One year later: After Blarney Blowout 2014 revelers paid fines, wrote letters of apology, and met other conditions, all charges against them dismissed

Last modified: Saturday, March 07, 2015

AMHERST — Whatever transpires at this year’s Blarney Blowout Saturday, University of Massachusetts senior Ryan Young will not be there.

“I kind of don’t want to be anywhere near the school at all, and not because I think my behavior might get me in trouble,” Young, 23, said in a phone interview this week. “I don’t want to deal with all those people that are going to be coming for it — and the police.”

At last year’s St. Patrick’s Day revelries, he and a friend got arrested for failing to disperse at a riot. Both said they were attempting to get to Young’s home on Hobart Lane while police were marching a group of thousands of young people in the opposite direction.

Young is one of 55 people arrested during the weekend of Blarney Blowout 2014, when crowds of up to 4,000 young people partied outside of apartments and fraternities on the outskirts of campus and clashed with police in riot gear who attempted to disperse them. And while his arrest in 2014 was enough to convince Young to stay away this year, some students who were arrested will be heading back to the massive party this year — and some may even a little wiser when it comes to interacting with police.

Most of those arrested faced charges that included: failure to disperse from a riot, disorderly conduct, having an open container of alcohol or underage possession of alcohol. Some were charged with more serious crimes like inciting a riot, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer — charges brought when bottles were thrown at police.

By now, all those cases have been resolved in Eastern Hampshire Disctrict Court, the courthouse on State Street in Belchertown that handles cases out of UMass and Amherst. Like the other 55 arrested, Young will have no criminal conviction on his record because the charges against him were dismissed after he satisfied conditions set by a judge.

When all was said and done last year, Eastern Hampshire District Court judges dismissed charges against the 21 UMass students and 34 non-students after they wrote letters of apology, paid restitution, performed community service, took part in programs about the dangers of drinking, and met other court-ordered conditions.

Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for the Northwestern district attorney’s office, confirmed that every one of the Blarney Blowout 2014 cases have been were resolved. Not a single defendant, she said, pleaded guilty or was convicted.

The cases were resolved in three ways — usually by agreement between defense attorneys and Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Robert Opsitnick. Some facing minor charges, such as underage possession of alcohol had the charges reduced to civil infractions and paid fines of $50 to $300. Some also had to complete behavioral programs.

Other defendants were placed on pre-trial probation for a period of up to six months, during which time they were ordered to write letters of apology and pay restitution to the Amherst Police Department, usually in the amount of $200. Most were ordered to complete 20 hours of community service, too. When they complied with those conditions by the end of their probation period, the charges were dismissed.

Many other defendants admitted to facts sufficient for a guilty finding and had their cases continued without a finding for periods up to nine months. Like being on pre-trial probation, the charges were dismissed at the end of the period if they had complied with the conditions set by the judge and gotten into no further trouble with the law.

Several people who were charged with more serious crimes faced more serious consequences. For instance, Jared Dawson, 22, of Groton, was arrested on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, inciting a riot, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. All charges were dismissed against him, but he was required to pay $200 in restitution, perform 20 hours of community service, required to write a letter to the Amherst Police and also to the community and ordered to have it printed in the Amherst Bulletin and the Daily Collegian.

Ryan J. Mack, 23, of Longmeadow was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct after security guards at Townehouse Apartments on Meadow Street told police he had been yelling and throwing bottles at security. On Nov. 25, his case was continued without a finding for one day and the charges were dismissed after he paid $500 in restitution to the Amherst Police, $200 to cover court costs, a $150 civil fine, and $50 for a victim witness fee.

Students reticent to talk

The Gazette attempted to contact dozens of young people arrested at last year’s Blarney Blowout to ask about the disposition of their cases from last year and inquire about whether they planned to take part again this year. Most did not respond or declined to comment, but several said they wouldn’t be going. One Hopkinton man — not a UMass student — said he wouldn’t miss the party this year.

Young said he won’t be sticking around for Blarney Blowout partly because his home at Townehouse Apartments will likely be right in the middle of the melee.

“I wouldn’t be able to even leave my apartment without looking like I was part of it,” he said. “That’s what happened to me last year.”

Young said he deliberately avoided the mob of people that had congregated outside in the area of Brandywine and Townehouse apartments off of North Pleasant Street, and instead had been taking part in a smaller, more low-key party on the other side of town. He had decided to go home around 11:15 a.m., the same time police were trying to disperse the mob of approximately 4,000 college-aged revelers, pushing them up North Pleasant Street in the opposite direction than Young was trying to go.

“I couldn’t get down to my street. There were people from sidewalk to sidewalk on North Pleasant Street and police in riot gear were walking them towards the center,” he said. “I was so close to home I could have hit my house with a baseball.”

He tried to talk to an officer, who told him he would not be allowed to cross the police line to get to his apartment and had to disperse. Young said he turned around and was tackled to the ground by another officer, and arrested.

Young was also charged with having an open container of alcohol. Police wrote in their application for criminal complaint against Young that he “failed to move along as officers requested.”

Young’s friend, Edward Etsey, 24, of Beverly, was also arrested for failing to disperse at the same time and place while trying to get to Young’s apartment. The charge was dismissed in November after he met conditions set by the judge. Police wrote in their complaint that Etsey “stood defiantly in the road and said he would not move.”

Etsey said in an email to the Gazette that he was arrested right after Young was tackled, and he feels both were mistreated. “We were coming from a different part of Amherst before the incident,” he said, and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Both Young and Etsey met with someone from the dean of students’ office in the days right after the Blarney Blowout and explained what had happened. Young said the office never took any disciplinary action against him, but Etsey said he was placed on school probation.

“If I was arrested again in the near future then the school would take disciplinary action,” he said, but that never happened.

Etsey said he will not be heading back to the Blarney Blowout this year because he graduated from UMass in 2014 and no longer lives in the area. His arrest didn’t play a role in his decision, he said, but he thinks some students are wary of the party because of the police behavior last year and the number of arrests.

“I think that the police intimidation does play a role with some students, but not most,” he said.

Thomas Donovan, a UMass senior who has filed a civil rights lawsuit after his arrest at last year’s Blarney Blowout, told a Gazette reporter he will not be going to this year’s party, but declined further comment.

His suit seeking monetary damages in federal court alleges that four or five Amherst police officers falsely arrested him, used excessive force in taking him into custody, and deprived him of his constitutional right to film in a public space. He maintains that he was using his phone to film another arrest at a safe distance when police came after him, took him down, and tried to destroy the phone by repeatedly stomping on it. The video he recovered shows a boot coming down on the camera again and again.

Among those who are not afraid to take part in Blarney Blowout 2015 is Brett Martin, 19, of Hopkinton.

In a Facebook message to the Gazette, Martin said he was “definitely planning on taking part in this year’s festivities” and also “really hoping to not be smashed into the ground repeatedly over and over again by those freaky-looking riot police like last time.”

Martin, who is not a UMass student, was arrested last year near Pi Kappa Alpha on North Pleasant Street, along with a dozen other people, as police attempted to disperse thousands of college-aged people from the area. The charges against him of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse were dismissed in November after he complied with the same conditions set for Young, Etsey, and dozens of others who were arrested.

“I was arrested within the first house I arrived,” Martin said, and he is “curious to see how things play out this year.”

Gazette intern Brendan Deady contributed to this report.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at


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