A group of protesters in Utah accused of splashing red paint on and breaking the windows of a federal building could live in prison for life after a local prosecutor filed their charges.
A group of protesters reportedly vandalized the Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill's office in Salt Lake City last month after Gill acquitted two officers of misconduct in the police murder of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.
Carbajal was fatally shot and killed on May 23 while running away from police. The officers shot Carbajal 34 times, but Gill found they were justified because, according to Gill & # 39; s investigation, Carbajal repeatedly dropped and picked up a gun while on the run.
The lack of charges against the officers sparked several protests, which culminated on July 9 in a stalemate between riot police and around 300 demonstrators. Someone smashed the window and threw red paint on Gill & # 39; s office. The riot police eventually showed up and dispersed the crowd, the Washington Post reported.
Gill has now charged seven people with crimes including five years behind bars as part of an upgrade to improve the gang.
Critics accused Gill of excessive charges and asked why he was allowed to file the charges against the conflict of interest. The vandalism was committed against Gill & # 39; s office building and Gill was called by protesters that night, The Salt Lake Tribune pointed out:
So far, Alcalá, Marvin Oliveros, Madalena McNeil, Madison Alleman, Viviane Turman, Michelle Mower and Emanuel Hill have all been charged with what would normally be classed as second degree crimes. However, prosecutors argued that the charge should be improved with a "gang enhancement." The seventh defendant, Hurija Mustafic, was charged with two offenses relating to alleged assault on a police officer.
Brent Huff, an attorney representing Alleman, argued that the charges were "retaliation".
Jesse Nix, a lawyer representing Turman, called the charge "despicable" and "an absolute conflict". "I am disappointed that they did not recognize the conflict and sent it to another person to decide what to charge," Nix told the Tribune. "Because at the moment it looks like Sim Gill is upset about the damage to his beautiful building, so he will do whatever he can to scare protesters."
Gill told The Daily Beast that he was working on the case due to staff shortages but said other prosecutors would be working on the case in the future. He added that those prosecutors might decide to remove the improvements.
McNeil faces several criminal offenses in connection with the alleged purchase of the red paint used to deface the building and attempting to nudge a riot police officer. This emerges from a criminal complaint from The Daily Beast.
"I'm not scared because I think I did something wrong, because I know I didn't," McNeil told The Daily Beast. “But it would be very stupid of me to test the potential for a life in prison and not be afraid. Upon hearing about this [the indictment], I realized that I had become an enemy in the eyes of the state for exercising what is supposed to be protected right. "
Call to all HuffPost super fans!
Sign up for membership to become a charter member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost