Defendants charged at Second Street Bridge protest all accept plea agreement

October 26, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Defendants charged with obstructing a highway for blocking the Second Street Bridge between Kentucky and Indiana on June 29, 2020 have all accepted a plea agreement that includes community service. The 26 individuals have already or will have their cases set aside and dismissed following the completion of 20 hours of community service each under the terms of the agreement offered by the office of Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell.

Trial was scheduled to begin in November for remaining defendants involved in this incident.

During the past two years the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office (JCAO) has moved to dismiss most protest-related cases but proceeded in cases that involve instances of violence or the threat of violence, destruction of property, or interference of streets or roadways.

“We have reviewed protest-related cases in a consistent and professional manner, working as we do every day to ensure that every member of the community is treated fairly before the law,” said O’Connell. “We believe this was a just offer in recognition that the actions of these individuals could have placed members of our community, including themselves, in danger.”

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge (commonly referred to as the Second Street Bridge) is more than a mile long and more than 70 feet above the Ohio River. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet data shows that average traffic on the bridge in 2020 was 23,881 vehicles per day.

A total group of approximately 44 people were originally arrested as part of the activity near the bridge on charges of obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct. The JCAO previously moved to dismiss the disorderly conduct charges. Obstructing a highway (KRS 525.140) is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $250 fine.

Movement on the Second Street Bridge cases picked up quickly following their reassignment to Jefferson District Court Judge Anne Haynie. Verbal offers to resolve the case with proof of community service were open for months but formal written offers with a deadline were extended following the Court’s rulings in the past two months to join the remaining cases and set a trial date. Defendants will be eligible to have the charge expunged from their records 30 days after the Court dismisses their case.

The JCAO reviewed more than 1,000 arrests that arose from the continued protests that started in 2020. Independent analysis from the Courier Journal in July 2022 showed 70 percent had been dismissed by that point in time. The JCAO estimates that 52 defendants have protest-related cases that remain open from the approximate 1,000 cases it has reviewed. 25 of those defendants have a pending court date and 27 have open bench warrants following a failure to appear at some point during the legal process.

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