Sort­ing through mass ar­rests

PROS­E­CU­TORS: MORE MAY FACE CHARGES In­au­gu­ra­tion Day cases in­clude felony ri­ot­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY KEITH L. ALEXAN­DER

More peo­ple may be ar­rested in con­nec­tion with vi­o­lent In­au­gu­ra­tion Day protests as author­i­ties sort through ev­i­dence of the ri­ot­ing that left six po­lice of­fi­cers in­jured and caused tens of thou­sands of dol­lars of dam­age to ve­hi­cles and store win­dows, a D.C. pros­e­cu­tor said.

Dur­ing the Jan. 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump, 230 peo­ple — many of whom de­fense at­tor­neys said are col­lege stu­dents who live out­side of the District, Mary­land or Vir­ginia — were de­tained in a mass ar­rest and charged with felony ri­ot­ing. Since then, author­i­ties have been work­ing through the cases in an ef­fort to iden­tify each per­son’s role, then pur­su­ing some cases and dis­miss­ing oth­ers.

As of Fri­day, pros­e­cu­tors had dropped charges against nine peo­ple. Four of those are jour­nal­ists who were swept up as they re­ported on the protests. Pros­e­cu­tors would not say why they dropped the cases against the other five.

Court records show that 63 of those ar­rested have so far been in­dicted on a charge of felony ri­ot­ing, which car­ries a max­i­mum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. The re­main­ing cases are mak­ing their way through the court sys­tem.

In D.C. Su­pe­rior Court last week, one of the lead pros­e­cu­tors told a judge ad­di­tional ar­rests, as

well as dis­missals, could oc­cur in com­ing days.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to get new in­for­ma­tion ev­ery day. In the next week or two, we ex­pect to bring in more de­fen­dants,” As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Jen­nifer Kerkhoff told Judge Danya Dayson dur­ing the Thurs­day hear­ing.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors within the of­fice are work­ing to view still pho­tos and hun­dreds of hours of video to pin­point the ac­tions of peo­ple in­volved in the ri­ot­ing. Un­der­cover D.C. po­lice of­fi­cers were dis­patched at the protests with cam­eras, ac­cord­ing to a court charg­ing doc­u­ment. And D.C. of­fi­cers wore body cam­eras dur­ing their in­ter­ac­tions with pro­test­ers.

Sev­eral videos have been cir­cu­lated pub­licly, some of which have been posted on YouTube.

Still, iden­ti­fy­ing par­tic­u­lar peo­ple may be a chal­lenge, as many had their faces cov­ered with gog­gles, hats and black scarves.

In ad­di­tion, de­fense at­tor­ney Ja­son Flores-Wil­liams said three of his clients re­ceived emails from Face­book alert­ing them that pros­e­cu­tors have sub­poe­naed in­for­ma­tion from their ac­counts. Flores-Wil­liams said he plans to seek a court in­junc­tion block­ing Face­book from re­leas­ing the in­for­ma­tion.

The at­tor­ney said he be­lieves pros­e­cu­tors wanted to look at the postings and friends of his clients.

“This vi­o­lates their rights. And what does that have to do with the case? It’s broad and over­reach­ing. They’re just try­ing to in­tim­i­date peo­ple and scare them,” Flores-Wil­liams said.

A spokesman with the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on the Face­book re­quest al­le­ga­tions, or gen­er­ally on the cases.

A Face­book spokesman con­firmed Fri­day such emails have been sent to users re­gard­ing sub­poe­nas in­volv­ing the In­au­gu­ra­tion protests, but the spokesman de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

At last week’s hear­ing for 10 of those in­dicted, one de­fense at­tor­ney showed some signs of his strat­egy in the case.

Davies, with the District’s Pub­lic De­fender Ser­vice, ar­gued that the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice should re­cuse it­self from prose­cut­ing the case, be­cause the pres­i­dent se­lects and nom­i­nates the U.S. at­tor­ney. De­fense at­tor­neys have ar­gued that a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor or even pros­e­cu­tors within the District’s Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral should be ap­pointed. The judge said she would re­spond to the at­tor­ney’s pe­ti­tion at a later date.

Davies rep­re­sents 22-year-old Bre­ton Stras­burger of Pitts­burgh, who is charged with ri­ot­ing. He also ar­gued that pros­e­cu­tors had failed to spec­ify what his client — or any of the de­fen­dants — were al­leged to be do­ing at the time of their ar­rests.

In charg­ing doc­u­ments, auMatthew thor­i­ties re­count the ac­tions of the group but do not elab­o­rate on any in­di­vid­ual’s al­leged role.

Some de­fense at­tor­neys for the pro­test­ers have ar­gued that pros­e­cu­tors are rush­ing to in­dict the de­fen­dants to avoid pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings, where the pros­e­cu­tor would have to present ev­i­dence of the al­le­ga­tions.

“With­out such specifics or merit, a judge could find there is no prob­a­ble cause and or­der the case dis­missed,” said Betty Ballester, head of the court’s Trial Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, who is not in­volved in the case. “They don’t want to have to prove their case early on.”

D.C. author­i­ties had pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity of mass ar­rests. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the large num­ber of protests on In­au­gu­ra­tion Day, pros­e­cu­tors met with po­lice of­fi­cials and at­tor­neys within the D.C. po­lice de­part­ment to dis­cuss strate­gies.

The cases have been as­signed to the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice ma­jor crimes unit, a di­vi­sion that in­cludes vet­eran homi­cide pros­e­cu­tors such as Kerkhoff.

The in­ci­dents oc­curred in a four-block area be­tween the in­ter­sec­tions of 13th and O streets NW and 12th and L streets NW.

Other cases have shown the chal­lenges of prose­cut­ing those picked up in mass ar­rests. Last Novem­ber in Port­land, Ore., 120 peo­ple who were part of an anti-Trump demon­stra­tion were de­tained. Two months later, pros­e­cu­tors were forced to drop the cases of about 80 of them. The cases were ba­si­cally dropped be­cause po­lice were un­able to iden­tify each per­son ar­rested as be­ing in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity by view­ing video taken dur­ing the ar­rests.

Re­view­ing hun­dreds of hours of video footage, said Kirsten Snow­den, chief deputy district at­tor­ney for Port­land, was not an op­tion.

“It was painstak­ing and very time con­sum­ing,” she said. Since most of the cases dropped were mis­de­meanors, Snow­den said her of­fice was then al­lowed to fo­cus on the more se­ri­ous felony of­fenses, such as van­dal­ism. Un­like in Wash­ing­ton, only two peo­ple ar­rested in Port­land were charged with ri­ot­ing.


Flash-bang grenades go off at the in­ter­sec­tion of K and 13th streets NW dur­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion on Jan. 20. More than 200 peo­ple were ar­rested in the protests. In D.C. Su­pe­rior Court last week, a pros­e­cu­tor said more ar­rests, as well as dis­missals, could oc­cur.

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