Undercover anarchist to testify in next Inauguration Day trial

WASHINGTON — When the next set of protesters goes on trial on charges of rioting on Inauguration Day 2017, prosecutors intend to call “Julie McMahon” to the stand — an alias for an undercover agent who spent two years infiltrating an anarchist extremist group.

The trial for five defendants facing felony rioting and destruction of property counts, as well as misdemeanor rioting charges, is scheduled to begin March 26 — the first trial after six protesters were acquitted in December.

Prosecutors want to allow “McMahon” to testify about the “black bloc” tactic that was used by protesters in downtown D.C. on the day President Donald Trump was sworn into office.

In its “Notice of intent to admit expert testimony,” prosecutors said “McMahon” worked undercover for two years, “infiltrating an anarchist extremist group in the New York area.”

Prosecutors will call her to the stand in D.C. Superior Court to explain “black bloc” tactics to jurors, with “participants dressing in all black clothing and concealing their faces with masks, bandanas, and other clothing.”

“This tactic makes it difficult for law enforcement to identify the individual perpetrators of violence or destruction within the larger group,” prosecutors wrote.

“Participants in the ‘black bloc’ often carry pipes, wooden sticks, spray paint, projectiles, or other weapons, and wear protective padding and helmets in anticipation of destruction, violence and/or confrontation with law enforcement.”

In addition to her undercover work in New York, prosecutors said “McMahon” also worked undercover during the G-20 in Pittsburgh in 2008, and had witnessed other “black bloc” operations in Seattle and Minneapolis, as well as during the 2000 IMF protest in D.C.

She was not involved in and did not personally witness the planning of the 2017 D.C. protests, but will testify about how the “black bloc” tactics were implemented.

In the initial trial, prosecutors did not allege that any of the six protesters on trial wielded metal bars to break windows, or threw the bricks that hit police officers.

In January of this year, prosecutors dropped charges against 129 defendants, but said 59 other defendants would still face charges.

At the time, prosecutors said they would focus on trials of defendants who actually wielded weapons, or were involved in the planning of the violence and destruction.

Prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia will need to get a judge’s permission to allow “McMahon” to testify using her alias.

While she is no longer working undercover, some of her undercover operations continue. “Disclosing her true name (which could lead to disclosure of her identity and image) would impact those investigations,” prosecutors argued in their motion.

In addition, prosecutors said they, and the lead detective, have seen their photos distributed on social media, leading to threats and harassment.

To preserve the defendants’ right to fully investigate the work experience of “McMahon,” prosecutors are offering to provide her name and resume to defense lawyers, with the understanding that they not be provided to their clients, or anyone else.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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