The St. Paul City Attorney’s office has so far reviewed 241 potential criminal cases stemming from arrests during the Republican National Convention. Nearly half of the reviews didn’t result in charges being filed owing to a lack of sufficient evidence. Of the remaining incidents, 48 have been resolved by either a guilty plea or payment of a fine, while 81 have been formally charged and are headed towards trial.
St. Paul City Attorney John Choi emphasized that just because charges were not pursued it doesn’t mean that the police acted inappropriately in making an arrest. “When a police officer is on the scene they’re not thinking about whether or not this is a prosecutable offense,” he said. “They’re thinking about whether or not there’s probable cause to arrest this person.”
Roughly 650 potential cases have been presented to the city attorney’s office stemming from activities during the four-day gathering — meaning just over 400 have not yet been reviewed. But almost all of those remaining arrests were made during a mass sweep on the Marion St. bridge during the final day of the convention.
Choi stated that he’s not aware of any civil cases that have been brought against the City of St. Paul relating to alleged civil rights violations during the convention. In two instances, however, the city has received letters from attorneys stating that they intend to file such lawsuits in the future.
The most common charge pursued by the city attorney’s office relating to RNC events is unlawful assembly. But other misdemeanor infractions include criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct and third-degree riot.
More serious, felony charges are being handled by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. They are prosecuting roughly 20-such cases, including charges lodged against the so-called RNC 8. In addition there are two Texas men facing federal firearms charges for allegedly attempting to disrupt the convention with Molotov cocktails. They are slated to go on trial next month.
Choi expressed satisfaction with how the RNC-related cases are proceeding, but stated that they are particularly thorny because of the political elements involved. “For the RNC there are 650 cases and they’re all very intense,” he said, noting that such cases attract much more public scrutiny than those typically handled by his office. “We have to do the best that we can with the limited resources that we have and the challenges that come with these cases.”