Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

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Charges dropped against chalk protestors, but they plan to sue over arrest

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Special to the Sun

Chalk messages, such as this one, were written on sidewalks outside the Metro Police Headquarters and the Regional Justice Center.

The District Attorney’s Office announced today that the Las Vegas chalk activists won’t face graffiti charges, but their attorney says they’ll still be heading to court to sue.

Now that the charges are being dropped, Robert Langford, the activists’ pro-bono attorney, is preparing to sue on the basis that his clients were punished for speaking out against the government.

Brian Ballentine, 31, Kelly Wayne Patterson, 44, Hailee Jewell, 18, and Catalino de la Cruz Dazo Jr., 20 were facing multiple gross misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to place graffiti and defacing property after conducting chalk protests against police brutality outside of Metro headquarters and the Clark County Regional Justice Center. The District Attorney's Office also decided against filing charges against an unnamed juvenile activist.

The decision to drop the charges, set to officially occur Friday, comes after District Attorney Steve Wolfson met with Langford. At the meeting, Langford gave him information that indicated the activists had been pointed to a specific spot, implying it would be OK for them to write there in chalk, Langford said.

"After receiving this new information, and interviewing a credible witness, we determined our resources could be better used on prosecuting cases involving violent crime, DUI deaths, robberies, murders, and other like cases," Wolfson said in a statement.

While Langford said he appreciated Wolfson taking the time to become personally involved in the case and reverse the decision, Langford was critical of what he considers unnecessary prosecution and a waste of the district attorney’s time and resources.

Langford said he thought a fair response to what he considers persecution for protesting was to sue.

Langford said he was still weighing which parties will be named in the lawsuit and in what jurisdiction he would file.

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