The fees in opposition to Russell Ruch, chief of the protest after Aurora demonstrations, have been dropped
A judge last week dismissed charges against one of six Denver area protest leaders arrested after organizing demonstrations against police brutality in Aurora that summer.
Prosecutors from the 18th prosecutor moved on Thursday to dismiss the four crimes against 33-year-old Russell Ruch.
“People feel that the continued prosecution of the accused could not serve the end of justice,” Assistant District Attorney Clinton McKinzie wrote in the motion filed seven days after the new District Attorney John Kellner was sworn in to succeed George Brauchler filed the charges.
“This was a purely political persecution,” said lawyer Joshua Amos, who represented Ruch with lawyer Martin Stuart.
Ruch was one of six protest organizers charged in September on a variety of charges, from kidnapping to rioting. According to Rauch’s attorneys, this was a clear attempt to suppress the protests, which centered on the death of the late Elijah McClain after he was forcibly stopped by Aurora police in 2019.
“We believe it was a tremendous abuse of the legal process,” Amos said of the charges against Ruch. “The criminal justice system should not be used as a political instrument to silence the constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
A spokeswoman for Kellner declined to comment on the dismissal on Monday. Brauchler, who is no longer a district attorney but continues to work in the office handling the high profile STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting case, said his decision to indict the protesters was not politically motivated.
“I’ve never made a political decision about charging in my career and it was no different,” he said.
Ruch, who has no criminal history, was charged with two thefts and two conspiracy crimes after a video recorded during a protest in June showed him in a crowd of protesters holding a hand-made sign from a counter protested, according to a 39-page affidavit listing allegations against all six leaders. The affidavit states that the video shows that Ruch “knows the theft is taking place and appears to be actively helping with the theft of the sign.”
The video actually made it clear that Ruch didn’t steal anything, his lawyers said Monday, noting that there has been hours of video evidence in the case and that no new evidence has been discovered since the charges were filed – nothing, they said, that would suddenly change the facts.
The prosecution’s request for the charges to be dropped suggests the prosecution “had no case,” said Stuart.
The other five protesters – Terrance Roberts, Lillian House, Joel Northam, Whitney Lucero and Trey Quinn – are charged according to court records.
House, Northam and Lucero are due to be tried in Adams County District Court on March 9th. Quinn’s case is due to go to trial on February 23rd and Roberts’ trial is due to begin April 14th.
Some of the charges House, Northam and Roberts face come from a July 12 protest in Aurora where a driver drove his jeep through a crowd of protesters blocking a highway. As the jeep passed through, protester Samuel Young is accused of shooting the jeep and striking two people in the crowd.
Young, who was charged with attempted first degree murder in the shooting, appeared in court Monday and his case was rescheduled for indictment on March 15. His attorney Andrew Castle said during the brief court appearance that negotiations with the prosecutor are still ongoing.