- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2018

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they will dismiss the charges against 129 of 188 activists facing trial for rioting and vandalism during the Trump inauguration, a month after a jury found the first batch of six protesters not guilty.

Instead, federal prosecutors will concentrate on the remaining 59 defendants, a “smaller, core group that we believe is most responsible for the destruction and violence that took place on Inauguration Day,” said Bill Miller, spokesman for ​Jessie K. Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The 59 activists still facing charges were described ​in the court document ​as those who engaged in “identifiable acts of destruction, violence, or other assaultive conduct,” planned the protests, or used Antifa-style “black-bloc” tactics to “perpetrate, aid or abet violence and destruction.”

​More than 20​0 people were ​initially ​charged with crimes stemming from the inauguration rioting, which saw black-masked protesters march 16 blocks through downtown D.C. as part of an anti-capitalist demonstration, smashing windows, setting fire to a parked limousine and charging a police line.

The problem for the prosecution is that many of the masked activists could not be connected to specific acts of violence or vandalism, prompting the government to argue that the first six defendants were part of the mob and should bear some responsibility for its actions.

Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz further weakened the government’s case by throwing out the most serious count of felony rioting ​in December.

After the jury acquitted the six activists on Dec. 21, t​he ACLU urged the prosecution to dismiss “all remaining charges against peaceful demonstrators.

“Today’s verdict reaffirms two central constitutional principles of our democracy: First, that dissent is not a crime, and second, that our justice system does not permit guilt by association,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Scott Michelman in a statement.

Twenty protesters had previously entered into plea deals, leaving 188 to face trial in groups.

“In light of the legal rulings by the court and the jury’s verdicts in the first trial of these cases, the government has decided to proceed with all of the pending charges set forth in the superseding indictment (to include felony charges) for the above-captioned fifty-nine (59) defendants,” said the notice filed Thursday by prosecutors.

​DefendJ20 Resistance, which emerged out of the inauguration protest group DisruptJ20 — the inauguration was held Jan. 20, 2017 — said it “​welcomed the mass dismissal of charges, but also object to the decision to continue prosecuting the remaining cases, which they consider just as politically motivated.”

Andy Switzer, one of the defendants whose charges were dismissed, criticized the Trump administration for its willingness to “spend millions of dollars to go after its political opponents for an alleged $100,000 worth of property damage.”

The mass dismissal of charges is certainly a victory and means that more than a hundred people no longer have serious felonies and decades in prison hanging over our heads,” Mr. Switzer​ said in a statement. “However, the Trump administration is still aggressively pursuing politically motivated charges against 59 of us and we will continue to work together and fight the government’s attempts to stifle resistance.”

The next round of defendants is scheduled for trial on March 5, according to court documents.

DefendJ20 plans to hold an “international day of solidarity” for the protesters on Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the inauguration protests.

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