Nearly half of reviewed cases from RNC are thrown out

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2008 - 8:47 PM

Of 241 cases, 112 have been tossed. However, only about half of the cases have been reviewed -- and that excludes nearly 400 from a major clash on the final day.

St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said Tuesday his office has declined or dismissed about 46 percent of the cases that have been reviewed so far for misdemeanor and gross-misdemeanor charges stemming from arrests at the Republican National Convention in September.

Choi said they're "at the halfway mark" now and by the end of the year his office hopes to have reviewed all cases except those involving arrests made on Sept. 4, the last day of the convention, on the Marion Street Bridge. The city attorney's office will tackle those cases starting in January, he said. There were about 396 arrests on the bridge, he said.

"The public should expect, with respect to the Marion Street Bridge cases, that first appearances will be scheduled in Ramsey County District Court sometime in February, maybe late January," Choi said.

Of the 241 cases in which charging decisions have been made:

• 112 have been declined or dismissed. That number includes 34 journalists arrested for being at an unlawful assembly and two men whose charges were dismissed by the city attorney's office because they were charged in federal court.

• 48 have been resolved by either a guilty plea or payment of a fine as part of a continuance for dismissal. Most of the fines were $224, Choi said.

• 81 have been formally charged and are pending trial. The majority of the charges include unlawful assembly; third-degree riot; presence at an unlawful assembly, and false information to police.

Police, who are still investigating cases, presented 37 additional cases Tuesday for the city attorney's office to review for possible charges.

The Ramsey County attorney's office has charged 18 adults with more serious felony charges. Of those, two men have pleaded guilty and 16 cases are pending. One other case is being reviewed for possible charges, Paul Gustafson, a spokesman for the county attorney's office, said Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, Dustin P. Machett Morales, 19, of California pleaded guilty to breaking windows at the U.S. Bank building on Sept. 1, the first day of the convention. He will be sentenced Feb. 5 by District Judge Paulette Flynn. Joseph M. Robinson, 26, of Washington state pleaded guilty to slashing tires on a delegate bus and was sentenced Dec. 12 to three years' probation and 100 hours of community service.

A group of defendants known as the RNC 8, who are charged with second-degree conspiracy to riot and three other felonies, will be in court on Jan. 26 for a motion hearing on a proposed gag order.

Choi said the public should not conclude if a case is declined or dismissed that police didn't have probable cause for the arrest or they acted inappropriately. Standards for a probable-cause arrests are far different than standards for prosecution, he said.

"You get some groups out there who want you to just drop the charges," he said. "I think that would be the wrong approach. ... I can't stress enough: If we don't have evidence to move forward, we don't prosecute.

"However, if we do have the evidence that crimes were committed, then we absolutely will proceed and we'll do everything we can to hold the offender accountable for the crimes they've committed."

Choi also said Tuesday that the city has not been served with any lawsuits nor have any been filed in connection with the convention. His office has received notice of two potential lawsuits from attorneys, he said.

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551

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