Alabama woman convicted of smashing police car window under controversial riot law
A mobile woman who smashed the window of a police car during a demonstration has been sentenced.
Tia Pugh, 22, has been charged after a May 31, 2020 protest in downtown Mobile over the death of George Floyd. Protesters were trying to make their way onto the I-10 ramp, which was blocked by officials from the Mobile Police Department.
Floyd was mentioned several times during the trial by George Armstrong, one of Pugh’s attorneys. Armstrong said May 31 was the most important day in his life.
“Pugh admitted [breaking the window] and do it on purpose, but this business is more than that, ”Armstrong said.
Pugh was indicted under the Civil Obedience Act, created during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. His case is one of the cases that came to court after former President Trump and the Attorney General Bill Barr called for a crackdown following the wave of protests last summer.
Armstrong argued earlier this year that the law “grew out of a racist backlash against the civil rights movement and gives prosecutors too much discretion to charge almost anyone in a heated confrontation with police at a protest. public, ”according to Politico.
Pugh’s actions, Armstrong said, did not meet the criteria to be a federal crime because Pugh was acting alone when she smashed the window.
A video taken by an AL.com reporter was repeatedly referenced during the trial, along with footage from the local television affiliate, WKRG.
Another point that was debated during the trial in addition to whether or not the protest was considered peaceful or otherwise was whether Pugh’s actions disrupted interstate trafficking.
The prosecution presented an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Paul Roche on the impacts of the May protest on downtown traffic. In the affidavit, Roche said the presence of the protesters on the Water Street slip road forced the MPD to close the westbound I-10 highway slip road from Water Street and the exit 26B eastbound for safety reasons.
Due to the closure, commercial vehicles carrying hazardous materials are required to detour 19.5 miles. The prosecution also referred to how a protester lying in the middle of the road forced an 18-wheeler Family Dollar truck to stop in the middle of the road.
Whether or not someone was in the police vehicle when the window shattered was also a point of contention.
Armstrong pointed out how the police report indicated that only the owner of the police car was nearby at the time and no one was there, but when witnesses were asked whether or not there was a no one inside, no one could give a definitive answer.
“If someone else was in the car, it would have been in the report,” Armstrong said. “The FBI didn’t bother to ask.
Opening statements in Pugh’s trial began around 2 p.m. Monday, after an unsuccessful attempt to pass his trial in September. Armstrong attempted to argue that the statute used in his case “arose out of a racist reaction to the civil rights movement.”
Pugh did not speak in his defense during the trial.