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Terry Cowgill
Paul D. Solovay of Hillsdale, N.Y., who was involved in an altercation with independent Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai after being provoked by the candidate's insults, hugs a supporter in the lobby of the Southern Berkshire District Court Thursday morning.

Fines and ‘anger management’ ordered for man involved in scuffle during Sen. Warren rally

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By Thursday, Aug 16, 2018 News 13

Great Barrington — A Columbia County, New York, man who, last month, shoved a bullhorn into the face of a U.S. Senate candidate admitted Thursday that the state had sufficient evidence to convict him of assaulting the provocative, screaming office-seeker.

In an appearance at Southern Berkshire District Court, Paul D. Solovay of Hillsdale, New York, did not admit guilt but conceded to sufficient facts on charges of assault and battery and disorderly conduct stemming from a July 22 altercation with Shiva Ayyadurai minutes before a campaign rally for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Ayyadurai is running against the first-term senator as an independent in November. 

In what appeared to be a pre-arranged plea agreement, Judge Paul Vrabel agreed to continue both charges without a finding of guilt. The assault and battery charge will be continued for nine months, with a $50-per-month administrative probation fee.  

The disorderly conduct charge will be continued for 60 days with a fine of $150. In addition, Solovay was ordered to attend an “approved anger management program.”

Using a bullhorn, Senate candidate and provocateur Shiva Ayyadurai and his followers taunt attendees waiting in line before a July 22 campaign re-election rally in Great Barrington for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Solovay, 74, stood impassively as his lawyer, Great Barrington attorney Louis Oggiani, told Vrabel of his client’s remorse, but insisted that Solovay was “bombarded” with heated rhetoric. 

“He was being called a racist,” said Oggiani, who added that Solovay has many friends and relatives who are African-American and that the rabbi who married Solovay and his wife was active in the civil rights movement.

“He realizes he should have just stood across the street,” Oggiani continued. “He went up to engage Dr. Shiva and he ended up pushing the microphone back.” 

“He apologizes,” Oggiani said of Solovay. “He should not have let that happen and that’s why he’s here … He’s never been in court before.”

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Dana Parsons told Vrabel that Ayyadurai and his supporters “were angering people in the Elizabeth Warren crowd” and that Solovay subsequently approached Ayyadurai and “was waving an umbrella at him and took the bullhorn and smashed it into the victim’s face.”

Shiva Ayyadurai challenges supporters of Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and points to the gazebo where Warren was about to speak at a July 22 campaign re-election rally in Great Barrington. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Solovay, an artist and graphic designer with no prior criminal record, was arrested and booked by Great Barrington police after he was tackled and subdued by Ayyadurai supporters on Castle Street.

Ayyadurai, who suffered no visible injuries, had been taunting rally-goers lined up on Castle and Main streets to gain admission to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Click here to view video of the scuffle taken by an Ayyadurai supporter. The video went viral on right-wing websites such as Breitbart. 

Even after the incident in which he claimed to be injured, Ayyadurai continued to shout at Warren and her supporters, calling her a “fake Indian” and attempting to disrupt Warren’s brief speech to the overflow crowd in the gazebo behind Town Hall before the main event.

See video below of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s interaction with supporters at the gazebo, along with audible attempts by Ayyadurai and his hangers-on to disrupt the speech:

Vrabel warned Solovay that, in accepting the plea, he would be forgoing his right to a trial by judge or jury. Solovay nonetheless threw himself at the mercy of the court. 

Ayyadurai was in the room and asked Vrabel if he could make a brief statement. Ayyadurai, 54, gave a five-minute campaign speech and essentially told his life story of fleeing India’s caste system nearly 40 years ago with his family.

“I’m running because I believe that violence is not the answer to solve these issues that we’ve seen over and over,” Ayyadurai said. “Whether it be what happened to me on July 22 or in Charlottesville a year ago, I think we need a civil discourse.”

Solovay appeared relieved as he exited the courtroom. He briefly greeted supporters in the courthouse lobby, headed upstairs to the probation office and was not available for comment. 

Solovay worked in the advertising business for nearly 30 years and won awards for his work, according to his online biography. 

Editor’s note: After this story was filed, the Edge received a statement from Ayyadurai. Click here to read it.


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13 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Betsy Spears says:

    Ayyadurai’s rhetoric is the opposite of civil discourse. He and his strong arms are the ones that should be charged with asault after throwing Solovay an elder to the ground and jumping on him. How is this justice?

    1. Scott J Sassano says:

      Paul Solovay should keep his hand to himself. Paul Solovay escalated thew situation. Shame on you for picking on a minority.

  2. John says:

    Mr Solovay‘s inadmission of guilt is a problem. He clearly initiated a physical altercation with the first contact. He clearly shoved someone.
    America is home to free speech, not a free for all physical violence.

    1. Mary Ellen Foster says:

      “Any press is good press.” “As long as they spell the name right.” “All publicity is good publicity.” “No such thing as bad publicity.” This is the reason Ayyadurai was at the Elizabeth Warren rally. He was there to insight confrontation. I was in line in front of the Mahaiwe Theatre when Ayyadurai began shouting through a bullhorn at those waiting to see Elizabeth Warren. He was so loud that the people I was speaking with couldn’t hear each other and we were only a few feet apart. Ayyadurai invaded our space screaming boorish, uncouth, thuggish, rude, vulgar remarks. After about 15 minutes he accomplished what he intended to do, get press.

    2. Joseph Method says:

      Everyone, including Solovay, agrees that what he did was wrong. But it also wasn’t much of a shove. This resolution seems totally fair.

    3. Carl Stewart says:

      “John” demonstrates his lack of familiarity with the criminal justice system by his use of the non-word “inadmission.” There is no inadmission of guilt; one either pleads guilty or not guilty or, in some circumstances, the defendant is offered a middle ground, which is what occurred in this instance. The District Attorney, in his wisdom, decided that justice would not be served by seeking a conviction after trial of Mr. Solovay, so he offered a plea that allowed the defendant to admit that there were sufficient facts with which to reach the conclusion that Mr. Solovay did what he was charged with doing, but would not result in a criminal record. This result is what is achieved in a very significant number of criminal cases in the Commonwealth (and in most other jurisdictions in this country.) The defendant was in his 8th decade of life and had never been charged with a crime prior to this incident. The prosecutor (our elected prosecutor who is entrusted with making decisions such as this one) obviously believed that this was a result that best served the interests of justice. It was, almost certainly, the proper resolution of this unfortunate encounter.

  3. Laura C says:

    I watched the video and Mr Solovay was the only person to walk off the line and confront Mr Ayyaduri. Even when he was down on the ground not one person in the line came to his defense and helped him. Only the woman, who I assume was his wife, and all she seemed to be concerned about was the umbrella. Apparently everyone else in line didn’t want to lose there spot.

    1. Mary Ellen Foster says:

      Now that’s just s silly remark. You can stop and replay a clip and watch it over and over again. In reality it all happened in a flash. I can’t imagine how an old geezer wielding an umbrella could have intimidated Ayyadurai’s thugs.

      1. I, Puplius says:

        “old geezer” indeed.

      2. Mary Ellen Foster says:

        Just figured with 7 decades behind me, I have earned the right. : )

  4. C. d'Alessandro says:

    I am STILL curious as to whether Mr. Ayyadurai had (or needed to have) a permit to publicly address the crowd.

    Also, is there not a legal restriction on addressing “captive” audiences; those who cannot by virtue of their situation – here, being in line – simply walk away??

    Mr. Solovay was certainly wrong in his physical response, though I find it particularly galling that anyone could consider that what Mr. Ayyadurai was doing constituted a “discussion.” Shouted epithets and name calling do NOT constitute meaningful dialogue. The intent was to instigate an agitated response and Ayyadurai’s supporters were clearly ready, with film and muscle, to deal with what, almost inevitably, ensued.

    Clearly we must all grow much thicker skins.

    1. Scott J Sassano says:

      Here is the permit for Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai. Dr. Ayyadurai has a right to free speech. https://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html

  5. Lois Reynolds says:

    It’s too bad this had to happen ……goes to show how anyone can get pulled into this type of situation with politicians who are looking to draw attention to themselves with lies and loud ignorant speeches….sounds familiar , doesn’t it…..all of us are so tired of lies that it’s really hard not to want to make them go away……this is the year of BIG lies….and everyone is sooo sick of it……..

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