Six More J20 Protest Prosecutions Dismissed As Gov't Admits To Hiding Exculpatory Evidence From Defendants
from the self-defeating dept
The government has dismissed more defendants from the J20 protest prosecution. A mass prosecution that ensnared journalists and activists — along with those who may have actually participated in damaging property — has gradually disintegrated as the government has undermined its own efforts again and again. (To say nothing of the multiple times the government tried to undermine the prosecution, starting with the mass First Amendment incursions of arresting journalists, before heading on to broadsides of the Fourth thru Sixth Amendments.)
The government isn’t done blasting holes in its feet just yet. Alan Pyke, reporting for ThinkProgress, says the prosecutorial fiasco the government is trying to abandon contained a host of Constitutional violations.
Federal prosecutors hid scores of videos from the hundreds of anti-Trump demonstrators they charged with serious felonies in an unprecedented crackdown on Inauguration Day protests, defense lawyers alleged in an overnight filing Wednesday.
The new accusations exacerbate an existing crisis for prosecutors, who already admitted last week to hiding one 55-minute video and misrepresented edits they made to another video. That initial screw-up, known to lawyers as a Brady violation, already jeopardized the case.
But that initial, single Brady violation is actually part of a much broader pattern of evidence-concealing, the lawyers now say. The government has concealed another 69 separate recordings — three audio files and 66 videos — of planning meetings for the Inauguration protests known as #DisruptJ20, defense lawyers say in the motion.
The government had an unlikely ally in its prosecution — right-wing, half-arsed sting operation Project Veritas. The prosecution relied on videos supposedly containing protesters discussing plans for mayhem and violence. This is what the government needed to rope 50-some protesters in on conspiracy charges, something it could salvage when tying defendants to actual violence or destruction proved impossible.
But the videos the government obtained — but did not turn over to the defense — showed something else.
The recordings, which were made by employees of the right-wing Project Veritas, purportedly show defendants discussing de-escalation tactics and their intent not to initiate physical violence with anyone unless they are attacked first. The prosecutor had previously told the judge that no recordings existed from the meetings where the newly revealed audio and videos were made.
The government now says it will not use any videos from Project Veritas in the trials of the 59 remaining defendants. This gesture may be too little, too late. It’s also completely self-serving. If the government ditches the Veritas videos, the defense will struggle to have charges dismissed because of the government’s Brady violation. The court may rule the violation only concerned evidence the prosecution isn’t using — a “no harm, no foul” ruling that lets the government have its Brady violations and its prosecutions too. Hopefully, the court will take note of the government’s attempt to have it both ways and deny it in full.