Prosecutors in the District on Monday dismissed felony rioting charges against three journalists swept up in the arrests by D.C. police of scores of people during violent Inauguration Day protests.
Charges were dropped against Alexander Rubinstein, 22, of New York, who worked for the media outlet Russia Today; John Keller, 27, of Fairfax County, who was working on a documentary called “Story of America”; and Matthew Hopard, 32, of Brooklyn, who is an independent journalist.
On Friday, prosecutors dismissed felony rioting charges against another Brooklyn journalist, Evan A. Engel, 30. He was on assignment for Vocativ, a media and technology enterprise.
The journalists were among 230 people arrested after a small group of demonstrators rampaged through a four-block area of downtown during President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Protesters broke windows on cars and stores and knocked over mail and newspaper boxes. A stretch limousine was torched, and police were pelted with rocks and bricks. Officers in riot gear responded with pepper spray and crowd-control devices that emitted disorienting bangs, smoke and flashes of light.
[Protesters who destroyed property on Inauguration Day were part of organized group]
Defense attorneys argued that at the time of the arrests, the scene was chaotic and police were unable to distinguish nonviolent demonstrators from the rioters. The rioting charge carries up to 10 years in prison.
Those arrested spent one night in a holding cell until their hearings the following day.
Various media outlets have identified several of those arrested as journalists who were covering the riots. Since the arrests, prosecutors have been working to verify whether those people were working journalists.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.