A lot has been made of how easily violent Portland protesters have escaped prosecution in 2020, and progressive Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt gained quite a bit of notoriety when case after case was tossed.
Indeed, an October report indicated that of the nearly 1,000 protests and riot-related arrests in Portland since late May, almost 70% of the charges were dropped.
Schmidt said his office would not prosecute for the following crimes:
- Interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer
- Disorderly conduct in the second degree
- Criminal trespass in the first and second degree
- Escape in the third degree
- Riot (unless accompanied by a charge outside of this list)
Schmidt insisted he was saving resources for the most serious crimes, KGW-TV reported — and so the feds stepped in. The station said that then-Attorney General William Barr reportedly instructed federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue violent or destructive protesters.
KGW said Billy Williams, then-U.S. Attorney for Oregon, warned in a Sept. 25 press release: "Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time."
How did that work out?
Federal prosecutors have tossed out over a third of cases stemming from the violent protests, the station said — 31 of 90 cases, court records show.
KGW said among the most serious thrown-out cases involved four defendants charged with assaulting a federal officer — a felony. In addition, the station said over half of the dropped charges were "dismissed with prejudice," which means the cases can't be brought back to court — an extremely rare provision, according to former federal prosecutors.
Williams — who stepped down from his post Feb. 28 at the request of President Joe Biden's administration — told KGW in a recent interview that the dismissals were due to prosecutors not believing they could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Each case was analyzed for the evidence that we had at the time," Williams told KGW. "Careful decisions were made on whether or not someone should be charged based on the evidence."
What's more, several individuals closely involved with pending protest cases who asked for anonymity told the station they expect many more federal charges to be dismissed soon.
A Biden thing? Not so fast
One might be inclined to believe that the federal dismissals are a result of a Democratic administration taking power in Washington, D.C., but the numbers tell a different story. Of the 31 dismissed federal cases, KGW counted "at least 11" happening on or after the Biden's inauguration — far from a majority.
Feds quietly dismiss dozens of Portland protest cases youtu.be