The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has agreed to drop all criminal charges against a prominent Black Lives Matter leader in six months if certain conditions are met.
The deal was announced on Thursday as part of a “negotiated disposition” between prosecutors and Dr. Melina Abdullah, a tenured professor at California State University who also leads the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“This is indeed a victory,” said Carl E. Douglas, Abdullah’s lead counsel, after the compromise was finalized. “We have been fighting the city attorney for months. We have continued to maintain our innocence, and today they surrendered.”
Douglas, who represented Abdullah pro bono, referred to his client as a “brave soldier of justice.” She faced more than a year in jail if she had been convicted of eight misdemeanor counts related to her unruly behavior at LAPD Commission meetings, including resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. Abdullah is one of the lead organizers of a local anti-law enforcement coalition of activist groups known for disrupting and shutting down the weekly gatherings.
“We rose up, we said, ‘hell no, these charges are bogus, and they must be dropped,’” explained Abdullah, whose allies launched a petition drive that garnered more than 11,000 signatures demanding the city dismiss the case. “We said, ‘we ain’t copping no plea; drop these charges.’”
“As of August, these charges will be dropped,” she continued.
CBS2 Los Angeles reports:
Under the agreement reached Thursday, Abdullah agreed to abide by behavior guidelines during Police Commission meetings, such as exiting and not returning to the meeting if she is found to be disrupting the proceedings and ordered to leave.
If she violates the agreement over the next six months, the criminal case against her will resume, but if she adheres to the pact, the charges will be dismissed in six months, according to court papers.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the arrangement would “alter some rules governing Police Commission meetings,” and:
Under the terms of the agreement, (Douglas) said, LAPD officers must now give verbal warnings to people accused of disrupting commission meetings, and then escort them out of the meeting if they continue to violate those rules.
Arrests will only be made if a person continues to refuse a police officer’s orders outside of the meeting, Douglas said.
Abdullah, 46, clarified that “people who protest inside Police Commission meetings are no longer subject to arrest.” She had claimed that “White supremacist forces” were “working to criminalize Black protest.”
“We have changed the culture in Los Angeles as it deals with protests,” said Douglas, who was mentored by the late Johnnie Cochran and part of O.J. Simpson’s ‘Dream Team’ of defense attorneys in the 1990s. “I’ll give (City Attorney) Mike Feuer credit; he respects, and he understands that protest is an important part of the process.”
“From the outset, our goal has been to ensure that commission meetings are not disrupted in ways that prevent other members of the public from participating, while protecting individuals’ right to say what they mean,” said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, in a written statement. “The defendant’s agreement to abide by this disposition strikes that balance.”
However, hours after the deal was announced, Abdullah accused Feuer’s office of “lying” and suggested that she might continue to break the rules governing LAPD Commission meetings in the future.
Progressive activists empowered by the leniency of city prosecutors vowed to take aim at the police commissioners, particularly LAPD Commission President Steve Soboroff, who Abdullah has blamed for instigating the charges against her.
“Let’s chop from the top beginning with Commission Pres Steve Soboroff,” the official account of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles tweeted, along with the hashtag “#ByeSteve.”
The LA Times referred to Soboroff as “a frequent target of Abdullah’s barbs.”
“We just won a tremendous victory,” Abdullah told her followers on Thursday. “Let this be used as a moment to invigorate our struggle. When we fight, we win.”
“Stick around, because the battle against police corruption is not over,” Douglas promised supporters after the court hearing. “There is more to come that you will learn about in the future. But today, victory is ours.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.