J20 Defendant Dane Powell Sentenced to Four Months in Federal Prison

Washington, DC – After pleading guilty to several felonies in April, Dane Powell was sentenced to four months in federal prison by Judge Lynn Leibovitz in DC Superior Court today. He will do four months of a thirty-six month sentence with two years of supervised probation post-release. Powell had been facing a potential sentence of 140 years for allegedly breaking windows and throwing rocks at police while protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration as president on January 20.  He was taken into custody by US marshals at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing.

Dane Powell leaving court in April after signing a guilty plea

Before the hearing, supporters rallied outside the courthouse.  The number of those in attendance led to the court opening an overflow room showing a video stream from the main courtroom.

Powell was not arrested during the brutal mass assault, detention and arrest carried out by DC Metro Police at 12th & L streets on inauguration day, but was targeted and arrested in a car the next day, January 21 (when the massive Women’s March took place.)

Eyewitnesses present on January 20 say they saw Powell come to the aid of elderly people and children victimized by police who were indiscriminately using chemical weapons. Video footage from inauguration day seems to support these claims. In the clip below Powell can be seen taking a child from a mother’s arms to bring them to medics after the child was hit with copious amounts of pepper spray deployed by DC police officers. At sentencing, prosecutors characterized Powell as a “violent coward.”

In an interview with It’s Going Down earlier this year, Dane explained his reasons for taking the plea.

I was arrested for my involvement in the J20 protests in the capitol of the united snakes. I stood as a defendant with others. By the time the smoke cleared, I was looking at 140 years in prison for my actions on January 20th. I took a plea deal, pleading guilty to two of the 14 charges. After seeing the evidence the government had against me, I knew this was the best route to take while still sticking to the non-cooperation agreement between over 100 of the 214 defendants.  –  Dane Powell, J20 Prisoner: Interview

The boiler-plate indictment issued by the US Attorney’s DC office, which names Powell along with over 200 other defendants (most of whom have had no evidence presented against them) alleges anti-Trump inauguration demonstrators destroyed property valued at $100,000.  Washington DC’s local government has already allocated a larger sum – $150,000 – to fund an official investigation into police misconduct on January 20. Observers from the DC Office of Police Complaints (OPC) have already issued a report stating that police attacked protesters, reporters, and bystanders (including OPC observers) violently and without warning.

A few defendants have taken plea deals for lesser charges than those leveled against Powell, and received suspended sentences, probation, and community service. 135 have signed a statement of unity pledging not to cooperate with the government prosecution in any way.  The vast majority pleaded not guilty in recent court hearings, with the first trial dates set for November 20 of this year.

Everyone named in the US Attorney’s office’s superseding indictment faces multiple felony charges with maximum combined sentences of 75-80 years, with some facing additional misdemeanor charges.  Prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff and her office have yet to present many defendants with individualized evidence.  Some defense lawyers reported that she responded to their requests for evidence against their clients by simply sending them a plea agreement to sign.  As defendant Carlo Piantini wrote this week,

The superseding indictment and its additional felony charges are a means to coerce defendants into accepting plea deals against their will.  The goal is not to convict people to 75 years in prison. The severity of the threat is intended to extract as many guilty pleas as possible, while sending a clear message to potential protesters that the consequences of opposition will be grave. These pleas are needed to vindicate the state’s narrative and legitimise their repression. The intention is to set a legal precedent for mass arrests in the era of constant crisis, so that future social movements can be smothered in the cradle. – Carlo Piantini, Why Am I Facing 75 Years in Prison?  

Washington, DC police are still facing a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties for various incidents of brutality, sexual abuse, and civil rights violations carried out on inauguration day.

Read more about ongoing J20 court proceedings here.

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