Backstory: Blarney Blowout arrests crowd courtroom

Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
AMHERST — While town and university officials huddled Monday for post-mortems of Saturday’s Blarney Blowout, some 30 college-age people answered to criminal charges connected to the pre-St. Patrick’s Day mayhem.

And that was just the beginning. More court appearances are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday because Eastern Hampshire District Court could not handle all the cases in one day.

Saturday’s shenanigans drew police in riot gear and ended with injuries and vandalism, prompting town and gown alike to vow next year would be different.

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“As a proud UMass alum, I share the frustration, embarrassment and anger over the events of the weekend,” said Amherst Town Manager John Musante.

Although the Barney Blowout has become synonymous with UMass, only 21 of the 55 people arrested Saturday were UMass students, according to a release from university spokesman Edward Blaguszewski.

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Musante said the influx of Blarney Blowout participants from outside Amherst is troubling.

“Clearly, there were a number of visitors to the town on top of the students already here,” he said.

For most of those arrested — those charged with minor violations such as having open containers of alcohol in public and being minors in possession of alcohol — the consequences were four months probation, a $100 fine and the requirement to take a one-day alcohol education seminar at a cost of $50.

But for the more serious offenses, it was a different matter. Defendants facing charges of inciting a riot, failure to disperse from a riot and assault and battery on a police officer, face more serious consequences — those crimes can each carry a sentence of up to one year in prison. Those defendants were released on their own recognizance and ordered to return for pre-trial conferences in April and May.

Monday’s proceedings filled Judge Robert Gordon’s Belchertown courtroom to standing-room-only capacity.

Resolve to act

Meanwhile, Musante and UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy pledged to find a way to stop what has become an annual melee that seems to worsen each year.

This year, crowds of up to 4,000 people gathered in various North Amherst locations and as police called for them to disperse and advanced with pepper-spray guns, some partyers responded by flinging bottles, cans and snowballs. At least four officers received injuries that did not require hospital treatment, and many others suffered cuts and bruises. Police said they arrested 55 people between 8 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday. Another eight people are expected to be summoned to court to face charges related to the alcohol-fueled disturbances.

Police offered no explanation for the discrepancy between these numbers and the 73 confirmed arrested and 28 to be summoned on Sunday.

“We’re really going to redouble our efforts, identify specific strategies — plural — to prevent this kind of thing occurring,” Musante said Monday.

In a statement, Subbaswamy also used the word “redouble” in describing efforts he will take to avert future episodes. He promised to take “swift action” to address any violations of the Code of Student Conduct, whether off or on campus, resulting from the disturbances.

Out-of-town question

Assistant Clerk Magistrate Randall Smith said more than half of those he processed during Monday’s court session were not affiliated with UMass, though he could not specify the number he handled.

“One aspect we’re hearing about, but need to assess specifically, is what element had to do with visitors to campus,” Blaguszewski said.

Blaguszewski said groups are forming at UMass to examine evidence, determine the appropriate discipline for students involved and report back to Subbaswamy.

“The university community owns this and we need to address and deal with it,” he said. “That’s the principal concern and message.”

UMass officials will consult with Amherst and UMass police, using photographs and videos to help them evaluate what happened and who was involved.

Saturday’s disturbances, as in past years, sprang from a promotion of prize giveaways and green beer called Blarney Blowout, held by two downtown Amherst bars the week before the area colleges’ spring break. Town and university officials had warned students that excessive public drinking, attempts to congregate in large groups and other related disruptive behavior, would result in arrests and sanctions by the university.

Musante noted that of the 240 calls police received for service during the weekend, none came from the downtown bars. Just one incident occurred downtown, when a person refused to leave a store. “We had good communication and dialogue between the town, police and downtown bar owners prior to and during the day.”

Response praised, questioned

Musante said police officers and firefighters “did a tremendous job under difficult circumstances.”

There were complaints by some that police were heavy-handed in dealing with the crowds. Ivan Rudovol of Sharon claimed he was sober when he arrived to visit a friend at the Brandywine Apartments. He didn’t realize people had been ordered to disperse from the area, and was hit in the eyes with pepper spray by an Amherst police officer. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse from a riot.

In a statement issued Monday, Police Chief Scott Livingstone called Saturday’s events “extremely upsetting and hazardous. The behavior of many participants of this melee caused the public and first responders to be placed in a very dangerous situation,” he said.

Police Detective Lt. Ronald Young noted one incident in which a Hallock Street resident returned home at 2:09 p.m. Saturday to find the window in the front door smashed out and two intruders inside his bedroom, one of whom was bleeding profusely.

The heavily intoxicated intruders then became combative with the resident. The suspects are being summoned to court on charges of breaking and entering during the daytime to commit a felony, disorderly conduct and malicious destruction of property under $250, Young said.

At 11:06 a.m., another Hallock Street resident of an apartment building reported people loitering outside and people entering the building to urinate.

More serious charges

The large crowds, which police estimated at more than 4,000 at times, periodically became destructive and aggressive, according to police.

Those who face the most serious charges are those who allegedly became combative with police, including individuals who police reports say hit officers with thrown beer bottles.

Zachary Ryan Bodine, 23, of New Bedford, Jared Dawson, 21, of Groton, Stephen Edward Gage, 20, of East Falmouth, and Owen McGowan, 19, of Norwell, were all arrested on charges of assault and battery on a police officer.

Dawson also faces charges of disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and resisting arrest, while Bodine faces charges of failure to disperse from a riot and resisting arrest, police said.

Gage was also arrested on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest and failure disperse from a riot, while McGowan was also arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and inciting a riot, police said.

In other destructive acts, partyers tried to tear down light poles at Brandywine Apartments on North Pleasant Street, police said. Police arrested two men at Townehouse Apartments on Meadow Street after they confronted a private security team.

Calvin S. Diamond, 21, of 12 Bartlett St., South Hadley, and Ryan Joseph Mack, 22, of Longmeadow, were both arrested on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct. Diamond was also arrested on a charge of violating the town’s nuisance house bylaw, police said.

Samuel Douglass, 20, of Rehoboth, and Joshua Nathan Scott, 21, of Springfield, were both arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and resisting arrest, police said.

The following individuals were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse from a riot, police said:

Lyle Holmes Baker, 20, of Baltimore; Gabriela Alves Boudreau, 18, of Arlington; Charles Clements, 19, and Brett Martin, 18, both of Hopkinton; Thomas Curran Donovan, 21, of Holliston; John J. Fitzgerald, 21, of Bradford; Jackson Daniel Hurley, 18, of Foxborough; Alec Rodrigue, 19, of Concord; Ivan Rudovol, 21, of Sharon; Joshua Stambovsky, 22, of Longmeadow; Timothy Sughrue, 20, of Plainville; Conor Vorhaus, 19, of Sag Harbor, N.Y.; and Brennden Wood, 18, of Wolcott, Conn.

Jonathan W. Copeland, 22, of Sutton, Steven Lundbohm, 20, of Milton, Sara Munley, 19, of Marlborough, and Chad William Prigmore, 22, of Puffton Village, unit 326, were all arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, police said.

The following people were arrested on charges of failure to disperse from a riot:

Cian G. Davoren, 22, of Needham; Garret Dub and Molly Helen Ryan, both 21 and of Salem; Edward Estey, 23, of Beverly; Richard Leahy, 20, of Emerson, N.J.; and Ryan S. Young, 22, of Wayne, N.J.

Aaron J. Marcel, 19, of Abington, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, police said.

Police issued nuisance house citations to two women living at 41 Phillips St. $300 after guests threw bottles at passing vehicles and they did nothing to stop them.

In addition, four men living at 382 North Pleasant St. are each being issued $300 tickets for violating the town’s nuisance house bylaw after they were observed throwing beer bottles from the roof onto the street Saturday at 9:28 p.m.

An additional three individuals were taken into custody by UMass police.

Sean Amaru, 21, of Falmouth, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest, police said.

Steven G. Hall, 22, of Nashua, N.H., and Dana Mahar, 22, of Wolfeboro, N.H., were both arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, police said.