Arapahoe County DA withdraws felony charges against Elijah McClain protest leaders

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AURORA | Arapahoe County prosecutors on Monday agreed to toss out a slew of criminal charges filed against three people who had been accused of inciting and engaging in riots at racial justice demonstrations across Aurora last summer.

Attorneys from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have filed several motions and amended complaints against 26-year-old Lillian House, 33-year-old Joel Northam, and 44-year-old Terrance Roberts, notably dismissing the eight individual felony counts filed against both Northam and House last September. Judge Elizabeth Weishaupl indicated she would sign off on the newly filed documents Monday.

House was originally charged with 18 criminal charges in Arapahoe County, including felony counts of inciting a riot and theft, for her role in protests held near the Aurora Municipal Center on June 27, July 12 and July 25. Northam faced 19 counts for his involvement — including eight felonies — while Roberts was facing four misdemeanor charges.

The newly amended complaints now only accuses House of four counts: misdemeanor tampering, petty theft and a pair of identical misdemeanor charges for obstructing a highway. Northam now faces seven charges, comprising five misdemeanors and a pair of petty offenses.

Roberts is accused of the sole misdemeanor charge of obstructing a highway.

The reductions significantly alter the threat of incarceration for both House and Northam, who could have been sentenced to years of prison time for each former felony charge. The classification of the current tampering charge levied against both of them could carry up to a year in jail and or a $1,000 fine, while the obstruction charges could each result in up to six months of incarceration and additional financial penalties.

House, Northam and Roberts were all briefly incarcerated in Denver after they were arrested last year, according to county records.

The charges stem from a series of demonstrations organized last summer to protest the death of Elijah McClain in August 2019. Thousands of people gathered for the events that shut down interstate 225 multiple times and resulted in at-times chaotic clashes between residents and police.

District attorneys in Aurora’s 17th and 18th Judicial Districts announced dozens of charges against a total of six people involved in the demonstrations late last summer. The prosecutors who levied the accusations, Republican George Brauchler in Arapahoe County and Democrat Dave Young in Adams County, have since both left their positions due to term limits.

The motions discussed in open court Monday come about two weeks after a judge in Adams County tossed out additional attempted kidnapping charges against House and two other Party for Socialism and Liberation leaders. House and her companions, Joel Northam and Whitney Lucero, still face multiple felony charges in the north Aurora jurisdiction.

In January, prosecutors in the 18th judicial district dropped several felony charges filed against another protester, John Russel Ruch, shortly after new District Attorney John Kellner was sworn into office, The Denver Post first reported.

That same month, police penned an affidavit seeking the arrest of a Denver man accused of launching fireworks into the municipal courthouse, causing tens of thousands dollars of damage, the evening of July 25. The felony charges filed against than man, 19-year-old Jordan Joseph White, remain unchanged, a spokesperson for the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office confirmed Monday.

House’s defense attorney Amelia Power commended prosecutors’ recent reduction in charges, but characterized the entire Arapahoe County case against her client as partisan litigation.

“While we believe Mr. Kellner’s administration took a step in the right direction today, the remaining charges are still born from a political prosecution of the leaders who spoke out against APD and in defense of Elijah McClain this summer and we will continue to defend Ms. House’s right to peacefully protest,” she wrote in an email.

Kellner’s office released a brief statement explaining the charge alterations Monday.

These changes were requested after a careful review of the investigation and the available evidence,” the statement reads. “Prosecutors must reasonably believe that charges are supported by probable cause, that admissible evidence will be sufficient to support conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the decision to charge is in the interest of justice.”

House is set to appear for an arraignment with Northam in her Arapahoe County case on April 19, court records show.

The pair will join Lucero for another arraignment in Adams County on May 11, while another protester, Trey Quinn, is slated for an arraignment in the same jurisdiction on April 27.

Roberts is scheduled to appear in Arapahoe County on April 6 and in Adams County on April 12.

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vern
vern
3 months ago

Judge Elizabeth Weishaupl’s record and standing is not a real positive one as I recall from checking her stats in Arapahoe County. I find her less than effective. Why not let let the charges stand and either a judge or jury decide where the blame lies? Stop being soft on law breakers- it only makes the situation worse.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
3 months ago

I thinks it’s reasonable to rethink these things, but I also think there should not be a repeat, first time shame on you, next time….. well, better not be a next time…
Bad judgements borne of emotion is still bad judgement.
We all need a breather….