23:40 GMT +317 October 2019
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    Police officers pepper spray a group of protestors before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

    Judge Declines to Rule on Motion to Kill Riot Charges Against Trump Protesters

    © AFP 2019 / ZACH GIBSON
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    Lawyers for activists arrested protesting US President Donald Trump’s inauguration argued Thursday that riot charges against their clients should be dropped, claiming that the jury in an April hearing was improperly instructed.

    The attorneys have argued previously that the defendants were unjustly arrested for being in the vicinity of vandalism committed near inauguration activities on January 20, and not for actual criminal behavior. 

    Thursday’s proceedings dealt with a motion to dismiss a superseding indictment brought by an April 27 grand jury, saying the jury was confused by instructions they received from prosecutors. 

    As demonstrators rallied outside the Washington, DC, courthouse in support of the defendants, a judge declined to rule on the motion.

    ​More than 200 people have been indicted on felony riot charges for their alleged involvement in the January vandalism, in which vehicles were damaged and shop windows were smashed. Despite meager evidence, some defendants are facing up to 75 years in prison. 

    New court filings show that at least eight of the defendants’ locked cell phones were broken into by investigators as prosecutors attempted to extract text messages, email and call logs, pictures, videos and internet search histories to use in court as evidence against them.

    A July 21 filing showed that eight phones were successfully cracked, six of which were "encrypted," which means they had additional privacy settings in place besides that of a lock screen.

    Investigators were able to gather "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," from the six encrypted phones, the court document notes.

    Esquire quoted attorney Mark Goldstone, who is representing six of the defendants, on a March conference call saying video footage collected from confiscated phones isn’t exactly a smoking gun. 

    "Here's your client at the beginning of the march, wearing black clothes and goggles, your client could have left but did not, and here is your client at the end, in the police kettle," he said.

    The "overt acts" cited in riot conspiracy charges against most of the defendants include wearing dark clothing and chanting slogans that criticize capitalism. So far, only one of the 200 defendants has pleaded guilty to riot charges, after a superseding indictment named them at length.

    Washington police officers blockaded hundreds of journalists, observers and demonstrators into a corner and carried out a mass arrest, leading some to level wrongful arrest lawsuits against the police.

    The ACLU of Washington, DC, is also suing DC police for sexually abusing journalists and activists, claiming one of its officers ordered arrestees to remove their clothes before grabbing their testicles and inserting his finger into their anuses while other officers laughed.

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    Tags:
    Conspiracy, Riot, Inauguration Day, Protest, Donald Trump, United States, Washington DC
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