JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The State Attorney’s Office says it won’t be pursuing charges against 48 protesters arrested May 31 during demonstrations in Downtown Jacksonville.
According to a disposition document released Friday, the State Attorney’s Office reviewed multiple videos recorded during the day, including drone and aerial video from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, along with the arrest and booking reports for each protester.
All of those whose charges have been dropped were charged with either unlawful assembly, resisting an officer without violence or both.
“Based upon the law, the facts, and the circumstances involved, this office declines to file charges on each of the cases,” the disposition read.
The State Attorney’s Office had already filed an electronic notice saying that after reviewing evidence it would not prosecute a Jacksonville pastor who was arrested for unlawful assembly on May 31 while on Facebook Live during a protest.
Sheriff Mike Williams said Friday on “The Morning Show” that charges being dropped by the State Attorney doesn’t necessarily mean his officers made bad arrests.
“Keep in mind this, the level of probable cause, the level to make an arrest is different and not as high as the level that she may need to prosecute that case in court,” Williams said. “It’s not the fact that we made arrests that were illegal. That’s not the case. But there’s a different threshold for her to have to prosecute those cases then there is for us to make the arrest in the street.”
Williams said his department has been talking with the State Attorney all week about the arrests and the documentation involved and whether she could move forward with prosecution.
“We still feel like on Saturday and Sunday that we took the necessary steps to keep the city safe,” Williams said of the chaotic weekend of protests last month.
According to a State Attorney’s Office spokesman, charges from arrests on May 30 are still under review.
The Public Defender’s Office identified at least 70 people arrested during the May 30 and 31 protests on charges of unlawful assembly. Based on News4Jax reviews and information from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, 79 people were arrested that weekend.
Things turned ugly late in the first day of peaceful protests downtown, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
One officer was hospitalized after he was sliced on the neck and others had minor injures as bottles and rocks were thrown, police cars and a few downtown buildings were vandalized.
On Thursday, JSO identified and arrested a 22-year-old man accused of attacking an officer. Martin Bryan Silvera-Albor was charged with simple battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief and resisting an officer without violence.
Among those whose charges were dropped was Chad Hollett, who was arrested on May 31. His attorney said he found video that showed 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.
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.