Two Black Lives Matter protesters in the Iowa capital of Des Moines have been charged under a little-used law intended to prosecute police for unauthorized release of confidential information and are facing up to five years in jail.
The two are accused of stealing a police document and showing it on television during a demonstration at the Iowa capitol, The Associated Press reported.
The Iowa Judicial Branch claims it is only the second time the law has been used since it was enacted in 2010.
Alexandria Dea, 26, is accused of stealing a Des Moines Police Department bulletin – out of the back pocket of an officer – that cops had with them when they were monitoring a July 1 protest at the Iowa capitol. It included photos of suspects wanted in the destruction of a police car during a June 20 protest in Des Moines.
According to charging documents, Dea stole the handout during a confrontation between demonstrators and police, which started when three of the suspects of the police car incident were found inside the capitol and arrested.
The protesters later regrouped at the Polk County Jail to demand the release of the suspects, when Viet Tran, 21, was interviewed by local ABC affiliate WOI, displayed the document and discussed its contents on the air. The four-page bulletin is emblazoned on the top of the first page that it is not to be shared or released publicly under penalty of law.
“This is my first experience with it ever being applied to anyone outside law enforcement, but obviously the circumstances were pretty unique,” Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said. “Those documents are not supposed to be shared. It’s actually written on them. As soon as they did that, the charge was appropriate.”
Dea has been charged with felony theft and was released on bond, while Tran remained jailed Tuesday without bond on a probation violation.
The revelation comes less than a week after the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said that the Department of Justice had assisted local law enforcement across the country with “hundreds” of prosecutions related to the riots and protests that were spawned following the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis.
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