Good News: Trump Protestors Accused Of 'Hiding Behind The First Amendment' Acquitted
from the first-amendment-still-works dept
Last week we wrote about the insanity of the DOJ’s argument in trying to convict a group of protestors at Trump’s inauguration. As we noted, the DOJ didn’t even try to connect the defendants with any violence or property damage, but merely said that by being near the property damage they were accomplices, because they made the actual perpetrators harder to catch. When talking about the First Amendment and the right to assemble, Assistant US Attorney Rizwan Quereshi, incredibly, claimed that the defendants were “hiding behind the First Amendment.” Even more incredibly, on Monday of this week another Assistant US Attorney, Jennifer Kerkhoff, tried to tell the jury that the judge’s instruction about reasonable doubt “doesn’t mean a whole lot”, leading the judge to jump in and say that Kerkhoff clearly didn’t mean to say that:
Kerkhoff: The defense has talked to you a little bit about reasonable doubt. You’re going to get an instruction from the Judge. And you can tell it’s clearly written by a bunch of lawyers. It doesn’t mean a whole lot. But look at the last line.
The Court: So wait…
Kerkhoff: I apologize.
The Court: I know she didn’t mean to say what she just said. But —
Kerkhoff:: It means a lot.
The Court: I just need to say, ladies and gentlemen, you will be instructed on reasonable doubt. You must follow each and every word of my instructions on reasonable doubt.
The Court: Ms. Kerkhoff did not mean to trivialize any portion of it, and it’s just as important that you understand —
Kerkhoff: I apologize.
The Court: — that every word of the reasonable doubt instructions, like all the rest of my instructions, are very important.
Kerkhoff: It’s an important instruction.
Well, it appears that the jury did, in fact, pay attention to the reasonable doubt instructions, and has acquitted all six defendants on all charges. That includes Alexei Wood, the journalist who was covering the protests, as well as two other defendants who were there as medics to treat anyone injured (the DOJ tried to paint them as accomplices who helped fix people up to do more damage).
This case was important for trying to criminalize reporting, but to an even larger extent for trying to criminalize protesting as a group, where all members of a protest would somehow be considered liable for any damage done by any member. Thankfully, the jury saw through it and found all defendants not guilty on all charges. One hopes that the Justice Department (which rarely loses cases) will maybe think more carefully in the future about bringing such bullshit charges against people for exercising their First Amendment rights. And that matters quite a bit, as there are 188 other defendants from the same protest who are still awaiting trial.