Washington, DC – Today in DC Superior Court, federal prosecutors filed notice of their intention to drop charges against all remaining defendants facing charges from protests against President Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017.
All defendants had originally faced felony charges of conspiracy to riot, engaging in a riot, and several counts of property destruction, with each person facing a sentence of up to 60 years in prison. The last 39 defendants have now had their charges dismissed without prejudice, meaning that charges could hypothetically be re-filed at a later date.
An email sent by Assistant US Attorney Rizwan Qureshi with the motion today said that the government would be dismissing charges in “all Inauguration Day rioting cases.”
On Trump’s inauguration day, DC police detained the entire “anti-capitalist, antifascist” march at 12th & L streets and mass-arrested over 200 people. Federal prosecutors then began pressing a massive dragnet felony case, arguing that at the protest was legally liable for all alleged criminal acts committed near the protest.
The case brought by Assistant US Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Qureshi had fallen flat at trial twice, without securing any convictions. The first trial late last year ended in full acquittals after the government sought to convict six people based on their “mere presence” at the protest, arguing that by being present, they helped others commit property destruction.
The second trial in May and June 2018 saw four defendants walk with a mixture of acquittals and mistrial verdicts due to a hung jury, after jurors were not convinced by the alleged identification of masked individuals seen breaking windows in video footage.
The ‘J20’ prosecution has been riddled with controversy and prosecutorial misconduct throughout its duration. During the second trial this year, DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin sanctioned the US Attorney’s Office for illegally hiding evidence it had obtained from the discredited, far-right “entrapment journalism” group Project Veritas.
Other issues plaguing the case involved DC police officers with a clear bias against protesters. Detective Greggory Pemberton, the main detective behind the case, is an elected police union official with a history of making social media posts lambasting protesters. Another police witness, Officer William Chatman, made headlines for wearing a shirt celebrating police brutality around the courthouse after he testified in the second trial.
The US Attorney provided the following statement about their decision to dismiss the remaining cases:
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J20 Trial Coverage & More:
- Criminalizing Dissent: Trials Begin for Trump Inauguration J20 Protests - November 29, 2017
- Criminalizing Dissent: Contested Evidence Introduced in J20 Trial Testimony - November 29, 2017
- Police Commander Behind J20 Arrests Joked About Holocaust, LGBTs - December 3, 2017
- Criminalizing Dissent: Trump Inauguration Protest Trial Enters Fourth Week - December 9, 2017
- Criminalizing Dissent: After Proving “Mere Presence” J20 Prosecution Rests Case - December 13, 2017
- Jury Finds Six #J20 Defendants “Not Guilty” on All Charges - December 21, 2017
- Interview: 188 Still Face Decades In Prison For Trump Inauguration Protest - January 13, 2018
- DC Mayor, Police Refuse to Release Financial Records of Trump Inauguration Investigation - January 17, 2018
- US Attorney Drops 129 Trump Inauguration Protest Cases, 59 Still Face Decades In Prison - January 18, 2018
- Second Trump Inauguration Protest Trial Begins - May 16, 2018
- Prosecutors Illegally Withheld Evidence From Trump Inauguration Protesters, Judge Finds - May 23, 2018
- Second J20 Trial Heads To Jury Despite Court Sanctions Against Prosecutors - June 1, 2018
- More Trump Inauguration Protest Arrestees Have Charges Dismissed - June 4, 2018
- Another Trump Inauguration Protester Acquitted at Trial - June 6, 2018
- Second Trump Inauguration Protest Trial Ends In Acquittals/Mistrials - June 7, 2018
- Federal Prosecutors Drop Eight More Trump Inauguration Protest Cases - June 13, 2018
- US Attorney Drops Remaining Trump Inauguration Protest Charges - July 6, 2018
DC J20 Protest Coverage:
- FERC Protest, Evict the DNC, & Disrupt the DeploraBall on the Eve of Trump’s Inauguration - January 23, 2017
- “No Peaceful Transition” for Trump as Thousands #DisruptJ20 in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day - January 27, 2017
- 214 Indicted on Felony Riot Charges for Protesting Trump Inauguration - March 15, 2017
- Anti-Racist Coalition Rallies Against Fascism and State Repression at DC Police HQ - June 25, 2017
- Protesters Face 80 Years as US Attorney Brings Unprecedented Mass Felony Charges (Includes Interview with Olivia, a Defendant) - June 29, 2017
- J20 Defendant Dane Powell Sentenced to Four Months in Federal Prison - July 7, 2017
- J20 Indictment Challenged in Motions Hearing; One Count Dismissed - July 28, 2017