Shameless in Massachusetts

Posted: Nov 01, 2007 9:11 PM

On October 22, Larry Cirignano could breathe easy again for the first time in 10 months.

The pro-family Catholic activist was acquitted of assault and battery charges leveled by a Massachusetts ACLU official and backed by a local reporter.

The alleged “assault,” stemming from an incident at a Worcester pro-marriage rally last December, never happened. A jury dismissed all counts. However, the Worcester Telegram-Gazette has refused to apologize for or retract its stories “reporting” that Cirignano angrily threw a counter-protestor to the pavement.

And Cirignano has had to live with the accusation for nearly a year, his freedom and his license to practice law in jeopardy, while the legal charade played out.

For those who think of Katie Couric, MSNBC or the New York Times when considering media bias, this is a reminder that bias is also rampant at state and local news outlets, where newsrooms are dominated by reporters and editors marinated in leftist groupthink at university journalism programs.

As you’ll see below, the local press played a huge role in making a citizen pay the price for opposing the pansexual political agenda. Worcester Telegram-Gazette reporter Richard Nangle misreported the story from the beginning and eventually became a star witness for the prosecution. Telegram Metro columnist Diane Williamson openly mocked the defense case in an Oct. 18 piece entitled “Fishy Excuse Shouldn’t Get Him Off,” and called Nangle the only “objective” witness.

The original allegation was that Cirignano slammed protester Sarah Loy to the sidewalk at a pro-marriage rally outside the Worcester City Hall on Dec. 16, 2006. Loy, an officer with the Massachusetts ACLU, had been waving a pro-homosexual marriage sign in front of the lectern. Loy accused Cirignano of approaching her from behind, grabbing her shoulders and pushing her backwards to the ground.

At the trial, only two of the prosecution’s witnesses supported Loy’s account of the “assault.” Nangle, who was covering the rally for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Unitarian minister Aaron Payson both testified they saw Cirignano push Loy. However, Cirignano’s defense counsel established with video and photos that neither man was close enough to have reliably witnessed the event.

Several witnesses who were in the immediate vicinity testified that Cirignano led Loy away from the lectern with his right arm against her back and had started back to the lectern before Loy fell down. According to witnesses, Loy tripped backward over a 13-year-old girl’s foot, landed on her buttocks, curled up into a fetal position and began to cry. She did not seek medical treatment. Loy said in her testimony that she had felt continuous pressure on her back, but had not actually been pushed down.

With these facts established in court, let’s take a look at Nangle’s lead for his article, “Worcester rally takes ugly turn: Gay marriage backer pushed,” on Dec. 17, the day after the rally:

WORCESTER – Tempers boiled over at an anti-gay marriage rally yesterday when the executive director of the Boston-based Catholic Citizenship emerged from behind a lectern outside City Hall, rushed toward a female counter-demonstrator, and pushed her to the ground.

Sarah Loy, 27, of Worcester, was holding a sign in defense of same-sex marriage amid a sea of green “Let the People Vote” signs when Larry Cirignano of Canton, who heads the Catholic Citizenship group, ran into the crowd, grabbed her by both shoulders and told her, “You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now.” Mr. Cirignano then pushed her to the ground, her head slamming against the concrete sidewalk.

Nangle followed up with this statement from a convenient mouthpiece:

“It was definitely assault and battery,” said Ronal C. Madnick, director of the Worcester County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Really? No credible witnesses thought so, and neither did the jury.

“In my opinion the original story in the Worcester Telegram was certainly designed to create the impression that Mr. Cirignano was violent, a madman, and absolutely guilty of a crime,” Cirignano’s attorney, Mike Gilleran, told Culture and Media Institute. Gilleran, a partner in a large Boston law firm, continued: “It also gave the impression that Ms. Loy was seriously injured. Unfortunately for the Worcester Telegram, there was simply no credible evidence at trial of any of this."

After noting that police interviewed Madnick and others in the crowd, Nangle returned to his attack on Cirignano:

As Ms. Loy lay motionless on the ground, crying, Mr. Cirignano ran back behind the lectern, where moments before he had opened the afternoon rally by leading a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.


Wait. Just kidding. Nangle did not actually use the word “hypocrite,” but there’s no mistaking the point of this juxtaposition. And, “motionless?” Sounds for all the world like she was coldcocked by this Pledge-spouting cad.

Further down in the article, Nangle “reports” again that Loy

“was pushed to the ground. Afterward, Ms. Loy, in tears, arose and yelled to no one in particular, ‘That’s what hate does. That’s what hate does.’”

Given the disturbing record of faked “hate crimes” around the nation by pro-gay activists, one might have thought that an “objective” reporter would greet Loy’s accusation with at least a touch of skepticism.

Nangle does note:

Most in the crowd did not seem aware of the incident involving Mr. Cirignano and Ms. Loy.

Could this be because nothing actually happened, other than a woman tripping over a young girl’s foot? If the incident had been as violent as Nangle reported, there should have been at least a ripple in the crowd. A video taken by the pro-marriage group MassResistance moments after the incident indicates no disturbance.

The article does contain a hint about Loy’s reason for crashing the permit-sanctioned rally and interfering with public speech, a violation of Massachusetts law:

Counter-demonstrators have been showing up at anti-gay marriage rallies in communities across the state in recent days, chanting and trying to drown out speakers.

But truth is elusive to wags like Telegram columnist Williamson, who opined:

….it was easy to predict the testimony: Every pro-gay activist who witnessed the encounter between Mr. Cirignano and Ms. Loy saw her get pushed, while every anti-gay activist saw her trip, pirouette, or simply fall unaided to the ground, as though she had a case of the vapors.

Cute, except that all but two of the “pro-gay” witnesses admitted not actually seeing the incident. The two who did claim they saw it were proven in court to have been too far away to see it reliably through the crowd.

On Dec. 18, the Boston Globe ran a 354-word piece by James Vaznis headlined, “Catholic group leader denies pushing activist.” The article details the allegation as reported in the Worcester paper, with an additional quote from Loy, who says, “He came out of nowhere. It happened very fast. I never imagined someone would push me.”

Cirignano explains his side to the Globe in a telephone interview, and finishes with, “I promise you. I did not throw her to the ground.”

On October 23, the Globe reported Cirignano’s exoneration in a 115-word squib, the last of a five-item “New England in brief” roundup inside the Metro section. The item concludes with:

Loy was not injured in the fall, and Cirignano denied intentionally pushing her to the ground. A civil rights violation against Cirignano was thrown out by a judge last week [the district attorney’s spokesman] said.

Readers unfamiliar with the incident might be forgiven for thinking, from this summary, that Cirignano pushed her but got off easy.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported the acquittal in a straightforward front page piece on Oct. 23. The article, by Gary V. Murray, identified Loy as secretary of the Worcester County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and acknowledged that Nangle had testified for the prosecution:

Two prosecution witnesses, the Rev. Aaron R. Payson, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester and Telegram & Gazette reporter Richard A. Nangle, said they saw Mr. Cirignano push Ms. Loy to the ground.

Defense witness Deborah McCarthy of Worcester said Ms. Loy came through the crowd “of her own will” and fell after tripping over Ms. McCarthy’s daughter’s foot. She said Mr. Cirignano was not near Ms. Loy when she fell.

Following the acquittal, a pro-family activist e-mailed Nangle, suggesting that libel may have been committed against Cirignano. Nangle responded with an e-mail suggesting that the e-mail alleging possible libel was in itself perhaps a libel. After a back-and-forth exchange, which included another pro-family activist, the set of e-mails was forwarded to Telegram City Editor Ray Whearley. The editor rebuked all parties for their tone, but stated:

The Telegram & Gazette will not retract any portion of its coverage of the original incident involving Mr. Cirignano. Again, Mr. Nangle was at the event and reported very plainly and unemotionally what he saw. He testified under oath as to what he saw. His account, as was the case with all who testified at the trial, was reported fairly and accurately. There is nothing to retract.

And you can’t retract 10 months of someone living under trumped up criminal charges, either.

Recommended Townhall Video