Moments ago a DC jury reached another partial verdict for a group of Trump inauguration (“J20”) protesters whose trial started on May 19. A jury acquitted Seth Cadman of conspiracy to riot and several counts of property destruction. The jury deadlocked on the misdemeanor charge of engaging in a riot, causing Judge Knowles to declare a mistrial on that one charge. It’s possible that the US Attorney’s Office could seek to retry Cadman, who was acquitted of all felony charges, on that single misdemeanor charge.
This was the second partial verdict in the May 19 trial block of J20 protesters. On Monday, after less than two days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Cathseigh Webber of all charges. On Tuesday, it seemed like a hung jury was likely. The jury sent a note to Judge Knowles informing her that they could not reach an agreement on any of the remaining charges and were unlikely to do so. Judge Knowles instructed them to continue deliberating.
The jury is still deliberating the fate of two more defendants. All of the defendants were part of an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march that was surrounded and indiscriminately arrested by DC police. The trials have shocked observed due to Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff’s unprecedented legal theory that a First Amendment protected march was in fact a criminal conspiracy and thus anyone attending was somehow guilty for the actions of third parties who may have engaged in vandalism. Kerkhoff brought an unprecedented number of felony charges against nearly 200 people, which could carry 60 years in prison.
Kerkhoff, however, has been dealt defeat after defeat. The first trial of J20 protesters resulted in acquitals for all six defendants. In spite of promising to press on with all of the remaining cases, the US Attorney’s Office ended up dropping the charges against 129 people, leaving 59 protesters still facing felony counts. However, in recent weeks it was uncovered that the government failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense and that Kerkhoff made factually false statements to a judge about doing so. This set in process a series of events in which ten more protesters had all of their charges dropped.
In spite of this good news, there are, in addition to the two remaining defendants in the May 19 trial, nearly forty people still slated to go on trial. It is unclear how recent events will impact them.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Cadman was found not guilty of inciting a riot. That charge had been thrown out by a judge after a Motion for Judgement of Acquittal.