Press Release - Federal Prosecutor Dismisses 8 More Inauguration Day Protest Cases in Advance of Upcoming Trial
By PRESS RELEASE
Defend J20 Resistance
For Immediate Release: June 14, 2018
Contact: Sam Menefee-Libey of DC Legal Posse : 909.576.3113 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Prosecutor Dismisses 8 More Inauguration Day Protest Cases in Advance of Upcoming Trial
With no convictions at trial, 39 of original 234 Inauguration Day cases remain as further sanctions loom
Washington, DC - In anticipation of a trial readiness hearing this Friday, federal prosecutors dismissed all charges yesterday against a total of 8 Inauguration Day protest defendants. Multiple felony and misdemeanor charges were dismissed for all 6 defendants scheduled to go to trial on June 25, as well as two other defendants in future trials. The dismissals were made "with prejudice," which means the prosecutor cannot refile charges against these defendants.
The dismissals came before several hearings scheduled Friday, including a pre-trial motions hearing for defendants whose charges were dismissed. DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin had also been expected to address a recent joint filing that sought a formal dismissal of the conspiracy to riot charge. Judge Morin ruled earlier this month that government prosecutors had violated procedural rules by withholding evidence favorable to the defense, resulting in the dismissal of conspiracy charges for certain defendants which subsequently resulted in the complete dismissal of 10 cases. The joint motion sought clarification as to whether Judge Morin's previous ruling on the conspiracy charge applied to the remaining defendants.
Defense attorneys for the June 25 trial were pleased with the dismissal but acknowledged the bigger issue of the charges themselves. "While the government's decision to dismiss Ms. Lagesse's case is certainly welcome news, it does not undo the past 17 months of injustice and disruption this indefensible and vindictive prosecution caused in the first place," said Phil Andonian, lawyer for Elizabeth Lagesse, one of the defendants whose charges were dismissed yesterday. "We stand ready to continue the fight against this kind of government overreach should it happen again."
Judge Morin's sanctions stemmed from the US Attorney's Office (USAO) withholding audio and video footage it obtained from the far-right group Project Veritas, which had used infiltrators to malign anti-capitalist and anti-fascist organizing occurring in advance of Trump's inauguration. The May 14 trial was already underway when Judge Morin ruled on the Government's evidentiary violations, but the jury still reached multiple deadlocks and three cases were declared mistrials. One defendant was acquitted on all charges.
After 17 months of vigorous prosecution, the USAO has yet to convict a single person at trial. The first trial, which began in November, resulted in the acquittal of 6 Inauguration Day protest defendants and the jury's rejection of the government's theory of conspiracy and its characterization of the protest as a riot. The acquittals came before any indication that the government had withheld evidence. Shortly there after, the USAO dimissed all charges, without prejudice, against 129 defendants.
Out of more than 200 people arrested and charged with serious riot-related felonies, only 39 cases remain untried. Despite the failure of the USAO to get convictions at trial, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff has stated her intent to file a motion in Judge Morin's court for reconsideration of the sanctions levied against her office, which resulted in the dismissal of conspiracy charges, the bedrock of the government's case.
"It's beyond me why the US Attorney would want to keep wading back into this fight," Andonian told Think Progress yesterday, "unless they feel like they have to do something to save Jen Kerkhoff's bar card."
Two defendants awaiting the status of their mistrials are scheduled to re-appear in court on July 11. The next trial for six more Inauguration Day protestors is scheduled for July 23, with a trial readiness hearing scheduled for July 13.
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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. DefendJ20Resistance.org is a product of their work.