his observance of the Ploss live stream, a video stream that only shows Jean-Jacques moving one step towards Greenberg. He notes a punch in the police report that clearly wasn’t shown in the Ploss live stream video.

Reen also claims that “while speaking with Greenberg at the location of the rally, she told me that she did not intend to splash water on Jacques and that she has uncontrollable tremors.”

This also seems inaccurate, as there’s a Greenberg interview with Swampscott Police which was recorded by a bystander, in which an always unmasked Greenberg stated to Swampscott Police: “I was drinking my water and he was gyrating in front of me and I was getting mad and I did get water on him. I don't want to lie.” When the video-taking bystander asked Greenberg if throwing liquid made her in the wrong, she responded: “Oh, why, don't you fuck off... You are not America, you are not America.”

Also in the police report, “It was reported that when Jacques punched Greenberg, he hit her in the torso area and the force crushed the top of the water bottle.”

Two of Greenberg’s daughters are listed as witnesses to the incident in the police report and helpfully let the police know that Greenberg suffers from a medical condition that makes her tremor (and spill water on people that make her angry).

Swampscott Police and the Essex County prosecutor seem to buy all of that. 

Unmentioned are the numerous videos on social media of an always unmasked Greenberg poking flags and pushing others. 

A press release from the attorney representing Jean-Jacques notes video was presented at a court hearing this week, “The video, which was played in court, established that Greenberg threw water at Jean-Jacques. However, contrary to Officers Cassidy and Reen, it did not show Jean-Jacques punching her. The video together with still images which depict the incident from a different angle, shows Jean-Jacques with an open hand, attempting to disarm Greenberg of the bottle.”

More excerpts from the press release:

“(Essex County) prosecutor Danielle Doherty-Wirwicz filed a motion requesting that the Court find Jean-Jacques to be a danger to the community and order that a $500 cash bail remain in place, that Jean-Jacques have no contact with any person over 70, and that he be banished from the town of Swampscott. 

At the hearing, Doherty-Wirwicz asked the Court to accept at face-value Greenberg’s claim that “water-propelled” onto Jean-Jacques from Greenberg’s bottle as a result of “essential tremors disorder,” notwithstanding video evidence and eye-witness accounts which suggest that her assault was premeditated and that she aimed a large plume of water at Jean-Jacques, who was approximately three to four feet away.

Jean-Jaques Defense Attorney Murat Erkan stated he felt “ashamed” at the prosecutor for making the request. Attorney Erkan related that he arrived at court expecting that the prosecutor would dismiss the charges before arraignment and join his request that Greenberg is charged with violating Jean-Jacques’s civil rights and was saddened when the prosecutor not only declined but requested that the Court find Jean-Jacques to be a danger to the community. 

Attorney Erkan pointed out that despite video evidence that depicted Greenberg assaulting Jean-Jacques and her confession to doing so, police neglected to charge her, instead choosing to charge Jean-Jacques for disarming her. Attorney Erkan admonished the prosecutor for her decision to perpetuate the nation’s storied history of endorsing the story of a white woman over a young black male. He evoked images of 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, where police sprayed water on peaceful black protesters seeking acknowledgment of their civil rights. He emphasized that Greenberg’s spraying water on Jean-Jacques dehumanized him in that same manner. He pointed out that by protecting her behavior, prosecutors and police demonstrated that, sixty years after Birmingham, lessons of our painful past had not been learned. Although Judge Matthew Nestor disagreed with the analogy, he agreed that the case was “disturbing,” rejected the prosecutor’s request to declare Jean-Jacques a dangerous person, and chided the prosecutor for requesting that Jean-Jacques be banished from Swampscott and prohibited from contact with elderly persons.

The Court set the matter for a pretrial hearing on February 24, 2021. 

No live witnesses were presented at the hearing. Attorney Erkan related that he earlier intended to present the testimony of two eye-witnesses, but decided not to after the prosecutor indicated she would request the hearing be postponed, and that Jean-Jacques be jailed in the interim. Attorney Erkan indicated that he was speaking with authorities and expected to request that Greenberg be charged for her hate crime.”

A witness of the incident, Michael Picard adds that he also recorded and shared a video with the Jean-Jacques defense team, “My video shows the open hand to the water bottle after that lady poured water on him.”

A spokesperson for the Essex County District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.

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