By Katie Lannan and Michael Norton STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
A South Shore state Senate candidate was seized at his Marshfield home this week by U.S. marshals and held overnight in a Virginia detention facility after he failed to show up to deliver video testimony Monday for pretrial proceedings in a Guantanamo Bay military court.
The Miami Herald described the situation as a “war court first,” reporting that Stephen Gill, a Scituate attorney and Navy veteran, appeared in court via video Wednesday and said he was testifying “under extreme duress.”
“It's good to be out of three-point restraints and leg irons, which I recently was forcibly put in at gunpoint and whisked away from my home here in Massachusetts to a jail cell in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Gill told WATD-FM host Christine James in a radio interview Thursday.
With its story, the Florida newspaper posted a letter to Gill from a federal public defender, offering assistance. “In particular, a substantial question may exist whether the U.S. military possesses any authority under our Constitution to detain you outside of ordinary civilian judicial process in time of peace,” the letter said.
Gill, a Hull native, is running as an independent write-in candidate for the Plymouth and Norfolk Senate seat now held by Weymouth Republican Sen. Patrick O'Connor. Hingham Democrat Paul Gannon is also seeking the seat.
Gill was ordered to testify as a civilian witness regarding alleged improper activity in the Pentagon legal office where he used to work, according to the Associated Press. The case involves Guantanamo detainee Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a citizen of Saudi Arabia who is accused in the 2000 attack on the Navy ship USS Cole.
Gill said in court that guards at the Virginia jail left the lights on and turned down the temperature, according to the Herald. The paper said this was Gill's second video appearance, continuing testimony from September that was cut short because of Gill's Senate bid.
On WATD, Gill said he has never owned a gun and was arrested at his home at gunpoint “due to an unlawful warrant issued by the military court.” He told the radio station that 15 to 20 “heavily armed” marshals were joined by five to seven Marshfield police officers. He said he was first brought to the federal courthouse in Boston and then flown to Virginia.
While telling WATD that he “can't really talk too much about the details” of the case because of a judge's order, he said, “I had essentially whistle-blown against some high-ranking military officers and other officials while on active duty for them, attempting to get me to assist them violating the law and a military judge's order.”
Gill said he spent the night in jail prior to his video testimony. “It wasn't fun,” he said. “It was less unpleasant than some tents I've stayed in in the Middle East.”
Gill ran for the Senate seat before, losing a special Republican primary in April with 618 votes to O'Connor's 3,706. Gill filed to run as a Republican in the regular election, but announced his intention to run as an unenrolled candidate before the Sept. 8 primary. His name remained on the ballot for the primary, and he netted 1,131 votes while O'Connor took in 3,868.
As for his current candidacy, Gill said, “I'm sure I'm done for now. If I wasn't done for before, I sure am probably done for now.” He added, “You can be sure I will stand up for your rights no matter what, people of the South Shore. I just got taken from my home by overwhelming deadly force, shackled like a dog, and dragged out of my home and brought to the Commonwealth of Virginia, all because I'm trying to uphold the law and do the right thing.” ∞