Protest charges dropped

Sep 15, 1999 at 12:00 am

Washtenaw County prosecutors have again come up short in their attempts to hang felony convictions around the necks of protesters who demonstrated against a Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor last year.

Friday Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald E. Shelton dismissed felony riot charges against eight people who protested at the May 9 rally at city hall.

Shelton’s opinion said the counter-demonstrators, who were accused of throwing rocks at the police and KKK, were not rioting because they did not risk causing "public terror or alarm." Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that police are part of the public under the riot statute.

The defendants, ages 18 to 24, faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The dismissals are a coup for the anti-Klan protesters and their lawyers, who have routinely referred to the prosecutions as a "witch-hunt." Washtenaw prosecutors originally charged more than 20 people in connection with the counter-protest. Most of those charges have been dismissed.

In June, a Washtenaw circuit court jury acquitted 16-year-old Ryan Lang of rioting ("Prosecution or persecuted?" MT, July 14—20, 1999). In July, a district judge dropped misdemeanor malicious destruction of property charges against nine people accused of damaging a temporary fence the city had rented for the rally.

Shelton did uphold two felony charges – an inciting to riot charge against Robin Alvarez of Ann Arbor and an aggravated assault charge against East Lansing resident Thomas Doxey Jr. Those cases are scheduled for trial between now and October’s end.

Three misdemeanor charges – two assaults and one property damage – were still pending Monday.