On Jan 20th 2017, 200+ protesters were mass-arrested, detained, and now face excessive, politically-motivated criminal charges.
The "J20" Arrests & Prosecutions
On Jan 20th, hundreds of inauguration protesters were mass-arrested, held in inhumane conditions, and are now facing at least 8 felony charges each. Their cell phones were confiscated and searched, their homes were raided, and their social media data was seized.
After an initial (already unusual) "felony rioting" indictment, prosecutors pushed for a series of revisions - pulling in more defendants and bringing each person's total charges to a staggering 8+ felonies.
Prosecutors in these cases have demanded vast troves of website data involving millions of unrelated people, sought gag orders forcing Facebook to silently hand over data without notifying users or allowing for legal due process, and 'cracked' over 100 defendant cell phones to extract terabytes of personal data.
At the same time, they requested a rare 'protective' order to keep defendants from sharing police body camera footage - shielding the police from public accountability, and complicating efforts to prepare a defense.
Prosecutors have even balked at their basic, legal duty to disclose individualized evidence - citing the workload of so many cases. The irony of that complaint, given the disruption caused in over 200 people's lives by their choice to bring these charges, appears lost on both the prosecution and the court.
Most defendants will wait more than a year for their day in court - under the constant, debilitating threat of decades in prison.
Throughout these cases, prosecutors have engaged in vindictive, intrusive, and excessive behavior - from detectives misleading the Grand Jury to offers of 'wired' pleas designed to coerce easy 'wins' for the prosecutor by pitting defendants against family and friends.
Even following complete defeat in the first trials—where the jury returned 'not-guilty' verdicts for all defendants and the judge dismissed some charges for lack of evidence—they refuse to drop the charges against the remaining defendants.
But who 'wins' when prosecutors abuse their power and disrupt lives?
If we let these cases continue uncontested, we empower one of the world's biggest school-yard bullies - the modern American prosecutor - to set aside even the meager protection offered by the Constitution.
We make the next abuse easier; the next target more vulnerable.
Fortunately, unlike so many of the complex problems we face, the power to end this lies squarely in the hands of a few specific people.
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