Lawyers debate offense ‘seriousness’ in Saratoga Spring protest case against Miles

Schenectady School Board member Jamaica Miles speaks to reporters outside Saratoga Springs City Court Tuesday

Schenectady School Board member Jamaica Miles speaks to reporters outside Saratoga Springs City Court Tuesday

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Schenectady School Board member Jamaica Miles will be back in court later this month, despite a judge’s attempt on Tuesday to resolve the racial justice protester’s case with a conditional dismissal.

Miles, co-founder of the activist group All of Us, appeared in Saratoga Springs City Court to face an allegation that she and others blocked traffic during a July protest in the Spa City.

Judge Francine Vero said the court had filed its second application to settle the charge of unlawful imprisonment against the 47-year-old Miles with an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or ACOD. It’s 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.

Vero cited Miles’ age and that she’s a mother of four who has no prior criminal history as the basis for the proposed ACOD.

However, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Frandino declined to sign off on the resolution, instead offering to reduce the charge to disorderly conduct, according to the judge.

Miles, through her attorney Thomas Keefe, rejected the prosecutor’s counter.

An evidentiary hearing is set for Jan. 20.

When the judge asked the prosecutor to state his reason for declining the proposed ACOD, Frandino said that at this point in time “it is my understanding that neither side would be willing to consent to an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.” 

The prosecutor said he would “reserve any and all arguments” regarding his position during the upcoming hearing. 

Keefe said that because the people didn’t consent to the ACOD, it was irrelevant that the defense didn’t either, given the circumstances.

Miles told reporters the case was nothing more than “retaliation against the Black Lives Matter movement” and blasted the DA’s office for pursuing it.

To a question about whether she would accept an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal resolution if the assistant district attorney changed his position, Miles said: “I’m not willing to discuss that right now.”

Charging documents state that at about 7:45 p.m. on July 14,  Miles and others “intentionally and unlawfully restrained the movement of another person by physically placing herself in front of a motor vehicle on Broadway and Phila Street.” 

A sworn statement by an alleged victim whose name was redacted described an African-American female in a black tank top yelling into a megaphone. She instructed others to stop in front of the car in which the alleged victim was a passenger.

The passenger said someone in the group told the driver to stop the car as 10 to 15 protesters stood in front of the vehicle. He asked the protesters to let them proceed, and when the group did not, he called 911.

“I was standing outside the car near the opened passenger door when the young African-American kid came toward me in a fighting manner,” the statement continued. “Someone in their group came up and pushed him away, out of the way. A gentleman (on) a scooter came up and asked the people in front of our car to please let us go. Another lady, maybe in her 70s, asked them to let us leave. I then called 911 again.” 

He said a protester asked him why he was calling 911 again, and the group finally dispersed.

“I thanked them and they continued walking away,” the statement read.

Keefe’s memorandum to the court pointed out that the passenger hadn’t alleged that he had been “confined” by the protesters. 

Unlawful imprisonment requires restraint, the defense lawyer’s memo read. 

“The allegations in the supporting deposition certainly do not rise to the level of unlawful imprisonment,” Keefe wrote.

Miles’ lawyer filed a motion to dismiss the case in the interest of justice, but Vero declined to take action on it Tuesday.

Keefe said after the court hearing that there are eight elements for a dismissal in the interest of justice, one of which – the seriousness of the offense – is in dispute. This prompted the upcoming evidentiary hearing.

If Vero denies the motion, the case will head to trial next month.

The protesters were upset about comments Assistant Police Chief John Catone had made 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.” 

Miles accused  the Saratoga Springs District Attorney’s office of “supporting threats” made by Catone. Miles said the police department’s abuse of power is a tool of retaliation and intimidation of those who dare protest.

“The office of the DA is supposed to be about justice for people, not revenge or retribution determined by the police,” she said.

The judge said both parties rely heavily on video evidence to support their respective positions.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.







Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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