Saturday, September 01, 2012

Charges Dropped Against May Day Protestor Maria Jannett Morales

Seattle Weekly

Maria Jannett Morales, 30, was charged with assault in the fourth degree, a felony, for an incident that occurred near the intersection of First Avenue and Pike Street a few minutes before 6 p.m. on May 1, just as the day's rioting was starting to simmer down.

According to a probable cause statement statement submitted to prosecutors by Seattle police, bike cop Sonya Fry was ordering a crowd to move back when Morales walked up, said "okay bitch," and punched the female officer in the chest with a closed fist. Morales then allegedly kicked another cop in the leg.

SPD's version of events was called into question by amateur video from the scene uploaded to YouTube. The footage seems to show Morales walking past Fry, obeying orders. Then, after a brief verbal exchange, Fry grabs Morales by the shoulders and hair and pulls her down.On August 17, the charge was abruptly dropped. Dan Donahoe, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, says the video was a factor.

"We reviewed video of the alleged incident and felt that we could no longer prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt so the charge was dismissed," Donohoe says.

Aaron Pelley, Morales' attorney, says prosecutors had no business filing charges in the first place.
"Maria didn't really hit that officer," Pelley says. "There's nothing in my mind that thinks somebody didn't yell at that officer, or she didn't feel somebody hit her. But as far as I can tell, it wasn't my client."

Morales has no criminal record aside from a few traffic tickets. Nevertheless, Pelley says she lost her job as an emergency room technician in Bellevue because of the arrest.

"I don't know that she comes out ahead on all of this," Pelley says. "But we're certainly glad the prosecutors looked at the evidence and decided to dismiss."

Morales is the second May Day protestor to have charges dismissed because of YouTube video. Joshua Garland was similarly cleared of wrongdoing on May 15.

Two others have pleaded guilty. Robert Ditrani pleaded guilty on June 22 to disorderly conduct. He was sentenced July 6 and received a 90-day suspended sentence and 12 months of probation. Paul Campiche pleaded guilty on August 22 to attempted assault in the third degree. He will be sentenced October 5.

See an extended cut of the YouTube video that shows Morales arrest, and court documents associated with her case on the following page.
Maria Morales Order of Dismissal
Maria Jannett Morales Charges
This post was updated Monday, August 27, at 1 p.m. The original version mistakenly reported that Morales was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct, and rioting. Her charge was actually fourth-degree assault.

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