Charges dropped against last of Inauguration Day protest defendants

WASHINGTON — Charges have been dropped against the remaining defendants arrested in the wake of violent protests on Inauguration Day 2017.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement Friday that they believe “evidence shows that a riot occurred on January 20, 2017, during which more than $100,000 in damage was caused,” and that 21 people have pleaded guilty for their actions that day, including one felony.

“In light of the results in the cases brought to trial, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has now moved to dismiss charges against the 39 remaining defendants in this matter,” the statement said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office previously announced the dismissed charges for 38 remaining defendants, but a second motion to dismiss charges for the 39th defendant was filed later Friday. 

Some of the protests on the day of the inauguration of President Donald Trump resulted in the breaking of windows of several businesses in downtown D.C., as well as the torching of a limousine. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that 234 people in total were arrested; about 210 were charged with felony rioting.

In January of this year, jurors found six defendants not guilty, after a trial in which prosecutors acknowledged they had no evidence the people on trial had personally caused any property damage or physical injuries. After that, charges against 129 defendants were dropped.

Dane Powell, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty in April 2017 to a felony charge of assaulting a police officer. He was sentenced to four months. Twenty more protesters pleaded guilty to misdemeanor rioting, paid fines and were placed on probation.

Some of those arrested were journalists covering the protests. Some protesters said they were mistreated by the police. One told WTOP in April 2017, “They detained us for eight hours on the street corner with no food and water and wouldn’t tell us what we were being charged with and then held us for 36 hours without being put in front of a judge.”

A civilian review board said in February 2017 that the D.C. police violated their own procedures for preserving protesters’ First Amendment rights, including the use of pepper spray and ball-like grenades that spray rubber pellets.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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