US attorney gave blogger a reprieve
In a strongly worded memorandum issued Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings said the decision by Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks to dismiss a federal misdemeanor possession charge against Sullivan flouted a "cardinal principle of our legal system'' - that all persons stand equal before the law.
Three other defendants charged with the same offense had to appear before Collings the same day as Sullivan, the judge noted. But Sullivan's case was the only one prosecutors did not pursue, out of concern that the $125 fine carried by the relatively minor offense could derail his US immigration application.
"It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,'' Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutors' rationale for the dismissal was inadequate.
Collings added with obvious irritation that he had no power to order prosecutors to pursue the case, and granted their motion to dismiss it. The fact that he did, however, "does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,'' he wrote.
The memorandum was first reported Thursday on a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly news blog.
Sullivan, 46, declined to comment in an e-mail. A self-described libertarian conservative, Sullivan is well known for his idiosyncratic views. Catholic and openly gay, he is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage and has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana in his Daily Dish blog on The Atlantic Online.
His lawyer, Robert M. Delahunt Jr. of Boston, also would not comment.
Collings's ruling stems from an otherwise unremarkable event on the Cape Cod National Seashore on July 13.
Sullivan, who lives in Washington but owns a home in Provincetown, was stopped by a park ranger for smoking marijuana on the beach shortly before 3:45 p.m. When the ranger asked Sullivan if he had any other joints, the writer fished one out of his wallet and said, "I thought small amounts of marijuana were legal to have in Massachusetts,'' according to court records.
Massachusetts voters approved a referendum in November that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, but the change does not apply to federal property.