DC: Charges dismissed against 10 inauguration day protest defendants after prosecution lies about hiding evidence. Four other Inauguration Day protest defendants await a jury verdict on several felonies, still facing decades in prison.
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Charges Dismissed Against 10 #J20 Defendants After Prosecution Lies About Hiding Evidence
Washington, DC — Last week, all charges were dismissed against 10 of the Inauguration Day protest defendants after it became clear that federal prosecutors had withheld exculpatory evidence and lied about it.
In a joint hearing on Thursday, lawyers representing defendants from two trial groups–May 29 and June 4–accused the prosecution of removing exculpatory evidence from video footage filmed covertly at a January 8, 2017 planning meeting by the notorious far-right group Project Veritas. It was revealed during the hearing that the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) hid as many as 69 other recordings obtained from Project Veritas and lied about it in court, claiming that they had no other recordings than the single Project Veritas video at the center of the government’s conspiracy allegations.
On May 23, DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin sanctioned the USAO’s prosecution team, headed by Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, for failing to adhere to prosecutorial obligations under a 1963 US Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland, requiring prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence in advance of trial. As a result, all charges were dismissed against all ten defendants in the May 29 and June 4 trial groups. Sanctions could also extend to the dismissal of misdemeanor conspiracy to riot charges for all of the remaining 44 defendants.
Four Inauguration Day defendants whose trial began on May 14 are currently awaiting a jury verdict. Despite a call by defense lawyers in the May 14 trial to dismiss charges due to the prosecution’s Brady violations, Judge Kimberly Knowles refused. Defense lawyers then moved for a mistrial, and Judge Knowles deferred judgment on the motion until after the verdict.
“After a year and a half and spending millions of dollars, the federal government’s attempt to criminalize political protest on Inauguration Day is unraveling,” said Andy Switzer of Defend J20 Resistance. “The US Attorney’s Office has stopped at nothing in its effort to put activists behind bars for decades, including colluding with far-right political groups, hiding evidence, and targeting brown and trans protestors,” continued Switzer. “We hope that our efforts to expose their dirty tricks bring greater scrutiny on prosecutors in DC.”
It was also discovered last week that there were two other Project Veritas operatives at the pre-inauguration meeting, and that as many as eight operatives had infiltrated various other planning meetings in the DC area in advance of the Inauguration Day protests. It was also disclosed that Project Veritas intended to provide these recordings to different law enforcement agencies, and that Project Veritas met with FBI agents on at least two occasions prior to the inauguration. The only Project Veritas operative who appeared for questioning by defense counsel stated that at multiple protest planning meetings he covertly filmed, he did not hear any discussions or plans for violence or property destruction.
The Inauguration Day protests cases stem from the violent police response to an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march through downtown DC on January 20, 2017. The MPD ultimately entrapped, or “kettled,” and arrested more than 200 people. The Trump Justice Department indicted 234 people with several felonies. The first trial began in November 2017 and ended with a jury acquitting all six defendants of all charges. In January, the government dismissed charges against 129 people, but decided to proceed with what now constitutes 44 remaining cases.
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