October 16, 2018

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Prosecutors Dropping Remaining Charges Against Trump Inauguration Protesters

Prosecutors Dropping Remaining Charges Against Trump Inauguration Protesters
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WASHINGTON — The United States attorney’s office for the District of Columbia is dismissing the remaining cases against protesters arrested on the day of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, ending a legal battle that began more than a year and a half ago.

Federal prosecutors requested Friday in a motion that the charges against the remaining 38 defendants — including one journalist — be dropped. More than 200 people were arrested on Jan. 20, 2017, during demonstrations where some protesters threw rocks and bricks at police officers, set a car on fire and shattered storefront windows.

“After further review, the United States, in the exercise of its discretion, has determined that these matters should be dismissed without prejudice,” read the motion submitted by Jessie K. Liu, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia.

Twenty-one of the people arrested that day have pleaded guilty to charges related to violent protest, including one to felony offenses. That protester, Dane Powell, pleaded guilty to one count of felony rioting and one count of assaulting a police officer. He was sentenced to four months in prison, and was released in October.

According to a statement released by the district attorney’s office, prosecutors believe “evidence shows that a riot occurred on Jan. 20, 2017, during which more than $100,000 in damage was caused.”

“The destruction that occurred during these criminal acts was in sharp contrast to the peaceful demonstrations and gatherings that took place over the inauguration weekend in the District of Columbia, and created a danger for all who were nearby,” the statement continued.

Friday’s motion came after charges were dropped against more than half of the protesters arrested. In January, federal prosecutors dismissed the cases of more than 100 people, and in May, felony charges against 10 more people were dropped after the District of Columbia Superior Court found that prosecutors had withheld evidence.

Aaron Cantú, whose case was dismissed Friday, was a freelance journalist covering Inauguration Day when he was arrested. He was one of nine journalists arrested and charged after the protests and was the last journalist to have his charges dropped.

Mr. Cantú told The Santa Fe Reporter — where he now works — that had the cases not been dismissed, he would have faced a judge in October over eight charges, including conspiracy to riot, with potential sentences of up to 60 years in prison.

“I’m stunned,” Mr. Cantú said. “It’s still sinking in. The trauma has been really severe. It’s taken a lot to be able to just hold it together and come to work and do the work. And now that that thing is not there, I need to figure out how to live my life.”



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