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The government earlier this month advised a federal judge that it was dropping its investigation into protests at Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration, and said it would no longer pursue any charges in the case. After arresting hundreds of people and accusing the whole lot of them with being violent nasty vandals, the Justice Department only managed to get 21 people to plead guilty, and didn't win a single conviction at trial. But it sure wasn't for lack of trying!


The cases began with one of the most sweeping arrest actions ever in the nation's capital. Authorities said rioters caused about $100,000 in property damage across 16 blocks downtown. The government said the group used "black bloc" tactics, dressing in dark colors and wearing masks, scarves or goggles to blend in with similarly dressed demonstrators who used rocks and crowbars to shatter windows of businesses and vehicles.

In all, 234 people were arrested and charged in the Inauguration Day rioting. Of them, 21 defendants pleaded guilty before trial — the only convictions arising from the arrests. A handful of defendants went to trial, which resulted in acquittals or hung juries. Other cases were dropped gradually.

Last summer, the DOJ dropped charges against the last 39 people who'd been waiting for trial; last month's hearing amounted to the government packing up and saying nothing more would be done against 188 protesters who could conceivably have been re-charged if prosecutors really insisted on dragging things out further. Defense attorneys for the protesters asked the government to drop all charges "with prejudice," meaning there would be no further threat of prosecution.

During a March 15 hearing in front of Judge Robert E. Morin, the chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goodhand, who was investigating the cases, took that step. Goodhand asked that the 188 cases not yet adjudicated be dismissed with prejudice.

Morin agreed. The judge also asked Goodhand's office to review the cases to see which defendants might qualify to have their arrest records sealed.

Beyond the good news for the protesters, who have argued all along that they were being blamed for vandalism and property damage committed only by a few people, Goodhand also admitted that -- oopsies! -- the lead DOJ prosecutor, Jennifer Kerkhoff, had "misrepresented" some facts about one of the defendants. Lies, misrepresentations, what are words, anyway?

In any case, it turns out that Kerkhoff had fibbed a little bit in court hearings in 2017 and 2018. Kerkhoff repeatedly insisted that neither she nor one of the cops in the case had ever told a grand jury that one defendant, Cassandra Beale, had attended a planning meeting in advance of the protests. Prosecutors had claimed the meetings were proof of a conspiracy to do violence, so that's kind of a big deal. Ah, but what's this?

Goodhand told Morin his office discovered that not only had that information indeed been presented to a grand jury, it was also incorrect. Beale, as her attorney had long asserted, did not attend any planning meetings.

"The government is still investigating the circumstances surrounding this discrepancy, but wanted to apprise the court of it as expeditiously as possible," Goodhand told Morin.

Morin told Goodhand to inform him of the outcome of that investigation, because prosecutorial fuckups like that are, as they say in the legal business, Not Good. And wouldn't you know it, it sure sounds like Kerkhoff might have had a bright future at Trump's DOJ, if it weren't for those meddling laws and facts:

It wasn't the first time the rioting cases were scrutinized because of Kerkhoff's actions. Two judges last year separately ruled that Kerkhoff had withheld key evidence from defense attorneys.

An anonymous prosecutor in the same office told the Washington Post Kerkhoff would never have done anything underhanded, heavens no! Instead, this was just one of those things that happens when you have hundreds of accused protesters to crack down on:

"I don't believe she intentionally lied about anything. I just think it became too much for one person to oversee," the prosecutor said.

Also, let's not forget one of the other great decisions in the case: The prosecution relied on undercover videos from James O'Keefe's "Project Veritas" (Latin for "keep fucking that chicken") to push its claim that the planning meetings proved a violent plot. Don't be silly! You can't trust Project Very Sauced to prove anything!

The prosecution used several videos from the group, which secretly attended planning meetings before the inauguration protest. But two judges determined that Kerkhoff failed to either supply all of the Veritas videos to defense attorneys before trial or edited the videos and failed to disclose all of the edits to attorneys.

So now all the charges have been dropped and the government won't pursue the investigation any more, because wow what a mess. We can hardly wait for Donald Trump to take to Twitter and proclaim the protesters have been EXONERATED, and perhaps for Kellyanne Conway to call on all the prosecutors to resign. That's how the law works now, yes?

Now all we need is for some wingnut to claim that since the government dropped charges against peaceful protesters, that means Trump's grifty inaugural committee is off the hook too, for balance.

[WaPo / Photo: "Mobilus In Mobili" at Wikimedia Commons]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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