Utah Woman Faces Life in Prison After Allegedly Buying Red Protest Paint

Madalena McNeil is accused of buying red paint before a protest. Under aggressive new criminal charges, it could mean she spends the rest of her life in prison.

McNeil, 28, was among four people charged Tuesday for their alleged actions at a July Salt Lake City, Utah, protest over a district attorney's decision that the fatal police shooting of a young man was justified. Protesters allegedly splashed red paint on the DA's office, broke windows, and hung signs calling for justice for the slain man.

But instead of merely charging the protesters with vandalism or even rioting, that same DA used a charging enhancement to claim they operated as a gang. Under the new charges, the demonstrators face up to life in prison. It's the latest in a pattern of harsh measures that ratchet up potential penalties by treating protesters like a criminal conspiracy. [...]

McNeil and fellow protesters were met with police in riot gear when they arrived at the DA's office, she said. Footage she filmed from the event shows the police line charging protesters with their riot shields. [...]

A criminal complaint accuses McNeil of positioning herself to shove one of the shield-toting officers, and of buying the red paint that protesters allegedly splashed outside the DA's office. She and six other protesters face criminal mischief and rioting charges, which usually cap at a second-degree felony [...] But Gill, the DA who was the focus of protesters' ire in the first place, enhanced the charges using a provision intended for gangs. Under the new enhancements, which apply to "offenses committed in concert with two or more persons or in relation to a criminal street gang," the protesters can face up to life in prison, if convicted. [...]

Groth and McNeil also questioned the potential conflict of interest of Gill issuing sentencing enhancements against protesters who were demonstrating against him.

In most states, a felony conviction means that you can never vote again, so you get criminalization of dissent and disenfranchisement in one convenient fascist package.

One tweet tried to identify a cop -- then five people were charged with felony harassment:

A New Jersey police department is pursuing cyber harassment charges against five people in connection with a protest photo uploaded to Twitter in June. Complaints were served against the original tweeter and four other people who retweeted the message, alleging that they caused the officer to fear for the safety of his family.

It's an unprecedented use of anti-harassment laws, coming amid a nationwide law enforcement backlash against anti-police brutality activism. [...]

The Nutley Police Department filed its complaints in late July over a tweet posted during a June 26th protest. The now-deleted message included a photo of a masked on-duty police officer with a request that "If anyone knows who this bitch is throw his info under this tweet." Because of the mask, the officer is not readily identifiable from the photograph, and there do not appear to be any replies revealing his identity. [...]

The department charged Sziszak and others on behalf of Detective Peter Sandomenico, who the complaint identifies as the officer in the tweet. It alleges that the photo and accompanying caption threatened the officer "acting in the performance of his duties, causing Detective Sandomenico to fear that harm will come to himself, family, and property."

Once this blew up they panicked and dropped the charges like the bullying cowards they are.

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10 Responses:

  1. BillCO says:

    There are only three states that permanently disenfranchise felons, and I believe that one of those is Iowa, which just passed a law repealing it. There may be a few more states that require some ridiculous re-application process requiring the approval of some panel or the governor or something, but most states do not permanently disenfranchise felons, even in practice.

    Most states disenfranchise felons until completion of their sentences, which is also bullshit, mind you.

    • Elusis says:

      Whose purposes does it serve for you to elide the truth while complaining that jwz is stretching the truth? Does it serve the purpose of power or the purpose of justice?

      • BillCO says:

        My apologies, I didn't mean to minimize the bullshit that is our carceral state(s). You are absolutely correct that my phrasing was inexact and unhelpful. Thank you for the criticism. I sought only to inform of the very real strides that have been made in addressing this particular injustice over the last few decades and I did a poor job of doing so.

        • Elusis says:

          My god, we can't allow for this kind of polite human interaction in a comments section! Quick, call me a bitch or something so order is restored to the universe. ;)

          (I have done text banking in Alabama to get Black voters registered, a good portion of which involved walking people through getting their rights restored post-probation. And I did text banking to get the voting rights restoration law passed in Florida, though those fuckers in the lege have been successful at their fucking poll tax thus far and I wish to hell Bezos or someone would pay off everyone's fines until we can get real justice at some point. This issue really matters to me, and I'm glad it does to you as well.)

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Indeed, it's eye-opening to compare Anders Breivik in Norway with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the US Federal system.

      The only reason Breivik will likely remain in prison for most of his life is that he's a professed Nazi who wants to kill again. If psychiatrists and other experts conclude he's actually accepted that murdering dozens of people was wrong and he now doesn't pose a significant risk he would qualify for parole. Meanwhile if he can't vote (I'm not actually sure, it's unclear) it would only be because of a rule prohibiting voting for those who've literally tried to bring down democracy or directly interfere in elections, just murdering a bunch of people for any other reason isn't enough to disqualify you from voting in Norway - even from prison. And that's not the most generous policy in Europe, it's actually considered middle ground, some countries will still let you vote even if you're currently in prison for attempting to interfere with the same election you now want to vote in.

      Whereas the US proposed to actually kill Tsarnaev, as some sort of revenge, like it's the stone age.

  2. Elusis says:

    Gotta love the right's tactic of self-doxing via lawsuit.

  3. jai says:

    Is this not fundamentally a second amendment issue? I'm not American, let alone a constitutional scholar, but given the vagueness around "Arms" and "regulated militia", surely the heart of the second amendment is the patriotic duty to fight for a "free State", and any tools required to so fight are "Arms" by definition. I'd be interested to see the ACLU get their teeth into that. Surely the entire point of the second amendment is that the government doesn't get to imprison you for owning things that materially aid protest, be they guns or paint.

    • jai says:

      I mean, leaving aside the fact that it's obviously a first amendment issue. But in the face of the argument that the first amendment "only protects speech", the second must surely protect the right to own paint in the pursuit of a free State.

  4. Eric says:

    So she'd be facing the same charges if she'd killed the DA? Look I'm not advocating for violence here, but if I were the DA I wouldn't want to be setting that precedent.

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