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Federal charges dropped owing to prosecutorial misconduct

In a sense, it was like federal prosecutors were on trial.

And they lost.

The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment right protecting free speech has been the focal point in a series of criminal cases involving what government lawyers allege were rioters who took to the streets following last year's presidential inauguration.

More than 230 people have been criminally charged in connection with disturbances that occurred on Inauguration Day. Although cases have been dropped against many of those individuals, scores of defendants still await trial.

Seven persons who were arrested and charged will now avoid that fate, though, in the wake of a federal court ruling last week that defense attorneys say strongly promoted justice.

Centrally at issue in their cases was video evidence that prosecutors deemed relevant.

There was a problem with that, noted the judge: A single tape was turned over to the defense prior to trial as legally required, when in fact nearly 70 more relevant videos and recordings were intentionally withheld by the government.

Such conduct is a clear violation of the so-called Brady Rule, which mandates the timely release of all relevant evidence to defense attorneys.

The government's Brady violation clearly disturbed the judge overseeing the cases, who noted that he had been repeatedly misinformed as to the existence of every video except for one. His displeasure was on display at a court hearing last week, in which he cited the prosecution for fraudulently misrepresenting information and withholding important evidence.

The result of that: dismissal of all rioting and conspiracy-to-riot charges against the seven defendants.

The cases of 52 individuals charged with criminal conduct on Inauguration Day are still pending.

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