Charges reduced against Elijah McClain protest leaders

The three had faced a long list of charges, including numerous felonies, for their roles in protests last summer.

A protest  demanding justice for Elijah McClain has taken over I-225. July 25, 2020.

A protest demanding justice for Elijah McClain has taken over I-225. July 25, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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Three people who helped lead protests last summer over the death of Elijah McClain are no longer facing felony charges in Arapahoe County.

Joel Northam, Lillian House and Terrance Roberts were originally charged with crimes that included inciting a riot, theft and conspiracy for their roles in three Aurora protests.

But on Monday, the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office amended its list of charges and dropped the most serious ones, including all felonies. The three protestors still face a list of misdemeanors, including obstructing a highway and tampering.

In a statement, the office for new district attorney John Kellner wrote, “These changes were requested after a careful review of the investigation and the available evidence. Prosecutors must reasonably believe that charges are supported by probable cause, that admissible evidence will be sufficient to support conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the decision to charge is in the interest of justice.”

The National Committee for Justice in Denver, a group of attorneys and activists that formed after protest leaders were arrested last fall, called the dropped charges “a significant step in the right direction,” but said in a statement that continuing to pursue any charges against protesters is “an abuse of the court system and an affront to the community of Aurora, which was justified in protesting for justice for Elijah McClain.”

House and Northam are separately being prosecuted for their roles in a July 3, 2020 protest that blockaded a police station in the Adams County portion of Aurora. The judge in that case recently threw out the most serious charges against them.

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