Black Lives Matter protesters in Salt Lake City have been accused of splashing paint on a road and smashing the windows of the district attorney’s building in a July protest, and now, the charges against them theirs have a maximum life sentence in prison.
Prosecutors on Tuesday charged several protesters with the crimes, The Associated Press reported. The charges have more serious consequences because Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill updated them with a “band improvement,” which increases penalties for “crimes committed in concert with two or more people or in connection with a gang.”; criminal street “, according to state code.
With the improvement, second-degree pardon charges, which typically have a sentence of 1 to 15 years, can be upgraded to jail.
Prosecutors said the charges are justified because protesters worked together to cause damage of thousands of dollars, the AP said.
One of those protesters is 28-year-old Magdalene McNeil, who according to arrest records, was charged with felony abuse and rioting, according to CBS affiliate KUTV. Records claim McNeil bought red paint at the Home Depot before a July 9 protest and later stoned a police officer.
According to KUTV, the July 9 protest was held after Gill said the shooting with the officer that led to the death of Bernardo Palacio was justified.
McNeil, who said he spent Tuesday in jail but has since been released, told KUTV he did nothing wrong, but that “it would be nonsense to look at the potential of life in prison and not have for “.
He tweeted about what happened Wednesday, confirming he has been charged with a felony for “changing my weight in front of a police officer.”
“This is unacceptable,” McNeil tweeted, “not just for me, but for everyone involved.”
Although Gill updated the allegations against the protesters, he told the Associated Press that he does not believe “anyone will go to jail for it.” Criminal cases are usually resolved when defendants claim minors, AP said.
“These are not protests. These are people who are in criminal conduct,” he said.
Gill’s charges have met fierce opposition in Salt Lake City, including Mayor Erin Mendenhall of the Salt Lake City mayor.
The “potential punishment some protesters face is excessive,” she said in a tweeted video Wednesday.
“While I think there would be consequences for breaking the law, the potential of spending life in prison to buy paint is too serious,” he added.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that many have accused the district attorney of filing excessive charges and criticized the charges as a conflict of interest. Broken windows and splattered paint were part of his office building and surrounding area, and protesters have denounced his lawyer’s name, Tribune reports.
According to the newspaper, seven people have been charged with first-degree penalties for allegedly helping to buy, transport or help splash paint on the street or for breaking shop windows. Lawyers for some of the defendants described the charges in the Tribune as “retaliation” and claimed Gill is “altered by the damage done to his beautiful building.”
KUTV reported that prosecutors estimate the protesters caused more than $ 50,000 in damage to the DA’s office.
Attorney Jason Groth, Utah ACLU’s social justice coordinator, told the AP that by using these enhanced charges, prosecutors are “calling participants into a protest gang.”
Gill has said that while it was his office that filed the charges, it will be someone else who handles the case, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. But Groth explained that Gill still made the decision to charge these protesters.
“That’s one of the most powerful things about being a prosecutor,” he told Tribune. “You have these options. You can make these decisions. And how you decide or decide not to make these decisions not only affects a person’s case trajectory, but the entire criminal justice system.”