Prosecutors have dismissed charges that accused a Henrico County firefighter of rioting in Washington during President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year.
Rosa Roncales, 32, was among roughly three dozen defendants whose charges were dismissed by prosecutors last week, said Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Those were the last defendants, out of a group of more than 200 people charged, who still had cases pending in D.C. Superior Court in connection with the Inauguration Day incident.
Roncales was arrested when officers rounded up suspected rioters on Jan. 20, 2017, according to a police report.
At that time, Roncales was employed as a Henrico firefighter. She was reassigned to administrative duty after she was charged in the case. Paula Reid, Henrico’s human resources director, said Monday that Roncales is no longer employed with the department, and that her last day with the county’s Division of Fire was May 1, 2017.
Following the incident, Roncales was charged with rioting, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of destruction of property, all of which are now dismissed.
Margarita K. O’Donnell and Rachel Cotton, Roncales’ defense attorneys, said in a statement that they were pleased prosecutors dismissed the charges against their client on Friday, adding that the charges never should have been brought against her in the first place.
“Ms. Roncales was prosecuted for doing nothing more than exercising her First Amendment right to protest,” Roncales’ defense attorneys said in their statement.
“This reckless prosecution, which lasted more than a year and a half, threatened to chill the lawful exercise of constitutional rights and civil liberties in our nation’s capital. It also had serious consequences on the life of a young woman who has dedicated much of her life to public service and to bettering her community. Ms. Roncales is eager to move forward with her life.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement Friday that prosecutors believe the evidence showed that a riot occurred the day of the inauguration that caused more than $100,000 in damage to public and private property.
“The destruction that occurred during these criminal acts was in sharp contrast to the peaceful demonstrations and gatherings that took place over the inauguration weekend in the District of Columbia, and created a danger for all who were nearby,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its statement.
Still, prosecutors said they opted to drop the charges against the remaining 39 defendants on Friday “in light of the results in the cases brought to trial.”
There were 234 people arrested. The cases against 206 of them were dismissed, while another seven defendants were acquitted, according to figures from the U.S. attorney’s office. The remaining 21 defendants pleaded guilty to charges in the case, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The criminal complaint against Roncales makes general allegations about the activities of the overall group of suspects in the case, but it does not say what, specifically, she was accused of doing during the incident.
Police said in their complaint that people associated with an “anarchist group” assembled near Logan Circle, about a mile from the White House on the morning of the inauguration.
More than 300 people showed up, many of them wearing black bandanas and masks to conceal their faces, police said. The group walked on 13th Street tearing trash cans and newspaper boxes off corners and setting them alight in the street, according to authorities. Some members of the group smashed in windows of a D.C. Fire and EMS vehicle, and a limousine was set on fire, police said.
The Washington Post said in a July 7 article that jurors in the two cases that went to trial said afterward that prosecutors were unable to prove which people in the crowd were vandals.