Federal prosecutors have dismissed more than one-third of cases stemming from last summer’s violent protests in downtown Portland, when protesters clashed with federal agents. KGW reviewed federal court records and found 31 of the 90 protest cases have been dismissed by the U.S. Department of Justice, including a mix of misdemeanor and felony charges.
Some of the most serious charges dropped include four defendants charged with assaulting a federal officer, which is a felony. More than half of the dropped charges were “dismissed with prejudice,” which several former federal prosecutors described as extremely rare. “Dismissed with prejudice” means the case can’t be brought back to court.
The dismissal of protest cases runs counter to the tough talk coming from the U.S. Department of Justice last summer. Billy Williams, then-U.S. Attorney for Oregon, vowed there would be consequences for the nightly graffiti, fires and vandalism outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.
“Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time,” said Williams in a Sept. 25, 2020 press release.
In a recent interview with KGW, Williams explained the cases were dismissed in instances where prosecutors didn’t believe they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Each case was analyzed for the evidence that we had at the time,” said Williams. “Careful decisions were made on whether or not someone should be charged based on the evidence.”
Williams explained decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
“Everything is case-specific when you go about these cases being processed through the system,” said Williams, who stepped down on Feb. 28. U.S. attorneys are traditionally asked to resign at the start of a new administration.
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