Most remaining charges dropped for Lexington KY protesters

Nearly all pending charges against racial justice protesters who were arrested in 2020 during protests following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have been dropped, according to a lawyer representing the protesters.

Attorney Daniel Whitley, who represented almost all of those arrested in connection with the protests, said the agreement was reached following mediation.

Whitley represented nearly 25 pro bono people who were charged in connection with the racial justice protests. Their charges ranged from disorderly conduct, jaywalking, obstruction of justice and rioting, among other offences.

One such client was Liane Woodhead, who was facing charges of second-degree disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway. The settlement was offered in early September for the charges to be dismissed with prejudice, so the defendants could not sue for malicious prosecution, according to Woodhead. She said she felt it was a deal worth making.

She said that while the dismissal was a relief, she didn’t think the charges should have been on her file.

“It was really a relief because it took a lot of time – you have to take time off from work,” she said. “And as a taxpayer here in Fayette County, the money that has been wasted prosecuting activists and people speaking out against injustices against people of color; it’s a waste of time and money and it seemed like there was no need for it.

Whitley said he believed the decision to drop the charges was largely due to the outcome of the case against Sarah Williams, a protest organizer who was arrested and tried in July for inciting a riot, resisting arrest, possession of drugs and disorderly conduct. She was found not guilty of all but one disorderly conduct charge.

“I think County Attorney Larry Roberts, after the trial, re-examined the cases and decided to use better discretion with his office’s resources and dismiss the case,” Whitley said.

The county attorney’s office did not provide further information regarding the cases before publication.

Whitley said having former Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone mediate the cases also had a big impact on the decision to “bring the level heads together.”

He said as a lawyer in many cases – most of which are misdemeanor charges – he felt relieved when the decision was made.

“It’s a good thing when you see that in Lexington we are moving towards a better future and looking at the law differently,” he said.

Whitley also said her clients now have the option to move on with their lives.

“These people have no criminal history,” he said. “These are doctors and social workers who felt compelled to speak up and stand up. Their licenses and jobs have been put on the line because of it, and now they can become ordinary citizens again. »

One of them was Williams, who she said had her nursing license suspended due to her accusations. Whitley said her name has also been dragged through the mud with false claims and accusations.

“In history, we always marvel at those who stood up for equality, be it gender, race, sexuality,” he said. “But those who stand up for the first time often face the greatest consequence.

“I hope we can find a career and a job for Sarah, because it was her voice and her determination that shocked the city – which has made all this progress – of what she has done in this community with her willingness to stand up and make a change.”

Whitley said he hopes progress will continue to be made for racial and social justice. In Fayette County, the first black county prosecutor is sworn in at the end of this month. Angela Evans defeated incumbent Roberts in the May primary.

Roberts decided to step down from his post at the end of the month and allow Evans, who had no opponent in the general election, to take office.

Roberts has not commented on this story, but previously told the Herald-Leader that he was allowing Evans to take the job early so she could begin hiring prosecutors to fill vacancies.

“The reason I did this isn’t to stop working – I love this place – but we have six vacancies in our office for prosecutors that need to be filled,” Roberts told the Herald-Leader. . “The bar exam results (are) in October and I don’t want to wait and fill these positions in October without her being involved because they will work for her. She should choose.

Additionally, Fayette’s outgoing Commonwealth Solicitor Lou Anna Red Corn has requested that Deputy Commonwealth Solicitor Kimberly Baird take her place once Red Corn retires on September 30. Baird would also be the first black woman to hold the position.

“I think as a community we have to congratulate ourselves because we’re not just talking about racial equality anymore — we’re seeing women in positions of power,” Whitley said.

Some of those involved in the protest had already taken plea deals, pleaded guilty and even served time in prison for their charges. Whitley said charges dropped against those with pending cases would have no effect on previously resolved cases.

According to court records, sentences ranged from jail to fines and probation.

“It’s not about guilt or innocence sometimes when they plead guilty. It’s about risk,” Whitley said. “And these people have accepted responsibility to avoid risk.”

One protester’s case is still ongoing, Whitley said. He was due to have a jury trial later this month for second-degree disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and resisting arrest.

Taylor Six is ​​the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington at Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as a government reporter for the Richmond Register.

About Harold Fergus

Check Also

Lexington Tree Service Experts Help New Client Save Tree With Tree Trimming

Created to help Kentucky homeowners keep their trees healthy, Tree Service Experts Lexington yesterday helped …