A judge has dropped multiple felony charges against anti-Trump protesters in the #J20 proceedings after it was discovered that federal prosecutors lied about the existence of critical evidence.
The charges were initially filed against ten men and women who were part of a larger group of more than 200 protesters on Inauguration Day in which windows were smashed and cars were burned. Prosecutors with the Department of Justice (DOJ) argue that the protesters were guilty of inciting riots and damaging property, and is pursuing lengthy jail sentences for those charged.
However, on Thursday, DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin ruled that the DOJ was not forthright in its earlier statements that no video recordings of the protesters discussing their actions existed other than seven secret recordings of a protest planning meeting the government used against the defendants.
“I do think it’s a serious violation,” Morin said.
However, it was later discovered that prosecutors withheld the existence of approximately 69 other undercover videos shot by right-wing operatives at James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas that were turned over to the DOJ. The videos purportedly showed protesters teaching direct action tactics during an action camp at American University, encouraging participants to not damage any property and engage in nonviolent de-escalation tactics when confronted by police.
“The Government has succeeded in misleading over 200 co-defendants, their attorneys, and three Honorable Superior Court Judges to believe there were only seven videos in its possession from Project Veritas,” defense attorney Andrew Clarke wrote. “Only by Order of the Court and more recently, its own disclosures, we now know the truth, that the Government withheld 69 additional recordings by Project Veritas and altered others.”
Thursday’s ruling by Judge Morin is just the latest defeat for DOJ prosecutors, who dropped charges against 129 other protesters in January after admitting that they hd no direct evidence that the group actually engaged in any property destruction. The #J20 proceedings aren’t over, however, as dozens more defendants are still facing pending charges.
Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.