A federal jury in Washington, D.C., on Thursday found San Antonio-based photographer Alexei Wood and five co-defendants not guilty of all charges stemming from their arrests in street protests that occurred during President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Wood, another man, and four women had faced five felony charges relating to destruction of property and two misdemeanor counts of rioting. Before the case went to the jury last week, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz had issued a judgment of acquittal to the defendants on one felony count each of inciting a riot, saying prosecutors had not presented sufficient evidence on that charge.
Brett Cohen, Wood’s attorney, praised the jury’s verdict. “They seemed very thoughtful,” he told the Rivard Report, noting that jurors told him afterwards that they felt prosecutors had failed to prove their case.
“For the protesters, the government didn’t show they intended to participate in a riot,” Cohen said. “There was not enough information that they were actively involved in the rioting part of the demonstration.”
A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said that prosecutors believed that “the evidence shows that a riot occurred on January 20, 2017, during which numerous public and private properties were damaged or destroyed. This destruction impacted many who live and work in the District of Columbia, and created a danger for all who were nearby.”
During the protests, some members of the crowd smashed store windows, damaged a limousine, and spray-painted slogans on buildings. Prosecutors had argued that the six co-defendants were complicit in the riot even if they had no direct hand in damaging property.
The six were the first to stand trial out of about 200 people arrested during the protests. While there had been speculation that the outcome of the initial trial would determine whether the others charged would end up in court, the government indicated it planned to bring additional cases to trial.
“We appreciate the jury’s close examination of the individual conduct and intent of each defendant during this trial and respect its verdict,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated. “In the remaining pending cases, we look forward to the same rigorous review for each defendant.”
Cohen had maintained that Wood, who livestreamed parts of the demonstration on Facebook, was present at the demonstration as a journalist, and referred in court to a pitch his client had made to the Rivard Report offering his freelance services as a photographer. The Rivard Report did not assign him work.