• Search

DA Drops Charges On Most Portland Riot Cases

Portland, OR – Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has refused to prosecute nearly 70 percent of the cases against rioters who have been charged for wreaking havoc in the downtown area over the course of the past four months.

According to the district attorney’s online “Mass Demonstration/Protest Case Dashboard,” a total of 974 cases were referred for prosecution between May 29 and Oct. 5.

Schmidt’s office rejected 666 of those cases, 543 of which were dropped in the “interest of justice.”

According to the website, prosecutors have chosen “not to proceed with criminal charges” in those cases “based on compelling factors or circumstances,” including “the nature of the crime, the prior record of the defendant…and the impact on the public interest of a dismissal.”

Prosecutors must also consider “the punishment already suffered by the defendant,” and “the purpose and effect of further punishment,” when deciding whether or not to pursue charges, as well as “any prejudice resulting to the defendant by the passage of time [or] current office policy,” according to district attorney’s office.

The remaining 123 rejected cases were turned away for reasons other than the “interest of justice,” to include those prosecutors deemed needed additional follow-up or where there was allegedly “insufficient evidence,” the dashboard indicated.

As of Monday, Schmidt’s office had chosen to move forward with prosecution in just 13 percent of the cases that have been filed over the course of the past 130 days of rioting.

Another 182 cases have “not yet been reviewed by a Deputy District Attorney,” according to the website.

Approximately 77 percent of the suspects whose cases have been referred to the district attorney’s office are white.

Ten percent of defendants are black, six percent are Hispanic, two percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and less than one percent are Native American.

According to the database, the vast majority of rioters charged by police – 83 percent – are between the ages of 18 and 35.

Thirty-eight percent of all rioters are between the ages of 18 and 25.

Conversely, just 13 percent of those whose cases have been referred to prosecutors are between the ages of 36 and 45, and only five percent are 46 or older.

Approximately 67 percent of the rioters who have been arrested or cited are male.

Schmidt said in a press release that the database, which will be updated weekly, “is a major step forward” for his office.

“Transparency in the work we do is a keystone to my administration,” he declared on Wednesday. “Moving this data online for the community to easily use will have a significant impact on understanding cases that arise from mass demonstrations.”

Schmidt boasted that the database is part of his “smarter approach to justice.”

“I am committed to launching future dashboards and other public facing programs that will support data-driven and transparent decision making,” he added.

Rioters have repeatedly attacked federal, state, and local law enforcement officers with explosive devices, rocks, ball bearings, golf balls, and other projectiles during the nightly chaos in downtown Portland.

They have blocked traffic on countless streets, looted and torched businesses, destroyed historic landmarks, and repeatedly attempted to burn down police precincts, the federal courthouse, and the Police Protective Association building, among others.

The rioting and looting have also cost local businesses tens of millions of dollars.

But despite the mayhem, the newly-elected Schmidt unveiled a new policy two months ago that gives rioters a free pass.

“Many of the people who have been arrested at these protests for low level offenses come to us with little to no prior criminal history, and we have little to no reason to believe they will re-offend,” Schmidt announced on Aug. 11, according to KATU.

Under Schmidt’s new policy, prosecutors are now required to “presumptively decline to charge” all offenses of disorderly conduct, interference with a police officer, escape, harassment, and criminal trespass.

Rioting charges must also be dismissed “unless accompanied by a charge outside of” the aforementioned offenses, he wrote.

Cases of assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest will be “subjected to a high level of scrutiny” by prosecutors, with special consideration to be “given to the chaos of a protesting environment, especially after tear gas or other less-lethal munitions have been deployed against protesters en masse,” according to the policy.

Schmidt further directed deputy attorneys to consider whether or not the person charged was “in pain, or unable to hear, breathe or see at the moment the resistance occurred,” when deciding whether or not to pursue resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer cases.

With regards to resisting arrest cases, officers’ level of force must also be considered, as well as whether police made “any reasonable available attempt to de-escalate” before they made the arrest, according to the policy change.

Prosecutors who still wish to pursue assault on a peace officer or resisting arrest cases can only do so with a supervisor’s approval.

Schmidt’s office has also been doling out presumptive “conditional dismissals” in felony and misdemeanor cases which involved “financial but not physical harm to another person,” according to the policy.

Such offenses include many criminal mischief, theft, and burglary offenses.

If offenders pay victims for the damages they caused within three months’ time, or if “other amends to the community are made,” then their cases will qualify for dismissal, according to the policy.

“Where immigration consequences are or may be implicated, line prosecutors will discuss resolutions with their supervisor prior to extending a conditional dismissal offer,” Schmidt noted.

The district attorney’s office will handle “all other offenses, including those that allege acts of physical violence against civilians,” according to “general office policies,” he said.

Schmidt claimed that the riots have been the result of people’s “collective grief, anger, and frustration” over the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as “the countless other abuses People of Color have endured in our country throughout history.”

He said that prosecuting “peaceful protesters” would “undermine public safety, not promote it.”

“The prosecution of cases relating solely to protest activities, most of which have a weak nexus to further criminality and which are unlikely to be deterred by prosecution, draws away from crucially needed resources,” Schmidt continued.

“As stewards of public resources, we must devote our efforts to prosecuting crimes that allow us to protect our most vulnerable victims to have the greatest impact on promoting a safer community for everyone,” he added.
Schmidt has denied that his policy change gives rioters a “free pass,” KATU reported.

“This is not a free pass. While I will do what I can to provide protesters with a forum to make their voices heard, I will not tolerate deliberate acts of violence against police or anyone else,” he claimed.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


Sign up to our daily newsletter so you don't miss out on the latest events surrounding law enforcement!

Follow Me

Follow us on social media and be sure to mark us as "See First."