The U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., is dropping charges against 129 people accused of rioting on President Trump’s inauguration day, reports USA Today. Prosecutors made the decision after a jury found the first six defendants to stand trial not guilty. The government said it would “focus its efforts on this smaller, core group that we believe is most responsible for the destruction and violence that took place on Inauguration Day.” Protests on Jan. 20, 2017, resulted in 234 people being charged or arrested with mostly felony charges. Prosecutors will move forward against 59 defendants who they said helped plan the demonstration and displayed “black-bloc” tactics.
Critics had charged that prosecutors were dragging the defendants through the legal process in order to send a message. During the first trial, prosecutors conceded there was no evidence to support that the six defendants had committed any violence. Instead, they tried to explain the protesters were complicit in the violence because they did not remove themselves from the destruction. Previously, 20 defendants have had their cases dismissed and another 20 have pleaded to lesser charges, often misdemeanor rioting carrying a fine and community service. One person, Dane Powell, 32, went to prison. He pleaded guilty to felony rioting and assault on a police officer and got a four-month prison term.