After two years of often contentious legal battles, the trial of gay military activist Lt. Dan Choi came to a dramatic conclusion Thursday, after a federal judge convicted him of a misdemeanor and fined him $100.
Choi was on trial for disobeying a lawful order by police to disperse, stemming from a 2010 protest at the White House against the United States military's so-called "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, which banned gay people from openly serving. (President Barack Obama repealed the policy in 2011.)
The West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran could have been sentenced up to six months in jail for the protest. However, the judge's decision to merely issue a fine clearly did little to comfort Choi, who has argued that the government aggressively prosecuted him in an attempt to prevent him from re-enlisting in the Army.
It is worth noting that a minor misdemeanor generally is not enough to bar someone from military service.
As U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John Facciola announced Choi's conviction and fine, Choi shouted, “I refuse to pay it…Send me to jail," according to the Washington Blade.
Choosing to represent himself instead of using an attorney, Choi was described as "alternately emotional and angry" during final arguments Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
The Washington Post's Ann E. Marimow wrote that Choi paced the packed courtroom, engaging in "belligerent confrontations with a U.S. Park Police officer" and rebuking Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George for not addressing him as lieutenant.
Army Capt. James Pietrangelo, a friend and supporter of Choi's who spent three years as an attorney in the military's Judge Advocate General's Corps, told The Huffington Post that Choi was having a breakdown during the trial.
In fact, following the judgment, Choi was admitted to a hospital, he said.
The prosecution "triggered the breakdown," Pietrangelo told HuffPost. "He's been under charges; he's been persecuted for two and a half years -- and that's quite unusual for a misdemeanor like this -- and for that entire two and a half years Dan's life was imprisonment."
The fact that Choi was able to stand trial at all on Thursday was "heroic," according to Pietrangelo, and a "testament to the fact that he persevered to make his stand despite suffering immense pain."
Choi has vowed to appeal the conviction.