Attorneys for a gaggle of protesters charged with “aiding a legal road gang” following an October anti-police brutality demonstration in Phoenix are accusing prosecutors of deceptive a grand jury and concocting a fictitious gang.
Protection attorneys for the group filed a collection of motions just lately demanding the circumstances be thrown out or despatched again to the grand jury.
Fifteen adults and three teenagers have been arrested by Phoenix police on the October 17 demonstration in downtown Phoenix after they marched on the street, toppled barricades, and allegedly tossed smoke bombs. The Maricopa County Lawyer’s Workplace subsequently obtained grand jury indictments for 15 of them on a depend of assisting a criminal street gang, a felony offense, together with different costs like rioting and obstructing a public thoroughfare. Advocacy teams just like the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona have called for the charges to be dropped, accusing police and prosecutors of political persecution.
Public defenders for the group say the circumstances needs to be dismissed or despatched again to the grand jury for a “redetermination of possible trigger.” They accuse the lead prosecutor on the case, April Sponsel, a former gang prosecutor, of “withholding exculpatory proof” from the grand jury and say she “repeatedly vouched” for, and “didn’t right inaccurate or deceptive testimony” from law enforcement officials.
In grand jury proceedings, the one events current are members of the grand jury, prosecutors, their witnesses, and a court docket reporter. Defendants and their legal professionals usually are not allowed to attend or current totally different proof or counter-arguments. Critics of the method argue that it’s one-sided to profit prosecutors.
Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Lawyer’s Workplace, didn’t reply to Phoenix New Instances’ request for touch upon the allegations made within the motions.
The motions, which have been filed on January 29 and February 8, take intention on the opening assertion that Sponsel gave to the grand jury on October 27, 2020. Police who testified earlier than the jury accused the protesters of being a part of a violent legal road gang known as “ACAB” — “ACAB” means “All Cops Are Bastards,” a phrase generally used at protests in opposition to police violence — as a result of they wore all-black clothes, chanted the phrase, and put it on indicators, in accordance with transcripts that have been entered into the court docket report.
Sponsel offered the concept that ACAB is a gang as established truth in her opening assertion.
“A number of people with a corporation generally known as ACAB, often known as All Cops Are Bastards, met down in downtown Phoenix with a purpose to take part in a riot. These people entered into the streets with umbrellas that shielded them from the law enforcement officials. They then rotated and threw smoke bombs at law enforcement officials. They then ultimately have been arrested after throwing barricades and issues of that nature into the streets,” Sponsel mentioned. She went on to assert that officers have been “assaulted” by protesters as a result of they dug “their nails” into the “arms and arms” of officers to disrupt arrests.
The protection attorneys argue that Sponsel’s assertion amounted to a deceptive presentation of unproven assertions that skewed the attitude of members of the grand jury.
“The prosecutor selected to provide testimony and private opinion below the skinny guise of an ‘opening assertion,'” reads a movement filed on February Eight by Matthew Burow, an legal professional with the Workplace of the Authorized Advocate who’s representing defendant Brenda Guadalupe Diaz. “‘The prosecutor states that every one these people belong to a fictitious ‘ACAB’ gang. That assertion is just an opinion. To be able to maintain the cost of Aiding a Legal Road Gang, the grand jurors should pay attention first to witness testimony earlier than deliberating.”
The movement went on to accuse Sponsel of successfully turning into a “testifying witness” throughout the course of.
“ACAB shouldn’t be a gang. It’s actually a phrase that has been used for many years. There are punk songs, British punk songs about it,” Jared Keenan, a senior employees legal professional with the American Civil Liberties of Arizona, instructed Phoenix New Instances. “To say that it’s a gang is absurd.”
Doug McBride, a sergeant with the Phoenix Police Division and a former gang detective, instructed the grand jury that the so-called “ACAB” gang is just like well-known violent gangs just like the Bloods, Crips, and the Hells Angels, in accordance with court docket transcripts. He claimed that the group makes an attempt to “commit violent acts of aggravated assault in opposition to police” on a weekly foundation, and that their members “sharpen their fingernails” into factors and “dig into” officers’ arms to disrupt arrests.
The identical movement goes on to argue that prosecutors didn’t current exculpatory proof that will negate the discovering of possible trigger that Diaz was a part of a legal road gang. It cites police physique digital camera footage that reveals protesters chanting different phrases like “black lives matter” and the title of individuals killed by legislation enforcement, like Dion Johnson.
“The State contends that ‘ACAB’ shouldn’t be a political slogan however is a legal road gang,” the movement reads. “This lacking exculpatory proof would have been very important to the grand jury. The grand jury might have simply decided that the mantra of ‘ACAB’ was not made in effort to establish with any legal road gang, however somewhat, to deliver consciousness of vital social points. ‘ACAB’ — whereas admittedly impolite and unseemly — is an applicable type of expression worthy of the general public sq. and guarded below bedrock and sacrosanct ideas of free speech on this nation.”
A protection movement dated January 29 says prosecutors didn’t disclose exculpatory proof in opposition to defendant Ryder Collins, and didn’t right “deceptive testimony” by officers.
Collins, a resident of Prescott Valley, was in downtown Phoenix on the evening of the October protest to take images when he stumbled upon the protesters, in accordance with the movement. Video of the protest recorded by Jennifer Harrison, the controversial chief of the right-wing AZ Patriots, captured Collins asking Harrison and the particular person she was with in regards to the protesters. The change occurs at across the 20-minute mark of the video recorded by Harris, embedded under.
“Um, this little group of commies is working round, knocking over indicators, they have their umbrellas … Antifa,” Harrison says.
Collins responds, “I got here down right here from Prescott, simply doing road images, after which I noticed this shit pop off.”
He then follows the protest till a Phoenix police officer, recognized within the movement as Sergeant Groat, orders him out of the road whereas he is crossing in a marked crosswalk. Collins walks away from the world. The identical officer additionally yells out, presumably to a fellow officer, “Spider, watch that man proper there, he is with them, grey backpack!”
On the identical time, Harrison was close by in the course of the intersection and was instructed a number of occasions by Groat to get out of the highway. The movement alleges that Groat’s body-camera footage reveals officers deciding to not arrest Harrison and the girl she was with, a transfer that “illustrates what seems to be an arbitrary determination to arrest Mr. Collins, and to not arrest the 2 people who have been within the intersection and required a number of warnings to vacate.”
Collins instructed arresting officers that he was from Prescott Valley and had no prior information of the protest.
“Hey guys, um I stay in Prescott, Valley, um yah, I am a nurse in Prescott,” he mentioned. “I come out right here to do images I did not know this was a factor ’til a few half hour in the past.”
One officer responded, “Shoulda stayed in Prescott.”
Later, throughout reserving, one other officer’s physique digital camera footage confirmed defendant Riley Behrens stating that Collins wasn’t concerned within the protest.
“That child in there within the back-right nook, like, was not a part of the protest in any respect,” Behrens mentioned.
Through the grand jury proceedings, Sponsel requested Phoenix Police Officer Jefferey Raymond, “Almost about Ryder Collins, when officers have been making an attempt to get a deal with on the whole group, did he truly run up on officers and attempt to impede their capability to take these people below arrest by working up on the officers making an attempt to distract them?”
Raymond answered, “Sure.”
When Sponsol questioned McBride, she requested him if it appeared that Collins was “working in live performance” with the protesters. McBride mentioned, “Sure, he did.” He additionally mentioned that Collins was “in and across the group all through the whole evening.”
However the movement alleges that Sponsel “had in her possession” footage that will have confirmed that Collins was not with the protesters initially of the occasion and that she confirmed selective parts of it to the grand jury. Moreover, Sponsel allegedly had entry to Groat’s footage displaying Collins strolling in a crosswalk and complying when ordered to get out of the road, audio of the dialog between Groat and his commander concerning not arresting Harris, and video of Collins’ arrest. Different video that prosecutors had of their possession allegedly reveals an officer questioning the legality of Collins’ arrest throughout reserving.
All of this proof was allegedly withheld from the grand jury.
“Ms. Sponsel took it upon herself to testify to the grand jury and create a story which might match the indictment she wished to be returned in opposition to Mr. Collins and his co-defendants,” the movement goes on the state.
Keenan mentioned that the motions characterize egregious prosecutorial misconduct.
“She’s presenting lies to the grand jury, false testimony, and even when it was arguably true, she’s then below an obligation to point out the movies that undercut that testimony. She did neither,” Keenan mentioned. “Talking out in opposition to police violence is under no circumstances equal to making an attempt to focus on police as a gang. To counsel that’s problematic to the First Modification, to a free society, and to the very basis of our nation. I can’t stress sufficient how troubling these prosecutions are.”
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