Attorney Liam Scully Defends Family in Scituate Beach Bonfire Case

Dispute over Humarock bonfires still rages in Scituate

By Jessica Bartlett
Globe Correspondent

More than a month after Humarock residents clashed with police over bonfire regulations, the dispute is still moving through court and Scituate officials have recently issued a response to residents’ complaints about that night. Of the five men arrested on the beach in July 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 not been 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, but the officer encountered 75 to 100 people at the opening of Ocean Front Street, allegedly blocking the loader’s path. Back-up was called and according to the report, officers asked the people to move back, yet “the crowd/mob was unruly and non-compliant.” In the crowd was Joyce, who allegedly refused to move and eventually turned his back to officers who asked him to do so. He was 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. After ordering Joyce onto his knees three times so he could be handcuffed, Joyce was forced to his knees and handcuffed, police said. According to Joyce’s lawyer, Michael Judge, the town initially offered to dismiss the charges upon payment of court costs; however, that offer has been withdrawn.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.” 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. Michael Shea also will have a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 19. On July 5, Shea was arraigned on disorderly conduct charges for allegedly charging an officer after Joyce was arrested, a police report said. His attorney did not return a call for comment.

Three other men have been summonsed to court on charges of disorderly conduct. According to police reports filed through Hingham District Court, Proctor and William Shea were arrested after arguing with officers during the Humarock dispute. William Shea has since had charges dropped. Proctor has yet to be arraigned and hasn’t been formally charged; he has no attorney on record and did not return a call for comment. According to the police report, Kwesell was having a campfire in the sand behind his property. Officers saw Kwesell put a pallet on the fire and approached him, the report said, and told him he could have a cooking fire but could not add wood — especially 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 an officer and was “inciting the crowd with his tirade,” police said. It allegedly took three officers to control Kwesell while he was being handcuffed. Attorney Liam Scully, who is representing Kwesell, said he is negotiating a resolution that will hopefully lead to a dismissal before Kwesell is formally charged. “I don’t want to comment on the details of the negotiations because they are ongoing,” Scully said. If a compromise is not reached, Kwesell will face arraignment on Sept. 27.

Meanwhile, residents have sent selectmen a petition asking to be heard about the events of that night. Selectmen responded by sending a letter to Humarock residents, who posted the letter on their website. In the letter, officials supported police actions that night and said the decision to ban bonfires was well thought out. They added that the police presence was at normal levels for that holiday. “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 from the beach, and will work with beach associations and residents to educate people about bonfire bans, which will stay in place.

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