Trial of mobile woman accused of riot begins after failed postponement attempt
The trial of a 21-year-old protester accused of obstructing law enforcement in a way that impacted interstate commerce began after motions to delay the trial until September.
Tia Pugh is believed to be the first person in Mobile, and possibly the state, to face federal charges for participating in protests related to the death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death after meeting with Minneapolis police has sparked national and international protests.
One of those protests took place on May 31 in Mobile, in which Pugh allegedly smashed the window of a Mobile police car during a protest on I-10.
Jury selection in the trial began around 9 a.m. Monday, after an Alabama federal judge ruled that a controversial law used to prosecute protesters across the country over the past year was constitutional.
Gordon Armstrong, one of Pugh’s attorneys, argued that the statute used in his case “grew out of a racist backlash against the civil rights movement and gives prosecutors too much discretion to charge almost anyone involved in a civil rights movement. heated confrontation with the police during a public demonstration. “.
Mobile U.S. District Court Judge Terry Moorer issued an order dismissing the claims on May 13.
“Each of the lawsuits brought in the wake of these protests involves individuals of various races and genders with vastly different ideologies,” the judge wrote. “Thus, the Court finds that to the extent that Pugh asserts a request for selective prosecution, the request fails.”
Finally, the jury, which sat just before 1 p.m., was made up of a majority of whites with three people of color. Most of the 14 jurors were women.
Opening statements began around 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. The defense and prosecution agreed that Pugh smashed the window, but disagreed on whether or not this was a federal crime.
Prosecutors said Pugh interfered with law enforcement during a civil unrest, which the unrest then interfered with interstate commerce. An affidavit from FBI Special Agent Paul Roche said the crash of the window made the situation more frantic than it already was.
“Despite the failure of the protesters to walk on I-10, this civil disorder still affected interstate commerce,” Roche said in the affidavit.
On May 31, protesters gathered on the Water Street slip road. The Mobile Police Service was forced to close both the westbound I-10 ramp from Water Street and exit 26B eastbound for the safety of protesters and motorists.
All vehicles carrying hazardous materials had to make a detour of nearly 20 miles as they were not allowed through the George C. Wallace Tunnel.
Pugh’s defense countered the prosecution’s argument, saying there was not enough evidence to prove that the protest that took place in May was a civil disorder.
The jury’s deliberations on this case could begin as early as tomorrow.