DOJ Racks Up 90% Failure Rate In Inauguration Protest Prosecutions, Dismisses Final Defendants

from the win-some,-lose-a-whole-lot-more dept

The DOJ, after flailing wildly for most of the last 18 months, has dismissed the remaining defendants in its disastrous inauguration day protest prosecutions.

The US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, announced Friday that it is dismissing charges against the remaining defendants charged in connection with anti-Trump demonstrations on Inauguration Day.

Police arrested 234 people on Jan. 20, 2017. Twenty-one people pleaded guilty. The final dismissal notice on Friday came after several trials in which prosecutors were unable to secure any convictions — defendants were either acquitted or jurors failed to reach a verdict.

The government still managed to land 21 convictions, even though its statement suggests it feels this isn’t nearly enough, what with “$100,000 in damage to public and private property” occurring during the protests. It certainly isn’t much considering the DOJ’s original (human) dragnet held more than 200 arrestees.

But that wasn’t the only dragnet the DOJ deployed. On its way to dismissing charges against 90% of the defendants, the DOJ also:

This is how it ends for the DOJ, which has largely lost its bids to install a chilling effect via over-broad “rioting” prosecutions. While it’s true property was damaged during the protests, rounding up a couple hundred protesters is the opposite of targeted prosecution. If the DOJ hadn’t been shutdown in its attempt to amass personal information on more than a million website visitors and Facebook members, the number of defendants would have been even bigger. The eventual dismissals would also have skyrocketed, so the government probably should be happy it walked away with anything at all.

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Comments on “DOJ Racks Up 90% Failure Rate In Inauguration Protest Prosecutions, Dismisses Final Defendants”

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49 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Sure about that?

This is how it ends for the DOJ, which has largely lost its bids to install a chilling effect via over-broad "rioting" prosecutions.

Whether they won or, as is the case, fell flat on their faces matters less for instilling a chilling effect than the fact that they were willing to do so in the first place.

‘You’ve got good odds of having the charges dropped or a jury finding you not guilty over a year later‘ isn’t exactly the most comforting thought for someone who might be thinking about joining a protest. Throughout the process they made clear what they were willing to do, and the fact that they were gently chided for parts of it doesn’t stop them in any way from doing any of it again should they decide to crack down in the future for whatever reason.

Much like copyright trolling winning the case is just an extra, nice to have but not actually needed. The goal is to make it clear that fighting back at all is going to cost, and cost dearly, and that message they’ve made crystal clear.

Zgaidin (profile) says:

Re: Sure about that?

Sadly true on all counts, and they learn from their mistakes. So, now they know which judges aren’t going to give them access to Facebook accounts or other website PII, so next time they file elsewhere and try different judges. They figure out ways to tell the 90% who will be dismissed vs. the 10% early on, and don’t have to waste any more time and effort on the 90% than it takes to string them along and keep the charges alive long enough to deter people.

Will B. says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No, but seriously, you do realize you are currently, right here, doing exactly what you complain about the left doing, right? Whining about pushback, virtue-signalling how right-wing you are and how the right is sooo much netter than the left because they’d never push back against a president just because they don’t like them (let’s jusr forget about Kenyan Obama and his Obamacare), and responding to criticism with flippant put-downs?

I dunno if pointing this out is going to be of any help, but seriously… you are the very thing you claim to hate.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why pretend there would be a #resist movement if the politics were reversed?

Because that was precisely what happened to Obama after his first two years in office, thanks to Republican voters. Or did you forget all about birtherism, the Tea Party, the opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the stolen Supreme Court nomination, and Donald Trump?

Dave P. says:

Re: Re: lol, anti-blue-dude, why don't you make an account?

Hmm. That makes about as much sense as this clip from a recent Trumpy speech:
“I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.”
I rest my case.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Question for lawyer in the crowd

Not me (I wasn’t there), but those that have had a year plus of their lives put into turmoil, and cost for lawyers and possibly lost jobs, as well as other impacts; for egregious, ineffective, Constitution busting behavior by the government.

If I had been there, and arrested, I would already have a lawyer, and would ask him/her. For the rest of us non lawyers, seeing into the density that is ‘the Law’ might be helpful.

alternatives() says:

Re: Re: Re: Question for lawyer in the crowd

The chance of recovery for the disruption is very small. The legal system via Judges sees the DA as part of itself and won’t take kindly to support an attack on itself.

In theory – “the law” is publicly out there so anyone can see into such density. Any given court case is rather dependent on the judge(s) along the way and is dependent on the ‘sharpness’ of the attorneys involved and what should be a slam-dunk becomes a loss unless you are willing to go to appeal and had the sharpness at the 1st level. Heck, the laziness level of attorneys involved can sink a case, if the Judge allows it.

Lets say you gain this sight into density. Now, do you have the $50-$150K for a fight on the State level? How about the $300K+ at the fed level or the $1M+ for a fed appeal?

Anonymous Coward says:

At last and at least Techdirt admits was actual property damage.

Should the DOJ not make some effort to prosecute that? That’s the only alternative barbarian-friendly Techdirt has to offer.

Prosecutions of actions in riot are ALWAYS difficult to pin on persons. Sometimes different laws apply. In the past (and likely future, way you kids keep going crazy), shoot-to-kill orders have been legal. Civil society MUST stop rioting at some point. — You should look up the “Riot Act” in English law, if you want to see how seriously rioting is dealt with.

Anyhoo, I’m NOT dismayed at results except by Techdirt’s ongoing glee that property was damaged by barbarians and at least some got away with it. Techdirt always sides with those breaking the laws of civil society.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Prosecutions of actions in riot are ALWAYS difficult to pin on persons.

If the DOJ could not pin actions within a riot on specific people, it should have said so instead of trying to prosecute 200 people for a crime that the majority of that group may have only witnessed.

I’m NOT dismayed at results except by Techdirt’s ongoing glee that property was damaged by barbarians and at least some got away with it.

I doubt Techdirt writers were happy to see the property damage. (If you can cite any instance of their celebrating said property damage, please do so.) They were much happier to see people arrested on overblown charges that the DOJ could not make stick finally free from their legal nightmare. Did some of those people “get away with” breaking the law? Maybe. Can you prove it? The DOJ certainly couldn’t; if it could have made the charges stick in more than the relative handful of cases where it secured guilty pleas, we would have seen more guilty pleas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: At last and at least Techdirt admits was actual property damage.

Anyhoo, I’m NOT dismayed at results except by Techdirt’s ongoing glee that property was damaged by barbarians and at least some got away with it.

I’m not dismayed by the results either. 21 out of 234 is not even a 10% success rate. Law enforcement did a piss poor job, made themselves look like fools, and north of 90% of those accused are free.

Then again, what do you care? Trump lambastes the FBI on a near daily basis. Why on earth should anyone trust the DOJ? They’re corrupt as all fuck, remember?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: At last and at least Techdirt admits was actual property damage.

out_of_the_blue has a fetish for authoritarianism, which is why he sucks off both Trump and the DOJ/FBI. Even when they disagree with each other. Corruption is just icing on the cake, or – as is known in out_of_the_blue’s profession – “not using lube”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It’s amazing that you have enough cognitive dissonance

Sovcits are all about selfish cognitive dissonance in the first place. They want the law to apply to other people but not them because they are oh so special. They even have a fantasy about being able to draw upon the special super secret hidden bank account.

tom (profile) says:

The timing of these prosecutions means that most were started by folks hired during the Obama or Bush II administrations. Especially since we are talking about folks arrested for suspicion of committing crimes during the Inauguration. Pretty much by definition, very few Trump folks could have been in place when this circus started.

If I read TFA correctly, the DOJ never won a case in a contested court of law. Their only wins were in the pre-trial negotiating rooms where they managed to talk 21 suspects into pleading guilty. Either those were the folks that really did some of the damage or they got real poor legal advice.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As to your first point, yes, but even under Obama there was an authoritarian bent to government actions. Only the R vs D fanatics don’t understand that there is a direction being assumed by the powerful, from both sides, because power doesn’t discriminate between R’s and D’s. It still corrupts.

As to your second point, it does seem likely, and it makes folks wonder about the process where deal making and winning rather justice is the point of negotiations between prosecutors and the accused. These 21 may be guilty, and if they are then they got a deal rather than what a court might have sentenced them to. On the other hand, what if they were just frightened, and as you point out, poorly or even not represented, then the concept of justice has been harmed once again.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s a clear victory for “Black Block” tactics, having a mob of people dressed all in black with faces masked, with the few active vandals breaking free of the mob to light cars on fire, smash store windows, and whatever else, and then quickly rejoining the mob and blending in.

It’s apparently not illegal to serve as a protective screen for rioters, and because the actual rioters can’t be sorted out from the screeners upon the expected mass arrests, then everyone gets to go free.

Although it’s an obvious mob victory, don’t expect it to last. Police will simply revise their tactics, probably with sniper teams of some sort. Hopefully it’ll be something like paintball rounds and not live bullets like Israel treats street protests, but you never know.

Will B. says:

Re: Re:

“It’s apparently not illegal to serve as a protective screen for rioters, and because the actual rioters can’t be sorted out from the screeners upon the expected mass arrests, then everyone gets to go free.”

That actually is illegal; that would be conspiracy. In fact, if you read the article, it even mentions them trying for conspiracy charges.

The real issue, of course, is that your little fantasy scenario didn’t actually happen.

Will B. says:

Re: Indeed...

It didn’t escape my notice that there were 21 guilty pleas, which suggests that the prosecution was actually never successful in the courtroom; whether those guilty pleas were from guilty people or prosecutorial intimidation is the question of the day, but I know which I’m expecting.

Still, it means that in terms of actual adversarial courtroom battles, their success rate wasn’t 10%, it was 0%.

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