#DropJ20 Podcast Update #3: Police Take the Stand

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“This means that a good chunk of the so-called evidence from that planning meeting that the prosecution is relying on only entered the trial because of Project Veritas.”

In this update from the first J20 trial, we’re taking an experimental approach. We’ve produced a non-fiction account of the fiction that an undercover cop and the commander of the Metropolitan Police Department’s on-the-ground police operations have testified to in open court. So when you hear things that sound too incredible to be true, remember that they’re coming straight out of the cops’ mouths.

The presentation of the government’s case against the first six of 194 J20 defendants continued this week with the examination of more government witnesses. Most notable among them were Bryan Adelmeyer, the undercover cop who infiltrated inauguration protest planning meetings; Detective David Evans, who coordinated the extraction of cell phone and other electronic data; and Commander Keith Deville, the current police commander for MPD who was in charge of all the police operations throughout DC during the inauguration.

We’ve previously reported on the undercover’s testimony, which was primarly used to admit into evidence a video of a DisruptJ20 planning meeting provided to MPD by the infamous Project Veritas. Although Adelmeyer initially claimed that he did not know much about Project Veritas, he stated during cross examination that he knew that Project Veritas was a far-Right group known for targeting and attempting to discredit leftist movements and individuals. He also admitted that he knew they are known for splicing footage.

At various points during the meeting, Adelmeyer was not actually in the breakout group where the footage was being recorded. Instead, he was up to 30 feet away in a room filled with 300 people. Thus, he was forced to admit under cross examination that he could not hear every word that was being said. This means that a good chunk of the so-called evidence from that planning meeting that the prosecution is relying on only entered the trial because of Project Veritas. It seems that both MPD and the prosecution are depending on ultraconservative, ultra-unethical ideologues to find evidence to substantiate these charges when the MPD’s own undercover investigative operation failed to find evidence of the alleged conspiracy to riot.

Adelmeyer, the undercover, also admitted that it is possible that there was more than one Project Veritas infiltrator at the planning meeting that was surreptitiously recorded. He further admitted that some of the voices heard in the video but not identified as coming from a known person could have been Project Veritas infiltrators as well.

“This attention to privacy and personal security is in striking contrast to the actions of an MPD staff person who released the names and identifying information for all the J20 arrestees to the right-wing website gotnews.com shortly after the mass arrest.”

During legal arguments about this video, the prosecutor was finally forced to admit that the government edited the video to protect the identities of both the undercover cop Adelmeyer and the unnamed Project Veritas infiltrator, who at one point recorded themselves looking into a mirror. This attention to privacy and personal security is in striking contrast to the actions of an MPD staff person who released the names and identifying information for all the J20 arrestees to the right-wing website gotnews.com shortly after the mass arrest. This release of information led to doxxing and threats against the arrestees and those close to them.

Other portions of Adelmeyer’s testimony also drastically changed under cross examination. When being questioned by the prosecution, he testified that he saw people from the march throw rocks at the BP gas station near Logan Circle. Under cross examination, however, he said, “I was a couple blocks down and never made it, like I said, up to the group.” He also admitted that “I couldn’t see the gas station. I think there’s one there. That’s why I said it.” His eye sight might be of interest to medical professionals if he is indeed able to see rocks from a couple blocks away but not a building.

Finally, some of Adelmeyer’s testimony seemed to support the defendants’ claims of “not guilty” more than the prosecution’s allegations of conspiracy and related charges. For example, he admitted that he believed the antifascist/anticapitalist protesters wanted to be “non-violent but confrontational.” He also admitted that there was discussion at the planning meeting about protecting protesters from attacks by fascists, and that one way of doing that would be to cover faces.

The next cop to testify was Detective David Evans, who extracts data from cell phones and other electronic devices by using programs such as Cellebrite. His testimony included confirmation that locked and encrypted cell phones reveal little data, often as little as the SIM card number and phone number registered to the individual associated with the phone number. When cell phones are unencrypted and don’t have passwords, though, programs like Cellebrite can extract all the data off the phone, categorize it into types such as text messages and pictures, and create detailed reports. In court, reports from a few phones seized during the mass arrest showed high levels of detail about text messages and emails stored on the phone. These details included identifying information about the sender and receivers, time each message was sent and received, and the contents of the messages.

“some of Adelmeyer’s testimony seemed to support the defendants’ claims of “not guilty” more than the prosecution’s allegations of conspiracy and related charges.”

Notably, the detective testified that they were unable to get any of this data off phones that are encrypted, whether that encryption is out-of-the-box or set by the user. His testimony didn’t include the fact that many people arrested that day did not have phones on them at all. No phones, no data!

But the juiciest testimony so far has come from Commander Keith Deville, the MPD commander in charge of on-the-ground operations in DC on J20. So far, he wins the award for the most utterances of “anarchist” both in audio recordings and in court. Early on in his testimony, he said, “Our information leading up to the inauguration was this particular group gathering at Logan Circle was going to be problematic. They were anarchists or anarchist ideology and anti-capitalist.” If you, dear listener, ever had any illusions that this was not a politically motivated case, don’t take our word for it. Take the word of the police commander who ordered the mass arrest that day. Now if only Kerkhoff, the prosecutor, would listen to one of her key witnesses and just drop these charges already.

Deville’s testimony revealed that he had decided to mass arrest the march basically from the moment they left Logan Circle. In a recording of the police radio channel used that day, Deville can be heard clearly.

He also stated many times that he declared the march a riot after a few incidents of property damage. Audio and video evidence displayed in court was synchronized by time stamp to show that he determined a riot was in progress when the march of several hundred people was passing by a park with signs and banners.

“Devilled turned tomato red while trying to figure out how to support the government’s case without getting caught in a lie.”

On cross examination, a defense attorney questioned Deville further about when exactly he declared the march a riot. DeVille turned tomato red while trying to figure out how to support the government’s case without getting caught in a lie, but nonetheless changed his testimony several times before the defense pulled up a video from a police body-worn camera of the march passing by the park at the moment he declared it a riot. Pausing the video on a still frame of a person using an assisted mobility scooter to march down the street, the defense attorney asked if Deville’s testimony was that this group, which he had claimed was sprinting down the street,was engaging in a riot. Deville answered: “… the group as a whole was engaged in the act of rioting. Yes.”

Much of the cross examination thus far has focused on how Deville clearly did not follow the MPD’s standard operating procedures for mass demonstrations, including issuing dispersal orders to the crowd and giving warning before deploying chemical or projectile weapons. At times, Deville testified that he simply did not follow some of the steps outlined in the standard operating procedures. At other times, he claimed that he didn’t need to follow them because the antifascist/anticapitalist march was not a protest but a riot. One defense attorney briefly pointed out that Deville has a bit of a reputation for being wrong about what he considers a riot by citing his past mishandling of protest during the Pershing Park incident and World Bank Protest in DC, before the prosecution objected claiming the way that Deville mischaracterizes protest was somehow irrelevant to the case.

A peculiar way of thinking is starting to emerge through the cross-examination of Deville that we call the Logan Circle Effect. Cops can declare protests to be riots, conveniently allowing them to ignore all the rules about how to police protests. They can then round up hundreds of people in a mass arrest, and those arrests are justified simply because the cops decided to round them up. This reasoning is as circular as the roundabout the march left from.

“Cops can declare protests To be riots, They can then round up hundreds of people in a mass arrest, and those arrests are justified simply because the cops decided to round them up. This reasoning is as circular as the roundabout the march left from.”

Even more disturbing, however, is how Deville characterized the wanton police brutality on J20 as “enormous restraint.” He first made this statement in an interview with the Internal Affairs Division about police operations on J20. He then testified that this was still his evaluataion of police conduct that day. When confronted with several videos of police harming protesters and bystanders unfortunate enough to get caught in their way, he backpedaled, saying that overall there was enormous restraint, but that he did not know the details of each use of riot batons, pepper spray, and sting balls, the so-called “less lethal” grendades that were thrown into the crowd and shown on body camera footage to have injured many people and knocked at least two to the ground.

A series of clips from body worn camera videos were played to the jury to show instances of cops pushing people to the ground from behind with their batons. After one of these videos, Deville was asked if the cop shown had used force appropriately. In response, Deville said, “But with regards to proper use, yes. There were two hands on it. They weren’t using it to vital parts of the body. They weren’t bludgeoning somebody. So not knowing the circumstances behind why they were pushing or they felt they needed to do that, yes.” Evidently this police commander believes that the only objections to police brutality might be improper form.

A similar series of videos from body worn cameras showed instance after instance of cops firing large hand-held pepperspray containers and even larger pepperspray cannons at people from all angles, whether huddling together after being attacked by sting balls in the kettle, or simply when walking by. Deville testified that the cops call the pepperspray cannons, which can contain roughly a gallon of pepperspray, “Super Soakers,” making a weapon with incredible capacity for causing pain sound more like a fun afternoon activity.

In one video, a cop was shown spraying a group of people repeatedly with his pepper spray cannon while pushing them forward, yelling louder and louder for them to move. His shouts then changed to “I’m out, I’m out” after he goes through the entire gallon of pepper spray. He wasn’t the only one; platoon 32 alone went through four canisters of the same size in addition to seven smaller canisters.

The defense attorney asked if this use of pepperspray was a sign of “enormous restraint.” In response, Deville said: “He wasn’t cutting loose. And in fact, the spray — it was within policy, little bursts, to move a group.” Despite having been on a committee in 2003 to update and revise police procedures, the commander seemed unfamiliar with the portion of the procedures that limit the so-called Super Soakers to be used when repelling a serious threat or a significant effort to break police lines.

As if the justification of police brutality were not enough, the cross examination of Deville concluded for the day with questions about his documented history of making or participating in disparaging comments or jokes about Jewish people, queer people, and trans people. This line of questioning and cross-examination from the rest of the defense attorneys will continue on Monday, December 4th.


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