The Minneapolis City Attorney’s office dismissed charges Friday against Jordan Kushner, a local attorney who was facing a trial for obstructing University of Minnesota police during a demonstration last fall.
City Attorney Susan Segal said that the misdemeanor charges were dismissed because she wanted to “allow my office to focus on higher priority matters.”
She added, “the evidence supports the charges brought by the University of Minnesota police. There has been no change in our opinion of the facts.”
Kushner, who has maintained he was innocent, responded Friday that if Segal believed what was in the police reports, “it would be irresponsible for her to drop the charges. She is being dishonest.”
He said he believed she dismissed the case “because it was clear that the allegations in the police reports were false.”
The case had been scheduled to go to trial in Hennepin District Court in July.
Kushner has frequently represented demonstrators in criminal cases as well as in lawsuits against the city, and has won settlements worth several hundred thousand dollars total.
He was arrested Nov. 3 on charges of obstructing a police officer and refusing to leave a University of Minnesota lecture hall where pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to shout down a pro-Israeli law professor from New York.
Kushner has said that before the protest, he e-mailed protest organizers, urging them to conduct a demonstration without shouting down the speaker. He said he attended the protest as an unofficial legal observer.
When protesters began disrupting the speech, Kushner started taking video with his cellphone of the police interaction with demonstrators. A police officer told him to stop taking the video, but Kushner said he had a right to do so and initially refused. He objected when police told him to leave the lecture hall and was arrested.
Other protesters arrested
Two other protesters were also arrested. One pleaded guilty and agreed to “service to sentence,” which generally entails participating on a work crew. The other agreed to service to sentence on condition the case would be continued without prosecution. Kushner was offered a similar deal but declined.
Kushner has said he was politically targeted by the city attorney’s office and university police, which the city attorney’s office denied.
At a hearing in January, every seat in the small courtroom was filled with protesters who supported Kushner. Six assistant city attorneys and the head of the office’s criminal division sat in the jury box to watch.
In her statement Friday, Segal said her office supported the action of police in removing the protesters, who she said caused a delay and disruption of the event.
“The university is dedicated to learning and the free and fair exchange of ideas and had the right to ensure that the talk by the visiting law professor could proceed,” she said.
The dismissal of charges against Kushner came as something of a surprise because only last week the city attorney’s office filed 18 motions in connection with the case.
Among the motions was a request for a gag order that would have barred Kushner and his attorney from speaking to the news media during the trial.
In January, assistant city attorney Sarah Becker tried to prevent Kushner from representing himself as one of the lawyers, but Judge Marta Chou rejected the motion.