Defend J20 Newsletter - First Round of Trial Updates
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Prosecution Attempts “Conspiracy” Charges
The first trial for J20 Defendants began on November 20th with a courtroom packed full of supporters. For this round of trials, the lead prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, has admitted that she has no evidence to prove that the six defendants took part in property destruction. She is instead attempting to get convictions based on conspiracy: focusing on how demonstrators wore similar clothing, arrived at a predetermined location for a public march, chanted, and covered faces with masks, goggles, and/or gas masks. If the jury finds the defendants guilty based on these things, it could mean that the state will be able to prosecute the remaining J20 Defendants simply for showing up to the demonstration wearing black. Make no mistake, we support all the defendants, regardless of if they are “guilty” of property destruction or not. But this round of trials is an opportunity for the prosecution to test their conspiracy charges, and will be important in setting a precedent for the remaining trials. It could also set a precedent regarding police conduct and convictions for future demonstrations.
Defense Contradicts Prosecution’s “Non-Political Trial” Assertion
The defense attorneys have played audio and video proving that a police commander, Keith Deville, planned for a mass arrest to take place as the march was beginning, contrasting with the prosecutions’ claims. In other words, a mass arrest was planned before any property destruction took place. Defense attorneys have stressed the political nature of the march and subsequent arrest, also contrary to the prosecutor’s assertions. They have cross-examined police officers called in as witnesses by the prosecution, and in multiple cases, the cops were using the words “anarchists” or “antifa” during the demonstration over radio chatter, further contradicting the claims by the prosecution that this is not a political trial.
Discredited Right-Wing Smear Group “Project Veritas” Video Is Main Evidence Used by Prosecution
One piece of evidence the prosecution is using is a recording of a supposed meeting for a J20 march recorded by the now discredited Project Veritas, which recently was exposed trying to run a hit-piece on the Washington Post. This was allowed to be played in court even though none of the six defendants were present for the meeting. The prosecution is using an undercover cop, Brian Adelmyer, as a witness. He has admitted that he did not hear parts of the meeting, which means this part of the state’s evidence is exclusively provided by Project Veritas.
A Dangerous Precedent
It remains to be seen what will come of this trial, and it does not seem clear yet if the charges will stick or not. What is apparent however is that much of the prosecution’s arguments for conviction could become dangerous precedents for the future of street demonstrations. If wearing the same color clothing or not leaving a demonstration when someone else does something implies conspiracy, then police across the country will be emboldened to crack down even further, and prosecutors won’t shy away from throwing multiple felonies at people as they are now at J20 Defendants.
Inciting Charge Thrown Out for Current Trial
On Thursday, the court threw out the felony “inciting a riot” charge stating that there was insufficient evidence for the current trial group to face this charge. While this is a victory for this group of six defendants, it is important to remember that this charge is still in place for over 186 other defendants in this case. They continue to face the prospect of 61 years in prison.
For breaking updates on what is happening in court, visit our twitter at https://twitter.com/defendj20
Donate to the Legal Defense Fund
With trials scheduled into the end of October 2018, we continue to need substantial amounts of money to cover expenses associated with this trial. From money for legal defense to housing defendants who will have to spend multiple weeks in Washington DC for court, large amounts of money are needed to fight this repression. Please donate to the legal defense fund and share the link on social media.