A Washington , D.C ., jury on Thursday returned a verdict of not guilty for the first six of 194 people charged with rioting outside President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The ruling is a major win for activists and journalists, and a strong rebuke to the prosecution’s attempt to crack down on the first major complain of the Trump administration.
The six defendants, including a medic and a photojournalist, were not accused of committing breaking windows or damaging vehicles. Instead, the department of public prosecutions told me they participated in and encouraged a rioting in being near a objection where other people had shattered windows. A belief on all counts could have intended 60 years imprisonment, and new threats to liberties of the members of parliament, speech, and press.
The trial that began Nov. 20 was the first of nearly 20 laids, during which the total 194 defendants will be tried in small groups. Among the the first situate of defendants were Jennifer Armento, 38, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Michelle Macchio, 26, of Asheville, North Carolina; Oliver Harris, 28, of Philadelphia; Christina Simmons, 20, of Cockeysville, Maryland; Brittne Lawson, 27, of Aspinwall, Pennsylvania; and Alexei Wood, 27, of San Antonio, Texas.
Lawson and Wood were at the objections in their capacities as a medic and a photojournalist, they testified. Neither they , nor any of their co-defendants were observed damaging property. Still, they were each charged with five counts of felony property extermination, one count of misdemeanor rioting, and one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to riot.
Earlier this month, a magistrate exonerated the defendants of an incitement to riot fee: a crime that could have added an additional 10 years to the defendants’ sentences.
Prosecutors argued that, even though they did not immediately have taken part in illegal activity, the defendants encouraged property shatter and frictions with police.
” I’ll be very clear: we don’t believe the evidence is going to show that any of these six someones personally took that crowbar or that hammer and hit the limo or personally bashed those windows of that Starbucks in ,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in an opening statement on the first day of test.
” That was not their persona. And the law the judge will inform you is they didn’t have to do that. You don’t personally have to be the one that interrupts the window to be guilty of rioting, to be guilty of agreeing to rioting, because, as you’ll see from this case, you’ll see from the evidence, this group is a rioting .”
To proved the defendants’ guilt by association, the prosecution relied on dubious prove, including an edited stinging video from the oft-debunked conservative videographer James O’Keefe, objection footage rent from mashup videos on conspiracy theorist YouTube Channels, and a video from the right-wing militia the Oath Keepers, The Daily Beast previously reported.
The prosecution’s key witness was D.C. Metropolitan Police Detective Greg Pemberton, who was not present at the protest. On Twitter, Pemberton followed O’Keefe’s video company and the page for 4Chan’ s “pol” committee, activist report area Unicorn Riot first reported.
Despite missing or suspicious evidence that the defendants participated in the protest, the prosecution attempted to describe them just as dangerous conspirators.
The prosecution attempted to characterize Wood not as a columnist but as a rioter with a blueprint for violence. Wood’s monopod, a tool used to stabilize a camera, was entered into evidence as a “baton.”
That same lawyer likewise attempted to draw Lawson’s basic medical supplies as suspicious.” What do you need a medic with gauze for ?” the public prosecutor asked Lawson, the oncology nurse who was volunteering as a medic.” I considered this was a protest .”
Medical volunteers are common at demoes. Multiple complain participants and observers necessitated medical treatment after its relationship with police, who deployed pepper spraying and stun grenades against a large mob, which included legal observers, medics, and journalists. Some of those people are suing police for alleged inhumanity at the protest.
A judge likewise warned Kerkhoff when she told the jury that the standard of” reasonable doubt” shouldn’t overly influence their decision.
” The protection has talked to you a little bit about reasonable uncertainty. You’re going to get an instruction from the judge ,” Kerkhoff told jurors before they went into deliberations.” And you can tell it’s clearly written by a cluster of lawyers. It doesn’t mean a whole lot .”
In a strong rebuke to Kerkhoff &# x27; s prosecution, the jury sided with the six defendants. For the 188 other defendants awaiting experiment, Thursday &# x27; s ruling is a sign that they, too, might walk free.
Correction: An earlier version of this story characterized the suit as taking place in a federal courtroom. The case was hear in D.C.’s Superior Court . em>