SEATTLE — Dozens of protesters arrested by Seattle police may never have to face criminal charges.
In a controversial move, City Attorney Pete Holmes announced Wednesday he won't prosecute some misdemeanor cases involving peaceful protesters.
Instead, they will be assigned to a deferment program or some cases could be dismissed.
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office is responsible for deciding whether misdemeanor offenses committed in the city should be prosecuted.
Felony-level incidents such as assaults on officers, looting, burglary, hate crimes and firearms-based crimes will be handled by the King County Prosecutor's Office.
“After two weeks of anguished demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd and the killing of other unarmed black men by police, it is plain to me that peaceful protesters should not be prosecuted despite having been arrested during events that have sometimes devolved into violent and destructive confrontations with Seattle police and supporting law enforcement agencies,” Holmes said in a news release.
He also says while protesters are rightfully angry, he can’t simply ignore the cases, especially reckless endangerment or lower-level assaults.
Instead, he will redirect people ages 18-24 to a nonprofit called CHOOSE 180 -- a diversion program.
“My attorneys will take a close look at each police report, including body camera video, to identify appropriate referral candidates,” Holmes said.
Those who participate will have no criminal record from the incident.
Releasing protesters from jail has been something the ongoing protests have demanded for the last two weeks.
Holmes said no one is currently in jail for misdemeanor crimes stemming from recent demonstrations.
Thirty-seven misdemeanor cases have been referred to his office for offenses like obstructing police, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.
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