Protestors have requested a meeting with Sheriff Smith to discuss their concerns and will resume their protest activity on Thursday, September 8, 2022 to give time for the Sheriff to consider their request. If the Sheriff has an explanation for his behavior and testimony my clients want to hear it!
Tuesday, September 6, 2022, Staunton, VA: Anti-Police Corruption protesters were victorious Friday, September 2, 2022, inside the Augusta County General District Court, after being found NOT-GUILTY of violating the Augusta County Noise Ordnance during a three-month long protest in Augusta County in 2021. Judge Helvin ruled that all of the pending noise ordnance charges were violations of the protesters’ First Amendment rights. The judge stated that while people may not agree with what the protesters were saying, they were protected by the First (1st) Amendment of the United States Constitution and The Constitution of Virginia, Section 12 of the Virginia Code.
The Judge found ALL NINE BLM Protestors Not Guilty of all seventeen (17) noise violation charges. One Protestor was also found Not Guilty of a disorderly conduct charge and a public swearing charge. Three protesters were found to have violated the disorderly conduct law and are exploring their options for appeal.
The Commonwealth called Sheriff Donald Smith as a witness. The Sheriff struggled to testify as to where the property boundary line of the Sheriff’s office was actually located. After making an inconsistent statement under oath about the property line, I asked the Sheriff if he had ever lied to a federal law enforcement officer. The Sheriff responded “NO”. The attached affidavit from a federal law enforcement officer with the Department of Homeland Security demonstrates that Sheriff Smith may have committed perjury, as his credibility as a witness was in question and clearly material.
We are calling for a criminal investigation into a Sheriff who would take the witness stand to prosecute an unconstitutional arrest, and possibly lie in response to very basic and simple question from defense counsel. The Commonwealth did not disclose the fact that prosecutors were aware of the prior false statements and potential perjured grand jury testimony from the Sheriff in his close friend’s federal human trafficking case. Such a disclosure should have been made pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
My clients thank the Court for its thoughtful consideration of their defenses and for protecting their Constitutional Rights. Friday’s decision ensures that police officers cannot arrest you for protesting if they don’t like what you say, even if you are using a bullhorn. This decision makes clear that the government’s right to restrict speech is limited, and restricting amplification of speech because you don’t like the message or because you don’t want other people to hear what the protestors are saying is patently unconstitutional.
Michael Phillips released the following statement after the verdicts:
“On Friday justice won and the court upheld what we have been saying for the past year. We have the right to express how we feel about the corruption and lies in the Augusta County Sheriff Office. While the Sherriff and his deputies may not like what we have to say, we will keep saying it, because we believe that the truth always will prevail.”
Bonnie Chapman released the following statement:
“Our goal all along has been to bring awareness to the lack of transparency inside the sheriff department, we have demanded Body and Dash cameras for the past year and a half after two police involved shootings. As we protested and learned that the Sheriff lied to federal agents to protect his “close friend”, we started saying things the sheriff didn’t want people to hear. That is why he ordered his deputies to write up tickets. Friday we won and we will now use this victory to keep shining light on the injustice happening at the hands of Sheriff Donald Smith. I’m grateful that the judge acknowledged the first amendment violation. Just because our words exposed or offended the officers doesn’t mean our rights are any less.”
Antwhon Suiter released the following statement:
"Honestly, I knew that the Augusta County Sheriff's Office was violating our constitutional rights to begin with. The right to assemble, protest, and freedom of speech. I knew it to begin with, but part of going to trial was to prove that what they were doing was wrong, unfair, and a violation of our constitutional rights. The Judge stated, just that, now I can't wait to sue for malicious prosecution to hold those in power accountable."
Cameron Turley released the following statement:
“Today I feel overjoyed knowing that I got justice for myself and my friends when, for the past year, the Sheriff, Commonwealth Attorney and his supporters lied about me and my fellow protesters to the court. Today I came out of court with the win and will now focus on a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Augusta County, The Sheriff and all others who violated our rights over the past year.”
Samuel Orlando, who has the same pending charge in juvenile court pending trial in December, released the following statement following the acquittal of his fellow protestors:
“The Commonwealth Attorney, Tim Martin is determined to cover up for his corrupt friend, Sheriff Donald Smith. The commonwealth has sought to hide evidence in my case and in my fellow protestors’ cases, citing that the evidence might ‘embarrass’ the Sheriff. If the Sheriff is embarrassed by his behavior, he should change his behavior, not get his buddy the prosecutor to trample the Constitution. These people will stop at nothing to keep their secrets from the public. The youth of Augusta County deserve better.”
Protests are scheduled to begin again at the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office this week, on Thursday, September 8, 2022.
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