A Denver jury found a woman accused of hitting a person with her SUV during a 2020 George Floyd protest not guilty of assault.
“Ms. Watson should not have been charged. We appreciate the jury’s verdict of not guilty to the assault charge,” driver Jennifer Watson’s attorneys at Brackley Law Office PLLC said in a statement on Facebook after the verdict Friday.
The jury did find her guilty of a misdemeanor reckless driving charge.
Watson’s defense team argued she was fearful during the May 2020 protest in Denver, saying, “she was surrounded by people who began kicking and hitting her car and taunting and yelling at her.”
“On the evening of May 28, 2020, my client was just trying to get home, driving a route she took regularly, when she was diverted by protesters at the intersection of East Colfax and Broadway. She was alone in her car with her dog when she was surrounded by people who began kicking and hitting her car and taunting and yelling at her. While stopped, Mr. Max Bailey jumped up onto the hood of her car and her windshield was smashed in two places. She was terrified and fearful for her safety,” Watson’s lawyers said last year in a statement.
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Video of the scene went viral last year and showed Watson’s black SUV driving through an intersection surrounded by protesters before Max Bailey, 22, is seen on the hood of her car.
Bailey said he climbed on the hood of the car out of fear of being run over.
“The reason I was in front of the car was to make sure everyone was safe and to get this lady to stop from running over protesters,” Bailey told 9NEWS the day after the incident. “The reason I got on top of the car was because she accelerated into me and I’m not going to lie down and let somebody run over me.”
Watson’s attorney argued the District Attorney’s office was pressured to file charges in the case due to the viral video.
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The DA’s office said in a statement after the verdict that it “felt comfortable taking to a jury and we thank the jury for their service.”
The verdict comes after some Republican governors have signed or pushed for anti-rioting legislation, including in Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis touted that he enacted the country’s “strongest anti-rioting” law.
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“We saw last summer some of the local governments were actually telling, not necessarily in Florida but throughout the country, basically telling these folks to stand, telling police to stand down while cities burned, while businesses were burned, while people were being harmed,” DeSantis said in April. “That’s a dereliction of duty.”
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The Florida law grants civil immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road, and also makes it more difficult for local governments to strip funding from law enforcement, and prevents accused rioters from bailing out of jail until after their first court appearance.