Douglas County DA still mulling charges in cases of motorists driving into protests; staff says other charged cases differ
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
Story updated at 2:37 p.m. Thursday
Months after two motorists were recorded driving through protesters in Lawrence, the Douglas County district attorney’s office says charging decisions are still pending. Meanwhile, at least three defendants have been charged for similar allegations that weren’t protest-related.
In an incident on May 31, a woman accelerated an SUV into protesters occupying the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets during a solidarity march against police brutality. On June 29, another woman drove an SUV through protesters’ makeshift barricades and into a crowd of people on Massachusetts Street near South Park. Both were captured on video, as the Journal-World has reported.
In the time since the protests, however, the Journal-World has requested documentation on three other cases in which individuals are charged with allegedly using a motor vehicle to injure a victim or victims. None of the three charged incidents involved protests.
Dorothy Kliem, trial assistant for the Douglas County DA’s office, said there were differences between the cases.
“These cases were able to be charged quicker because of the nature of the incidents and because at least one of the subjects involved was arrested immediately following each incident,” Kliem said via email Wednesday.
“The uncharged protest/vehicle cases are under review,” Kliem continued. “Those cases involved identifying witnesses that left the scene and gathering other evidence. We anticipate charging decisions on those cases in the near future.”
Court documents show that all three of the charged cases were filed within three days of the alleged incidents.
The Journal-World has requested disclosure of all three probable cause affidavits supporting the arrests in the other three incidents but has not received them. However, Kliem provided synopses of the allegations in each affidavit:
• In the first case, a man was charged with a midlevel-severity felony for allegedly driving his car toward two people in an attempt to break up a fight on June 23, Kliem said. One of the people reportedly suffered a broken ankle, and the other had minor scratches and bruising; the defendant also allegedly struck a parked vehicle, Kliem said.
• In the second case, a woman was charged with aggravated battery after allegedly striking a man with her vehicle and rendering him unconscious on June 26, Kliem said. The man suffered an abrasion on one arm, a cut on the other and road rash, Kliem said.
• In the third case, on July 15, a man allegedly accelerated his car into the back of a motorcycle occupied by two people, pushing the motorcycle off the road and into the trees, Kliem said. One person was reportedly pinned under the motorcycle, and the man allegedly began fighting with the other person. Neither person had serious injuries, Kliem said. The man was charged with two counts of attempted aggravated battery, criminal threat and misdemeanor battery, court documents show.
The men involved in the cases on June 23 and July 15 were booked into the Douglas County Jail shortly after the alleged incidents. The woman was booked about two months later on a probable cause warrant and released shortly thereafter, according to the jail’s booking log, but a co-defendant had been arrested immediately after the incident, Kliem said.
Lawrence police turned the investigation of the May 31 protest incident over to the DA for charging consideration about two months after it occurred, and the June 29 incident on Aug. 5, a department spokesperson said at the time.
As of Thursday morning, Kliem said charges in both of those incidents were still under consideration.
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• July 2, 2020: Protesters pack up, vacate Massachusetts Street