PRESS RELEASE - Trials in Widely Watched Inauguration Day Protest Case Enter Fourth Week, Still Shy of Evidence


Defend J20 Resistance
For Immediate Release: December 7, 2017

Sam Menefee-Libey of DC Legal Posse : 909.576.3113 /
Jude Ortiz of Defend J20 Resistance 612-466-0770 or

Trials in Widely Watched Inauguration Day Protest Case Enter Fourth Week, Still Shy of Evidence

DC police commander claims protesters were put on notice of arrest by sirens, lights, use of pepper spray

Washington, DC – Trials entered their fourth week yesterday for six of the 194 defendants arrested on January 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, in a widely watched political trial. Defendants Jennifer Armento, Oliver Harris, Britt Lawson, Michelle “Miel” Macchio, Christina Simmons, and Alexei Wood are being tried on riot-related felonies and misdemeanors and each face more than 60 years in prison if convicted.

Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Commander Keith Deville continued his cross-examination this week, followed by other law enforcement, including the testimony of MPD Lead Detective Greggory Pemberton on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Commander Deville testified Monday that protesters were put on notice of arrest shortly after the anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march started, despite earlier testimony on November 30 that people were “free to leave” as close as three blocks away from where they were entrapped. Remarkably, Deville said protesters should have known “with the police presence, with the sirens, with the lights, with the use of pepper spray” that they were “going to be stopped and detained by police.”

Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff has emphasized Commander Deville’s announcement over the police radio that day, characterizing the entire group as engaging in “riotous behavior.” But, on Monday, Deville told Macchio’s attorney Jamie Heine on cross-examination that there was actually a smaller “core group,” indicating a shifting and ambiguous definition of what constitutes and riot and who, in particular, was allegedly engaged in rioting.

Deville was also cross-examined about a lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union of DC against the District of Columbia, MPD and Police Chief Peter Newsham for “making unconstitutional arrests,” and “excessive force” by police, including the misuse of chemical weapons. Deville was forced to admit to Harris’s attorney Steven McCool on cross-examination that criminal convictions in this case might limit the civil liability of police, thereby giving Deville a motive to push for convictions.

On Tuesday, MPD Patrol Officer Michael Howden from the 7th District was asked about comments he had made while entrapping protesters on Inauguration Day at 12th and L Streets. Howden’s comments were caught on his own body-worn camera footage, which was replayed in court for the jury. “I’m fairly accustomed to that sort of rioting,” said Howden to another officer. “Herding people through Barry Farm when they’re rioting, when they’re out of control.” Howden was referring to a housing project in his district where MPD’s use of “aggressive stop-and-frisk searches of civilians has drawn public scorn and official sanction in recent years,” according to Think Progress.

Det. Pemberton began his direct examination Tuesday and continued into Wednesday. Pemberton has worked full time since January 21st to review and compile video, photographic, phone and other physical evidence, indicating the level of time and cost for the federal government to prosecute and try these politically motivated cases. With Kerkhoff’s prompting, Pemberton identified defendants sitting in court then laboriously pointed out similarities in articles of clothing and other items allegedly carried by the defendants with individuals shown on large poster boards, and in video footage and PowerPoint presentations.

“The federal government is inundating the jury with video footage of the same broken windows in order to obscure the fact they have failed to present a compelling case to the jury,” said Kris Hermes of Defend J20 Resistance. “It’s indefensible for the Trump administration to spend millions of dollars to try nearly 200 people on several felonies for property damage that doesn’t even amount to $50,000.”

After federal prosecutor Kerkhoff announced in court yesterday that the government would likely conclude its case this Monday, defense attorneys indicated that they would need approximately three days for their case. DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz informed the jury that she expected they would begin deliberations by Monday, December 18.


Defend J20 Resistance is a large group of felony defendants arrested on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC and their supporters who have all agreed not to testify against each other and are working together to collectively defend themselves. is a product of their work.