In a key case that could determine the fate of nearly 200 other people arrested during President Trump’s inauguration, all six defendants were found not guilty for all charges.
The fact that jurors found that none of the six men and women facing charges committed a crime is great news for the other hundreds of marchers facing guilt-by-association felonies.
The six defendants involved in the case were facing seven charges each. The jurors found them not-guilty on each one. The charges included conspiracy to riot, engaging in a riot, and five counts of criminal property destruction.
The government had previously acknowledged that it has no evidence that the six defendants personally committed any of the crimes. The defendants were charged under a legal argument that stated they were guilty by association simply because they were part of the mass group of protesters that marched throughout Washington D.C. on Inauguration day.
The six defendants that were involved in the case were Jennifer Armento, Oliver Harris, Brittne Lawson, Michelle Macchio, Christina Simmons and Alexei Wood. The case has garnered national attention due to the fact that it raised massive First Amendment questions on the right to free speech and protest, and that most likely the cases of the nearly 200 defendants charged with similar crimes relies on the outcome of this case.
Still, the Justice Department is not backing down. In a statement released by the department, the office said:
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia believes that the evidence shows that a riot occurred on January 20, 2017, during which numerous public and private properties were damaged or destroyed. This destruction impacted many who live and work in the District of Columbia, and created a danger for all who were nearby. The criminal justice process ensures that every defendant is judged based on his or her personal conduct and intent.
“We appreciate the jury’s close examination of the individual conduct and intent of each defendant during this trial and respect its verdict,” the statement continued. “In the remaining pending cases, we look forward to the same rigorous review for each defendant.”
These first six defendants were part of a large group of protesters that were encircled by police and arrested in downtown D.C. on inauguration day. One of the defendants is a photographer that was covering the event; two others were women that acted as “street medics” and were carrying medical supplies.
Initially, the six men and women were also charged on a felony count of inciting a riot, but the judge presiding over the case, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz, issued a judgement of acquittal on that charge, ruling that no reasonable juror could have found any of the defendants guilty of the charge based on the government’s evidence.
Attorneys representing the six defendants believe that case was the Justice Department’s effort to crack down on anti-Trump actions. One of the attorneys, Sara Kropf, stated that the prosecutors weren’t local, but were federal government. She also stated, “We know who they report to. This is about politics.”
Federal prosecutors worked hard on the case, providing hours and hours of video footage from Inauguration Day, crafted together in unique PowerPoint presentations for each defendant. Jurors were provided with maps of the group’s route, along with special instructions and hyperlinks to slow-mo video highlights that they claimed showed a defendant’s movements and actions throughout the march.
Some of the key video in the case was provided by James O’Keefe’s dishonest, right-wing Project Veritas group.