Charges Against Green Mayor Jason West Dropped

New Paltz – Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams has dropped 19 misdemeanor criminal charges against Village of New Paltz Mayor Jason West for solemnizing gay marriages nearly 17 months ago. "To proceed further would serve no practical purpose," Williams said today. "Any additional action would serve only to advance personal agendas in a highly volatile manner." Williams was referring to the likelihood that West's trial would be a showcase for his belief in the necessity for and legality of gay marriage. West could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

(Times Herald Record Story by Jeremiah Horrigan, July 12, 2005
July 13 update at:

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Ulster DA Won't Go Any Further Against New Paltz Mayor

Mayor Jason West
The Ulster County District Attorney's Office is not going to take any further action against New Paltz Village Mayor Jason West in the case in which he is charged with some two dozen misdemeanors of state law by performing same-sex marriages.

That means that even though a Supreme Court judge returned the case to Town Court for trial, District Attorney Donald Williams will not pursue that route, he told today.

In a letter to Town of New Paltz Justice Court today, Williams said his decision not to pursue the case is based on three criteria: "The unlawful actions of (West) have been enjoined by the order of two Supreme Court judges; the erroneous precedent set by the Town of New Paltz Court has been reversed and overturned by competent courts in this state; (and) the question concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage is now lawfully before the appropriate forum, the Supreme Court of New York State."

The Town Court had cleared West of the charges; however, the state Supreme Court ordered that he stand trial on those violations.

Williams said his office has fulfilled its obligation under the law and no useful or practical purpose exists to proceed further. "Any additional action would serve only to advance personal agendas in a highly volatile manner," he said. "To allow this divisive course of action would not be in the best interest of the community."

The DA said the constitutional implications of same-sex marriage necessitates that the issue be addressed by the New York State Legislature and/or civil courts in a timely, yet fair manner.

"It remains our hope, however, that all parties will respect the laws of this state," Williams said. "We encourage all who seek social change to do so by the appropriate, orderly and lawful process, just as we encourage those with opposite views to do the same."

(Posted at, July 12, 2005

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Charges Dropped vs. Mayor in Gay Weddings

Associated Press Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A prosecutor dropped all charges Tuesday against a small town mayor who could have faced up to a year in jail for marrying gay couples on the steps of the village hall.

New Paltz Mayor Jason West, then 26, was among the first public officials in the nation to marry same-sex couples, following San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in February 2004.

He had been charged with 24 misdemeanor counts of violating the state's domestic relations law after marrying about two dozen gay couples in ceremonies that drew national attention to the village of about 13,000 residents 75 miles north of New York City.

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said Tuesday he dropped the charges because he believed a trial would be unnecessary and divisive.

West called the decision a "complete vindication" and said the district attorney had been "wasting taxpayer money for 18 months."

Gay weddings swept the country starting in San Francisco in early 2004, when Newsom flung open the city's wedding registry to gay couples. While officials in other locations were ordered to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, Massachusetts' highest court ruled that same-sex couples were able to tie the knot in that state.

West has maintained he was upholding the gay couples' constitutional rights to equal protection - and thus his oath of office - by allowing them to wed.

Top state officials, including Gov. George Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law. A number of cases filed on behalf of gay couples testing that interpretation of state law are winding their way through courts.

Williams had earlier dropped similar criminal charges against two Unitarian ministers who wed gay couples in New Paltz after West was sidelined by a civil suit.

(filed by Associated Press writer Michael Hill, July 12, 2005)

July 13 Updates:

West Won't Face Trial for Gay Nuptials
Ulster D.A. Drops Charges

By Hemmy So
Poughkeepsie Journal
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

NEW PALTZ — Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams dropped the 24 misdemeanor charges against village Mayor Jason West for conducting same-sex marriages without marriage licenses last year.

Williams announced his decision Tuesday.

"We have fulfilled our obligation under the law. No useful or practical purpose exists to proceed further. Any additional action would serve only to advance personal agendas in a highly volatile manner," Williams said.

The district attorney said he made the decision after West's defense team withdrew its last motion to dismiss the case and submitted town court papers pertaining to the trial.

West and his supporters were looking forward to a resolution in a jury trial.

"We did not want any judges to make any more decisions in connection with this case. We wanted the people to have a voice. That would only happen with a jury with members from the community," said West's attorney, Andy Kassover.

West has consistently said he welcomed a jury trial.

"What Don Williams did is, he was ready to go to the mount when he was before conservative judges that agreed with him, but he was not ready to go before an impartial jury," West said.

Williams gave three reasons for Tuesday's decision: injunctions bar West from performing same-sex marriages; a judicial ruling dismissing the case against West was reversed; and litigation is pending in state supreme courts on the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.

West was quick to point out that most of those reasons arose months ago.

"He could have dropped [the case] then. ... He's been wasting taxpayers' money for 18 months," West said.

Williams said he wanted to go through the entire appeals process before making any decisions. The process concluded in May when the state's highest court denied West's request to consider the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.

But the district attorney denied this case centered on gay rights. Instead, Williams said West violated the law by deciding for himself which laws to follow or disobey.

"It's insulting to one's intelligence that this has nothing to do with gay and lesbian couples wanting the same rights as heterosexual couples," Kassover said. "Mayor West would not have gotten the media attention and arrested if he had simply violated the domestic relations law. ... That this has nothing to do with same-sex marriages — ludicrous."

(Posted in the Poughkeepsie Journal, July 13, 2005)

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