Public defender: State Attorney’s Office reviewing protest videos to determine whether to drop charges

Video from May 31 protest
Video from May 31 protest

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The State Attorney’s Office is reviewing multiple videos showing protesters being arrested on May 30 and 31.

The video reviews are to determine how many of the dozens arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly will have their charges dropped, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

Already, the State Attorney’s Office filed an electronic notice saying that after reviewing evidence, it would not prosecute a Jacksonville pastor, who was arrested on May 31 while on Facebook Live during a protest, for misdemeanor unlawful assembly.

An attorney for Chad Hollett, who was arrested on May 31 during a protest, is asking charges to be dropped in his case, too, after finding video that shows an officer putting his arm around his client’s neck and then another officer running in and punching the man in the face during the arrest. In interviews with News4Jax days after his arrest, Hollett said he had two black eyes.

“I pulled up the video and I was shocked -- just shocking that the officers would do on video exactly what the protesters are telling them: ‘We are not going to stand for this anymore,’” said attorney Mitch Stone, who is representing Hollett.

The Public Defender’s Office has identified at least 70 people arrested during the May 30 and 31 protests on charges unlawful assembly while protesting police brutality, records show.

“We are trying to go through them to see what we can do to have those charges dropped. And I think that’s going to be appropriate in many of the cases,” said Public Defender Charlie Cofer.

On May 31, hours before a curfew, an “order to disperse was given” and Hollett refused, an arrest report stated. But the report did not mention the force seen in the video.

“I certainly believe they overstepped their bounds. I certainly believe there was excessive force. It’s the exact type of contact we’re trying to stop,” Stone said. “And whether it’s charging them with crimes to prevent that from happening or whether it’s disciplining them or kicking them off the force, but something needs to happen to make sure the message is sent to every police officer."

The matter involving Hollett is still being reviewed with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Department, according to Officer Christian Hancock.

The State Attorneys Office said it did not yet have an update on how many of the protesters will have their charges dropped.

About the Author: