It’s been more than a year since two Tampa residents went out to protest the police and found themselves behind bars. They’ve been fighting their charges ever since — often with the public by their side — and it appears that their work has finally paid off.
Hillsborough County prosecutors recently dropped the major charges against the two Tampa protesters.
What led to the initial charges, and how did protesters get out of facing up to five years in prison?
One Protest and Two Arrests
On the Fourth of July in 2020, around 100 people in a Black Lives Matter protest took to the street on North Dale Mabry Highway near the intersection of Spruce Street in Tampa. They headed down the street toward Columbus Drive, blocking traffic and protesting systemic racism, the police, and the murder of George Floyd.
Among the crowd were Jamie Bullock, 22, and Chukwudi Uche, 23.
What happened when police intervened with the crowd has been debated for months and was set to be heard before an upcoming trial.
Police say Bullock slapped a lieutenant in the arm and that Uche threw a water bottle at an officer before running away into a car that had a gun in it.
Bullock and Uche say these accusations were overblown and unfair. They claim they were unfairly treated by the police. There was public support for their case as supporters often showed up to their court dates and protested outside of the courthouse.
But even with the public support, both Bullock and Uche were going to need to prove their case in court — that was until additional video evidence surfaced.
Video Evidence Changes the Story
Bullock and Uche were facing serious charges and potential jail time.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, both faced charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, which is a third-degree felony with a potential penalty of up to five years in prison.
Uche also faced charges for carrying a concealed firearm, which is a felony, and resisting arrest without violence, which is a misdemeanor.
Both were fighting the charges and set to go to trial. Jury selection was about to begin. But, then their defense attorneys discovered new video evidence that worked in the protesters’ favor. The videos show that the story against Bullock and Uche wasn’t cut and dry.
Maria Pavlidis, one of Bullock’s attorneys said, “If you watch those videos, it’s clear they used excessive force on her. That just shows they were lying from the beginning.”
It appears that Pavlidis wasn’t alone in her interpretation of the new video evidence.
In a statement reported by the Tampa Bay Times, State Attorney’s spokesperson Grayson Kamm said, “We received new evidence in the past few days — including bodycam video and interviews with defense witnesses — that had a direct impact on the State’s ability to prove all the required elements.”
Prosecutors with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office announced they would drop the charges of battery on a law enforcement officer for both Bullock and Uche.
Case Closes with Dropped Charges
Because of the video evidence, the most serious charges facing Bullock and Uche were dropped. It also prompted their other charges to be resolved through separate diversion programs.
Uche agreed to a pre-trial intervention program. As part of the deal, he agreed to community service, giving up the gun in his possession at the time of the arrest, writing a letter of apology, and regularly checking in with the Florida Department of Corrections.
Bullock agreed to a misdemeanor intervention program. She will have to do 24 hours of community service and pay roughly $350 for costs associated with the program.
If Bullock and Uche complete their program and are not arrested before completion of their programs, they will have their remaining charges dismissed.
After more than a year, the pair will no longer have the case — and potential jail time — looming over their future.
Get a Defense Attorney Who Fights for You
Anyone charged with a crime is entitled to fair due process of the law. You are innocent until proven guilty, and you deserve a criminal defense attorney who will fight to bring the truth to light in your case.
As you can see in this case, it’s important to have an attorney who will help you get the fairest and most just outcome possible. In some cases, you will need to fight for the truth. Work with an attorney who won’t stop until the truth is told. If you’re facing criminal charges, talk to an attorney who has your back.
Call today to talk to TJ Grimaldi to see how our team can support your case. Request your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.