Taking Care of Collins
ON MARCH 11 King Collins and seven of his friends disrupted for the third time a Soc Rel 153 lecture. Today Collins faces two years in jail. The prison term stems from charges apparently unconnected with Collins' classroom activities, but a strong suspicion remains that his most serious crime, in the eyes of Cambridge authorities, was that he was bothering Harvard.
Alex Inkeles, professor of Sociology cancelled his March 11 lecture of Soc Rel 153 at 10:24 a.m. after what he called "persistent disruptions by Collins and his friends." Campus and Cambridge policemen had already been notified and were waiting outside the lecture room. The four men in the group and one girl were arrested--on charges of trespass and, in Collins' case, "disturbing a school."
The charges that may put Collins, Peter D. Waring, Peter O'Grady, and Edward J. Hyman in jail have no direct relation to their activities at Harvard. Collins faces two years for two counts of assault and battery, plus a third year, to be served concurrently, for possession of marijuana. Waring received one year for assault and battery; O'Grady and Hyman each six months for possession of marijuana.
Each of the defendants also received a $20 fine for "trespass on the premises," pointing up the comparative insignificance of this charge. It seems apparent that the East Cambridge District Court has used Harvard's complaint as an excuse to put these "troublemakers" out of the way.
On the assault an battery charge, several University and Cambridge policeman testified that either Collins or Waring struck them in the course of the arrest. Fifteen Harvard and Radcliffe students who were within seven to 20 feet of the paddy wagon then testified that they saw no blow struck--that the defendants were merely resisting arrest. The question is not one of whether body contact occurred, but whether, in the confusion, the police were capable of attributing any blow to the right person.
The marijuana charge is similarly tenuous. A bag containing a quarter of an ounce was found in the paddy wagon shortly after the defendants left. It is uncertain who, if any of the defendants knew of the bag's presence. And it is unlikely that they left it there at all. The safest place to hie drugs is not a police car--and it is questionable whether anyone in a position likely to be arrested would carry drugs in the first place.
JUDGE M. Edward Viola made it apparent during the trial that his sympathies were not with the Collins group. When one Harvard student testified that he saw no punching during the arrest, the D.A. asked him if he approved of Collins' political philosophy, and Viola added, "You don't like police much, do you?" When a second, unsympathetic, witness testified that she also saw no punching, John Flym, Collins, lawyer, asked her if she agreed with Collins' politics. Viola objected, telling her she need not answer the question. When a third witness for the defense, the only black at the hearings, began to give his name, Viola told him "not to put on a show" and "to keep his voice down."
The convictions and sentencing came as a surprise move at what were originally expected to be preliminary hearings. A jury trial in he Superior Court is set for sometime in April. It is to be hoped that the Superior Court will approach the evidence with more of an open mind than did Judge Viola. Certainly the evidence surrounding assault and battery and possession of marijuana is at best doubtful, and thus it is hard to avoid the suspicion that Collins and his friends were framed. All that has been convincingly proved thus far is that Collins'' group disrupted some classes at Harvard. Two years in prison is too harsh a punishment for that.