Washington, DC – D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham has called for restructuring of the city’s rioting laws, after none of the 234 people arrested during Inauguration Day riots were successfully charged.
“These are people that were involved in a riot. And whenever you have a riot you see fires burning, you see windows being smashed, you see rocks, boulders and pieces of steel being thrown at human beings,” Chief Newsham said in June, according to The Washington Post.
“People expect the police to come in and restore order. And I think we did a really good job of that,” he added.
Officers arrested a total of 234 people during the Jan. 20, 2017 uprising, which caused over $100,000 in damages, WTOP reported.
Twenty-one individuals pleaded guilty to their offenses prior to going to trial.
One of those individuals, Dane Powell, served four months in jail for shattering windows and throwing bricks and rocks at police.
214 suspects were indicted on charges, and each faced a potential penalty of 70 years in prison.
But when prosecutors took the first six defendants to trial, jurors found each of them not guilty, prompting prosecutors to drop the charges against the remaining defendants.
“No judicial officers or judges who heard any of the cases ever suggested there wasn’t probable cause for the arrests,” Chief Newsham told WTOP. “Making a case [at trial] beyond a reasonable doubt is a much higher standard.”
Investigators and prosecutors said the masks and black clothing worn by hundreds of the demonstrators made it hard to specifically identify the group of people who caused the destruction.
“Essentially what they were doing was facilitating the illegal behavior, and whenever you make a facilitation case, that’s a difficult case for prosecutors to make,” Chief Newsham explained. “We should consider taking a look at the statute for rioting and maybe adjusting that in a way that protects our city.”
The chief noted that police and prosecutors weren’t the only ones who felt that the individuals responsible for the riotous events should be held accountable.
“I haven’t run into a person yet that wasn’t absolutely appalled by the images they saw in Washington, D.C., that day,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has a tolerance for that.”
“Sometimes the bad guys win,” Chief Newsham told The Washington Post.