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Woman sentenced to probation for racial incident involving Muslim Melrose city councilor

Melrose City Councilor Maya Jamaleddine, left, speaks with the media after Joan Ditomaso was sentenced for accosting and attacking Jamaleddine and her husband. At right is Barbara Dougan, legal director of the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

MEDFORD — A woman accused of racially harassing a Muslim Melrose city councilor and assaulting her husband at a gas station nine months ago was sentenced Tuesday to six months probation and ordered to take a course on anti-Islamophobia during a hearing in Malden District Court.

Joan Ditomaso, 68, of Melrose, also was ordered to stay away from City Councilor Maya Jamaleddine, her husband, and their children, who witnessed the confrontation on Dec. 3 when Ditomaso verbally accosted Jamaleddine and shoved her husband.

Ditomaso originally pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault and battery during her arraignment in June, following a lengthy investigation by Melrose police. She admitted Tuesday to sufficient facts to the assault on Jamaleddine’s husband, Abdallah, court documents show.


Judge Emily A. Karstetter continued the case without a finding, meaning that if Ditomaso satisfies the conditions of her sentence, the case will be resolved. Her probation runs until March 19, and she must complete the online course “How are American Muslims Treated?”

Jamaleddine, who wears a hijab and is the first Muslim person to serve on the council, was sitting in her car with her two children when Ditomaso, in a nearby car, rolled down her window and told Jamaleddine to “Go back to your own country.”

The incident prompted a confrontation, with both parties filming videos of each other. One video captured a woman shouting an expletive twice at Abdallah Jamaleddine and another woman shouting, “freedom of speech” in the background.

At the time, the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations called for a hate crime probe into the incident. Melrose police determined that Ditomaso shoved Abdallah Jamaleddine and charged her with assault and battery, but not a hate crime.

Jamaleddine said in court Tuesday that her husband could not attend because it would be “too emotionally difficult” for him. She read aloud a statement he wrote.


“I was scared she was going to use our license plate number to figure out where we live,” Maya Jamaleddine said on her husband’s behalf. “I was afraid she knew powerful people who could hurt us.”

Abdallah Jamaleddine also described the response of his children, who witnessed the incident from the back seat of the car.

“As a father, that hurt terribly, I found my daughter in the safety position she learned at school in case of an active shooter, with her hands covering her head.”

In court Tuesday, Matthew Campbell, a lawyer representing Ditomaso said Abdallah Jamaleddine provoked Ditomaso to assault him by trying to take a video of her license plate and that she should be protected by the First Amendment.

“No matter how reprehensible the words, we have the First Amendment,” Campbell said. “This is about politics your honor, nothing more.”

In court, when asked by the judge if she understood the facts of the case, Ditomaso said “Yes, but I don’t agree with what Ms. Jamaleddine said.”

She did not comment leaving the court.

Maya Jamaleddine spoke outside the court, saying she accepted the judge’s sentence. She wanted an apology from Ditomaso but did not receive one.

“You can treat physical harm but emotional and well-being harm is not something that goes away over time,” she said.

Maya Jamaleddine, center, listens to the sentencing of Joan Ditomaso.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff



Joan Ditomaso became emotional when she heard her sentence.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Maggie Scales can be reached at Follow her @scales_maggie.