Federal prosecutors requested on Friday that the remaining 38 cases be dropped against protestors accused of rioting in Washington, D.C. during President Trump's inauguration. And the decision might put those prior defendants in a better spot than they were in before.
What's the background?
On January 20, 2017, large-scale coordinated demonstrations were carried out by thousands of activists protesting the election of Donald Trump as President.
While some of the groups present were permitted marchers, hundreds of protestors dressed in black — many with their faces covered — became violent.
People had to receive treatment for injuries, several storefront windows were smashed, and a vehicle was spray-painted, windows smashed, and set on fire. Video footage of the chaos was released by several sources. (Caution: profanity.)
By the end of the day, six police officers were hurt, a civilian was injured (see video above), and more than 200 people were arrested.
In the aftermath, the police were accused of overreach for liberally using pepper spray, conducting unnecessary rectal exams and arresting peaceful protestors along with the perpetrators of violence. But Trump supporters who were attacked criticized the police for not doing enough to contain the demonstrations.
So, why are the charges being dropped?
Of the 234 individuals arrested for the Inauguration Day rioting, 21 pleaded guilty prior to trial. The first half-dozen defendants tried were acquitted, leading prosecutors to drop charges against another 150 accused. Gradually, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia dismissed every case, and halted the cases of those who had admitted guilt.
Seeing all juries acquitting or becoming deadlocked — and other cases dropped after a judge discovered that prosecutors withheld evidence — the feds are throwing in the towel.
In a statement, spokesman Bill Miller said, "In light of the results in the cases brought to trial...the U.S,. Attorney's Office has now moved to dismiss charges against the 38 remaining defendants in this matter."
But activists might get more than the last laugh. Civil suits filed against D.C. law enforcement will now likely help the chances of those arrested receiving cash settlements due to allegations of police brutality and false arrest.
An estimated total of $17 million in settlement funds were paid out to World Bank protestors arrested in D.C. in 2002.