Sunday, May 9, 2021

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Charges against two more protesters dropped

The Alamance County district attorney’s office has dismissed charges against two additional defendants who were arrested at protests in downtown Graham during the second half of 2020.

The D.A.’s office has dismissed a misdemeanor charge of impeding traffic against Jensen Holland Roll, 27, white male, of 414 South Maple Avenue in Burlington. Roll was charged during the October 31 “I Am Change Legacy March to the Polls” that ended with pepper spray, according to his court file.

Roll allegedly remained on “North Main Street in Court Square” after Graham police ordered the crowd to disperse that afternoon, according to a magistrate’s order for his arrest that is included in the court file. On their approach to the Historic Court House, the crowd of approximately 200 marchers paused in the roadway and kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in remembrance of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, 2020.

Roll’s case was “voluntarily dismissed per [the law enforcement officer],” according to a note in his court file. He had been arrested by the Graham police department on October 31, according to his court file.

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The D.A.’s office has also dismissed a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct against Ryan Michael Evans, 36, white male, of 1332 Stonewall Avenue, Burlington. Evans was cited by the Graham police department for allegedly harassing marchers during an anti-racist protest near the Alamance County Historic Court House on September 21, 2020, based on documents that the police department furnished at the time to The Alamance News.

The charge against Evans was dismissed last Tuesday by Alamance County assistant district attorney Scott Drorbaugh, according to a note on Evans’ court file. The charge was dismissed since Evans had performed five hours of community service and in the “interest of justice,” Drorbaugh wrote.

Trials in the “2020 protests,” as they are being termed by the D.A.’s office are currently scheduled to run through late June, according to documents on file with the local court system.

As of press time, trials remained pending for 28 defendants who were charged during protests in downtown Graham last year, as well as two other protesters who were arrested at a November 2019 protest over the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which allows detainees awaiting deportation hearings to be temporarily housed at the Alamance County jail. The pending cases include the trial for Alamance News reporter Tomas Murawski, who was arrested for allegedly resisting a public officer while covering the October 31 protest in downtown Graham for the newspaper; his case is currently scheduled for trial on May 26.

Approximately 31 cases related to the 2020 protests have been disposed since the 2020 protest trials began earlier this year.

Ten defendants – including two who voluntarily entered a guilty plea in exchange for a prayer for judgment – have been found guilty at trial. Several of the 10 defendants who have been convicted also have pending trials for other charges related to last year’s protests.

Five defendants (three of whom have pending trials on other protest-related charges) have been found not guilty since protest trials began in mid-February.

Nine defendants have had their charges dismissed at trial, including four members of the county NAACP whose cases were dismissed for insufficient evidence to support misdemeanor charges of impeding traffic on which they had been arrested at a protest outside the Historic Court House on July 25, 2020.

Two other cases were dismissed earlier this month after an alleged assault victim in one case, and the arresting officer in a separate case, failed to appear in district court to testify.

The D.A.’s office has dismissed charges against 16 defendants – including several who have pending trials on other charges – who were arrested at the nearly five dozen protests held in downtown Graham during the second half of last year, based on Alamance County court files.

Meanwhile, three defendants who were found guilty during their trials in district court last month are appealing their convictions to superior court.

Nicholas Cassette, 35, black male, of 5982 Church Road, Graham, was convicted of resisting an officer but found not guilty of inciting a riot and second-degree trespassing during a trial in district court on March 31; all three charges are classified as misdemeanors. The presiding judge – Lunsford Long, III of Orange County, who has agreed to hear all of the protest cases in Alamance County district court – concluded that Cassette had failed to properly heed a deputy’s directions during a protest outside the county jail on September 8, 2020.

Maurice Wells, Jr., 34, black male, of 10 Aspen Drive, Apartment A, Greensboro, is also appealing his March 24 conviction of misdemeanor failure to disperse on command and disorderly conduct during a protest in downtown Graham on July 11, 2020. Based on testimony and video footage presented at the trial, Long concluded that Wells had been directed to leave Sesquicentennial Park that afternoon and had been told by Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson that he would be arrested if he failed to do so.

Rion Thompson, 23, black male, of 611 Atwater Street in Greensboro, was found guilty at his trial on March 17 of misdemeanor failure to disperse on command during the march and rally in downtown Graham on October 31, 2020. Long ultimately concluded from video footage and testimony by Alamance County’s sheriff’s deputies that three warnings to disperse had been given, and Thompson failed to comply.

All three of those cases were scheduled for an administrative superior court session on Monday.

Cassette’s appeal is currently scheduled to be heard in Alamance County superior court on May 10. Thompson’s and Wells’ case are scheduled to be heard in superior court on August 2, according to Alamance County court documents.

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