The next time mayhem erupts on our local streets and hijacks a peaceful protest, as it did last summer, don’t expect Denver’s district attorney to step in and sort out the bad apples.
And if you are unlucky enough to get caught up in the melee while driving home — only to be mobbed by rabble rousers who threaten you, jump on your car’s hood and smash your windshield — you could even end up as the one who gets prosecuted.
That’s exactly what happened to Jennifer Watson. She was put through her ordeal by the rioters, first, and then by Denver D.A. Beth McCann.
Watson had done nothing to deserve it other than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Driving by the Capitol and minding her own business on May 28 last year, she encountered an angry mob. Participants, ostensibly upset over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police three days earlier, seemed to be itching for a fight. Watson and some other motorists on westbound Colfax at Broadway had moved briefly into Colfax’s empty eastbound lanes to skirt the mob that had overtaken the street and stopped traffic. Her aim was to turn south onto Broadway and steer clear of the bottleneck. That’s when her car was swarmed.
After the mob assaulted her vehicle, terrifying her and her dog, a man who had jumped on her hood jumped off. She veered toward him and bumped him, knocking him over. He bounced back up, apparently uninjured, and gave chase along with the other rioters as she drove off.
When Watson at last got safely home, she called police to report the incident. Weeks later, incredibly, McCann’s office brought charges against Watson — and not her assailants.
As we recounted here last week, a Denver jury acquitted Watson earlier this month of third-degree assault for “knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a protester,” while convicting her of a less significant reckless-driving charge.
You’d think the jury’s refusal to go along with the biggest part of McCann’s implausible case would have humbled her and her staff. Instead, she wrote The Gazette an indignant letter doubling down on her dubious decision to prosecute Watson.
In the letter, published in Tuesday’s Gazette, McCann’s re-tries her losing case against Watson with a selective rendering of the facts. She accuses Watson of having “deliberately” chosen “to pull out of traffic, and drive the wrong way on Colfax to get around traffic.” So did other stranded motorists, Watson points out. McCann writes that Watson, “chose to disobey the traffic restrictions and intentionally drive into the large gathering of people.” Into? Or, was she trying to get around and away from them? McCann claims, “She then cut through the intersection at Colfax and Broadway while flipping the bird at protesters.” That was after they surrounded, stopped and jumped on her car, all the while jeering, taunting and, yes, flipping off Watson. McCann also accuses Watson of having, “fled the scene of the accident.” Never mind that Watson called authorities when she got home; perhaps she also didn’t wish to risk being dragged from her car by rioters and beaten.
And then there’s this nugget from McCann’s letter: “A protester testified at the trial that he tried to stop her because he was concerned given what happened in Charlottesville when a man drove through a group of protesters.” Oh, good grief.
But here’s the mile-wide hole in our district attorney’s case: Why didn’t McCann and her staff of legal eagles lift a finger to prosecute a violent mob terrorizing passing traffic? Blocking a busy street where, if we recall basic traffic laws correctly, they weren’t even supposed to be?
McCann’s office was fully apprised of the identity of the 22-year-old recent C.U. grad, Max Bailey, who had jumped Watson’s car and appears to have done the most damage to it. Why wasn’t he charged?
Why did the D.A. just look the other way? Because to enforce the law would have meant to disrupt last summer’s prevailing political narrative. Notably, that anyone, anywhere who resorted to any action, however reckless and selfish, was on the side of history so long as it demonstrated anger over George Floyd. In such a heady climate, heaven forbid a prosecutor should be on the side of law and order, instead! To seal the deal and win plaudits from the woke crowd, it would seem, she offered up Watson as a sacrifice.
A crime wave is gripping Colorado’s Front Range. As The Gazette recently reported, homicides so far this year in Denver are outpacing even last year’s surge. Instead of being part of the crackdown, McCann has demonstrated she is willing to turn our streets over to bedlam. And whoever gets in the way will get thrown under the bus.