Criminal Justice

Two Eris Parade arrestees ask for "vague" charges against them to be quashed

By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

Two defendants accused of disturbing the peace at an unpermitted parade in the Marigny have filed motions to quash charges against them because they say the state is being too vague about what they did wrong.

Ron Morrison, 24, and Jonathan Cromwell, 30, filed the motions to quash this morning, following their arrest at the Eris Parade in March.

The state’s disturbing the peace statute lists eight possible violations, such as directing offensive language to someone lawfully in a street, appearing in an intoxicated condition, or holding an unlawful assembly. But Morrison and Cromwell argue that they cannot mount an effective defense unless the district attorney can be specific about which violation they are accused of.  If convicted, the two young men could face up to six months in jail.

On Morrison and Cromwell’s behalf, attorney John Adcock filed motions for two bills of particulars on June 27, requesting the state to be more specific. The state responded on July 18 with two bills of information saying that Morrison and Cromwell could have been guilty of four of the possible eight violations under the statute.

The motions to quash argue that the state needs to be still more specific, saying precisely which violation or violations the defendants are accused of. Judge Robin Pittman will hear oral argument from both sides on July 29.

Whatever the outcome of the case, it is certain that events at the parade were chaotic, as the revelers faced off with police.

The Lens requested police reports associated with the parade but was only given a report written 16 days afterwards by Sgt. James Clarkston.

Clarkston’s narrative describes a messy scene: Officers from four police districts and a group of state troopers eventually stunned six revelers with Taser guns, struck one with a baton, and pepper-sprayed the crowd before “gaining control” of the scene, Clarkston wrote.

Youtube footage from the parade shows police officers pepper-spraying a reveler.

According to Clarkston’s report, punches, metal objects and bricks were thrown at officers and at least one officer shouted to his colleagues to run from the scene. The account notes that at least two suspects escaped after hitting police officers.

In the melee, one officer fractured a knee, while others suffered bruises, contusions, and unspecified injuries, the report concludes.

Afterwards, none of the revelers came forward to receive medical treatment, according to Clarkston’s report. Meanwhile, officers stayed behind to pick up stray trashcans and replace slashed tires on their vehicles.

Video footage obtained by The Times-Picayune showed one officer swatting a cell phone camera away from an onlooker trying to make a video record of  the fracas — a police action criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana on constitutional grounds.

Nine other defendants face charges in addition to those being fought by Morrison and Cromwell, such as simple damage to property and battery of a police officer. If charges are upheld, those defendants could also face months in jail.

An attorney for two of the other defendants blames police overreaction to the parade for the chaos, and says that his clients are not guilty of the alleged charges.

“I think the NOPD overreacted. Rather than de-escalate the incident, they escalated it,” said attorney Stephen Haedicke. “And any time you have that kind of chaos being caused by the police, there’s a danger that the wrong people will get arrested.”

Attorney Miles Swanson, who is representing three more defendants, criticized the district attorney’s approach.

“If they are going to take the time to prosecute these people, at least they need to take it seriously,” Swanson said.

Only one defendant has pled guilty to charges linked to the parade.

Further confusing matters, Clarkston was not yet present at the scene to witness the alleged behavior that led to Cromwell’s arrest. Along with another reveler, Cromwell had been placed in a police car during the high point of the parade for “being in an intoxicated condition,” Clarkston wrote. It was only later that officers “recognized the revelers as subjects observed throwing trash cans during the height of the chaotes (sic).”

Morrison was arrested after Clarkston arrived on the scene for allegedly refusing to move on, following an order by a police officer.

Clarkston based his report on accounts from other officers, but the department declined to turn supplemental reports over to The Lens citing the ongoing investigation.

Both Adcock and the District Attorney’s Office declined comment, as the case is ongoing.

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