Multnomah County district attorney Rod Underhill has dropped charges on 59 people who have been arrested on suspicion of various different crimes over the last seven weeks of protests that have commonly devolved into riots. Some of these are small, petty crimes, such as Failure To Obey, which some journalists were charged with, while others are more serious felonies, including a suspected arsonist.
Dozens of protesters arrested during mass demonstrations in downtown Portland have had their criminal charges dropped and cases closed.
KGW analysis of police and court records shows the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office dropped charges against at least 59 of the roughly 400 protesters arrested since mass demonstrations started in Portland in late May.
Most of the dropped charges were misdemeanor offenses such as interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Nine cases dismissed by prosecutors involved more serious felony charges, including riot, arson and theft in the first degree.
In one case, Portland police arrested a 25-year-old protester for allegedly setting fire to a Chase Bank in downtown Portland on May 30, the second night of large-scale protests in the city. The Portland resident was charged with arson, criminal mischief and riot. KGW is not naming the person because charges have been dismissed.
A Multnomah County prosecutor described in a probable cause affidavit how the person bragged about using a Molotov cocktail to start the fire and talked about plans to go “out on another mission and the goal would be to set another fire.” When confronted by detectives, the person admitted being present when the fire started but denied setting it, according to the court documents.
KGW’s review of court and jail records found most of those suspects do not spend any time in jail; instead, they’re often given a citation or booked and released.
On June 15, Portland police issued a press release detailing the arrest of 14 adults related to overnight demonstrations. The protesters ranged in age from 19 to 52 years old. The charges listed by Portland police included disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer resisting arrest, escape in the third degree.
Court records indicate charges against all 14 defendants have been dropped and their cases are closed.
“What that does is it makes arrests meaningless,” said Josh Marquis, former Clatsop County District Attorney.
The former prosecutor was not involved in these decisions and believes it would be unfair to give demonstrators who violate the law a free pass.
“It is incomprehensible to me that you could have downtown Portland destroyed the way it has, tens of millions of dollars in damage, and say, ‘Well, there’s no accountability for that,” explained Marquis.
DA Rod Underhill is due to resign at the end of the month, and DA-elect Mike Schmidt will be sworn in on August 1st. Schmidt is even further to the left, and announced he is open to dropping more charges on those arrested from the riots.
This follows a trend going back several years. After Trump’s win in 2016, and the following election week and inauguration riots in Portland, 99 of the 171 arrested had their charges dropped, while most other cases were reduced to mere citations.