SARATOGA SPRINGS – A defense lawyer will seek a dismissal of charges against Schenectady School Board member Jamaica Miles on Tuesday stemming from a July protest.
During the July 14 demonstration, Miles was one of about a dozen racial justice protesters accused of blocking traffic while they denounced remarks by a high-ranking city police officer.
In the case that has garnered attention from the state Attorney General’s office, attorney Thomas Keefe, a former Albany city court judge, is requesting the dismissal on behalf of Miles “in the interest of justice,” as opposed to the merits of the case.
The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office filed a response that laid out reasons why it didn’t feel the case met the criteria of the statute, District Attorney Karen Heggen said in an interview.
In an interview Monday, Miles said she’s miffed the Saratoga County District Attorney’s office hadn’t offered her an outcome of an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, as it did other demonstrators’ cases.
An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is a tool that allows a defendant to avoid a conviction, as long as he or she is not re-arrested during a specified period of time.
Miles suggested there were political motives to what she said was differential treatment from prosecutors.
Miles also faces a violation charge of disorderly conduct.
Miles, 47, is the co-founder of the activist group All of Us. She points out that she’s a mother of four and has no criminal record.
Heggen confirmed that “several” of the arrested protesters’ cases were disposed of with outcomes of adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
Heggen said it was “challenging” to call the protesters co-defendants because, during the singularly large incident, each of their actions was different.
Heggen pointed out that she didn’t want to try the case in the press, but was responding to Miles’ outreach to the press.
Saratoga Springs police have said protesters violated the law when they blocked traffic on Broadway, preventing motorists from traveling freely down the street, including one person with a heart condition.
The police released video footage that showed protesters blocking traffic on the road, including some who stood directly in front of cars. The sworn statements of motorists stuck amid the protest were also included in court documents filed in the cases.
Miles was among a dozen protesters charged six weeks after the protest, a delay that has raised concerns about whether the arrests were retaliatory. The state AG’s office has since launched a probe of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
Miles and others were demonstrating in the Spa City in response to comments made by Saratoga Springs Assistant Police Chief John Catone during a June 28 press conference about recent violent incidents in the city.
Catone, who is retiring this month, had suggested at the time that some people in the community were pushing a narrative that police were “racist killers.”
The longtime police official vowed to pull out “every single connection my family has made over the last 130 years, and I will stop your narrative.”
Catone later apologized for the remarks.
But in an interview Monday, Miles suggested Catone’s initial remarks were being carried out by the DA’s office and its absence of an offer of an ACOD to her.
“It is consistent with the statement that was made by the assistant chief of police, and it is consistent with the idea that the DA’s office is possibly even supportive of the notion of preventing other people from exercising their First Amendment rights by intimidating the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement locally, and that’s myself and Lexis Figuereo,” Miles said.
Meanwhile, the unlawful imprisonment charge against Miles carries a sentence of up to a year.
Miles was asked how the first potential blemish on her record weighed on her.
“It weighs on me that I could be the example to prevent others from exercising their First Amendment right,” she said. “I truly worry more about that than what it would mean to go to trial and lose.”
Miles added she “can’t imagine” being found guilty in a trial.
“I’ve done my research and talked to lawyers and other folks,” she said. “The unlawful imprisonment charge is ridiculous, and the DA refuses to drop it, which I believe is politically motivated.”
A case against the BLM activist Figuereo is also pending. He is due to return to court next month. The activist has been offered a plea deal that would drop two misdemeanor charges of obstruction of City Council meetings in July, provided he pleads guilty to a violation charge of disorderly conduct stemming from the protest.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.