Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has refused to prosecute more than half of the protest-related cases referred to his office by law enforcement officials in Portland, Oregon. That’s 543 cases that will never be tried.
Why? Schmidt says he’s acting – or, more accurately, not acting – in the “interest of justice.” To be clear, he’s not saying there’s insufficient evidence or some other legal impediment to prosecution. He’s just saying that he won’t do his job.
By refusing to uphold the law, Schmidt’s perverse sense of “justice” can only encourage rioters in Portland to continue their criminal activity night after night.
Certainly, that’s the case with Peter Curtis, who goes by the name of Tabitha Poppins. Arrested at least five times since the Portland “protests” began, Poppins described Schmidt’s policy not to prosecute many protest-related crimes as a “win.”
And Poppins sure knows how to celebrate. Mere hours after having being bailed out of jail for riotous offenses, Poppins was living it up at another riot, banging a bucket while standing atop a stolen table burning in the street.
Schmidt’s refusal to prosecute rioters who destroy property and endanger lives led Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts to refuse to send his deputies in to help restore order in Portland. Why should he put his officers at risk, he wrote when “(t)he same offenders are arrested night after night, only to be released by the court and not charged with a crime by the DA’s Office. The next night they are back at it, endangering the lives of law enforcement and the community all over again.”
The Oregon state police have followed suit, choosing to keep their officers working outside of Portland – that is, in jurisdictions where their arrests are not rendered null and void by a rogue DA who refuses to do his job.
Schmidt isn’t trying to hide his dereliction of duty; he’s proud of it. In fact, the Multnomah County District Attorney Office has published a data dashboard of Portland’s “protest” cases. The data are meant to show the DA’s resolve to reform the supposedly systemically racist justice system of greater Portland. The website states:
Our dashboards are part of a larger movement within our local criminal justice system and community to use data, technology, and research as tools to reduce incarceration and racial disparities and to improve outcomes for justice involved individuals and crime victims. Tools like our dashboards help us create safer communities and advance the dialogue on best practices for local justice systems.
It boggles the mind to think that the daily release of arrested rioters and refusal to prosecute them creates safer communities – especially when those rioters have committed nightly violence and destruction to those communities for over four months.
Still, the data in the dashboard are informative. From May 29 to Oct. 5, law enforcement referred 974 cases to the DA’s office. Many of the cases are of repeat offenders, but, curiously, the dashboard does not indicate how many.
The DA rejected 666 cases, or nearly 70 percent. Of the rejected cases, 543 (over 81 percent) were dismissed in the “interest of justice.” The DA’s office does not define this vague term. Other listed reasons for rejection are: follow-up necessary (67 cases), insufficient evidence (44 cases) and legal impediment (12 cases).
The demographic data show that young, white males make up the majority of the tossed cases. The race in 77 percent of the cases is white; 10 percent are black, and 6 percent Hispanic. Forty-five percent of the cases are 26-35 year olds and 38 percent are 18-25 years old. Two-thirds are male; only 32 percent are female.
Prosecutors have an obligation to enforce the law. That’s their job. Cases should not be rejected based on whether or not the prosecutor believes in “the cause.”
In his press release announcing the new data dashboard, Schmidt referred to the Portland cases as arising from “mass ‘demonstrations’” and stated, “I promised during my campaign that I (would) take a smarter approach to justice.” The results show otherwise.
His dereliction of duty has caused the violence to continue, to spread, and to escalate. His approach is neither smart nor in the interest of justice.
Lora Ries is a senior research fellow specializing in homeland security at The Heritage Foundation. Zack Smith is a legal fellow in the think tank’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.