DA drops all remaining charges against Elijah McClain protest leaders

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Protestors gather at the Aurora Police Department District 1 Substation on 17th Place and Wheeling Street, July 3, 2020. (Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | The district attorney for Arapahoe County on Monday agreed to dismiss all remaining criminal charges against three people who led protests across Aurora last summer, nearly a year to the day after his predecessor filed a slew of counts, including multiple felonies, against the trio.

District Attorney John Kellner dismissed the dozen remaining counts filed against Joel Northam, Lillian House and Terrance Roberts, court records indicate. The group were facing petty and misdemeanor counts of tampering, theft, obstructing a highway and harassment.

“The people feel that the ends of justice could not be further served by continued prosecution of the defendant as to all counts because the defendant has completed the agreed-upon requirements for dismissal including completion of community service,” Kellner wrote in all three motions to dismiss.

The announcement from the largest judicial district serving Aurora caps a saga that originally could have equated to decades in prison for the leaders affiliated with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Prosecutors in both of Aurora’s judicial districts have slowly trimmed down the original list of charges filed against half a dozen people who protested the death of Elijah McClain in Aurora last summer.

“We always believed that these cases were brought for political reasons and were an unacceptable impingement on our clients’ freedom of speech and the people’s right to protest,” Amelia Power, an attorney who represented House in the cases, said in an email. “The Aurora protests in the summer of 2020 were focused on holding the APD officers accountable for the killing of Elijah McClain. Today, those officers are charged and our clients are free from criminal prosecution. Justice has truly occurred.”

The district attorney for the Adams County portion of Aurora, Brian Mason, in May dismissed nearly two dozen charges, including multiple felonies, filed last September by his former boss, Dave Young.

House, Northam, Terrance Roberts and two others were accused of coordinating, engaging in and inciting a riot outside of an Aurora police station on the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus on July 3.

In Arapahoe County, Kellner dropped the most serious charges against the trio in April. He dropped additional felonies against yet another protester shortly after he was sworn into office in January.

A smattering of people who participated in the demonstrations last year still face prosecution, including a man accused of firing a gun into a crowd gathered on an Arapahoe County stretch of Interstate 225 as a Jeep sped through the area last July. The alleged gunman has a motions hearing set for February, court dockets indicate. Prosecutors did not pursue criminal charges against the driver of the Jeep.

In Adams County, another man accused of several misdemeanors related to the gathering in front of the Aurora police substation has a hearing set for Sept. 27, dockets show. Earlier this summer, a trial was set to begin in the case in October.

A recurring demand of the protesters who were eventually charged was that criminal charges be brought against the first responders who detained, restrained and sedated McClain as he was walking home from a convenience store in 2019.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that the state grand jury had indicted the three Aurora police officers and two fire paramedics who interacted with McClain on a litany of felony charges, including criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault.

“One of the things we did last summer was establish ourselves,” Northam said in an interview with Breakthrough News on Monday. “The movement here is a strategic deterrent against these cops’ brutal tactics. Now they’re the ones that have to walk on eggshells  …. I believe the fundamental lesson that we all need to take away form this is that the injustice that we’re faced with every day in this country — It is not unchangeable. It is not fixed. It is not static.”

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