WASHINGTON, D.C. — The lead investigator in the mass prosecution of leftist Inauguration Day protesters is a fan of Donald Trump’s right-wing internet tribe, attorneys showed jurors Tuesday.
Defense lawyers used cross-examination of Det. Gregg Pemberton to show jurors his affinity for Trump boosters like David Clarke and the One America News Network (OANN), and his antipathy toward the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
Lawyers juxtaposed Pemberton’s public comments with video of Inauguration Day protesters chanting “Black lives matter!” before their march, in an effort to establish that the government’s key witness is fundamentally biased against the people he was investigating.
The detective, who also serves as a public relations official for the union that represents Metropolitan Police Department officers, is a vital witness for prosecutors. He produced the video highlight reels and PowerPoint tools they will ask jurors to use to string together specific individual timelines from a chaotic day of protests and unrest.
Pemberton testified Tuesday that he used to believe the Movement for Black Lives was “anti-cop,” but claimed his opinion has changed “in the last year and a half.” But defense attorney Andrew Lazerow quickly pulled up one of Pemberton’s own tweets from April of this year signalling he continued to regard black organizers critical of police violence as paid propagandists.
“You know what I haven’t heard in a while? ‘Police shootings of unarmed black youth.’ Did they run out of funding for their false narrative?” Pemberton’s April tweet read.
On the stand Tuesday, the lead investigator in a case seeking to punish left-aligned protesters who opposed Donald Trump’s ascent and voiced support for Black Lives Matter tried to explain himself.
D.C. detective testified he believes there’s a “cottage industry of people who just want to make money” who “gum up the works” for “genuine activists.” Says these people inject them themselves into the conversation and make themselves talking heads. #j20
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) December 12, 2017
“Sometimes you have to say something bombastic to remain engaged in the conversation,” Pemberton told the jury.
“And have you ‘liked’ tweets calling it ‘Black Lies Matter’?” Lazerow asked.
“I may have,” Pemberton said.
Political bias at issue in collective-guilt case
Pemberton’s investigation made no distinction between individuals who can be seen smashing windows or brawling with cops and those who were merely nearby in the group of marchers, he testified Tuesday.
Lead prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff has explicitly acknowledged that she has no evidence that the six defendants in this first trial ever personally engaged in such direct crimes, but hopes jurors will convict them of multiple counts of destruction of property anyhow. This is just the first in a long series of trials to come in the case, with nearly 200 other defendants facing multiple felony counts based on similarly murky evidence of participation in violence.
With Pemberton’s disinterest in distinguishing between window-smashers and Black Lives Matter chanters established, Lazerow led jurors through the detective’s faves.
“America is upside down. Cops under attack threatens rule of law,” read one item tweeted by ex-sheriff David Clarke and “liked” by Pemberton. “That is the aim of the leftist goons. Push back before it is too late.”
“Is it true you didn’t draw a line between those who broke property and those who didn’t because you view the six people at this table as ‘leftist goons?’” Lazerow asked Pemberton. No, came the reply.
Pemberton also follows Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr., Breitbart, James O’Keefe, and other key figures in laundering the racist invective of the so-called “alt-right” into a victorious mainstream political movement. And when the right-wing One America News Network needed an on-camera interview in 2016 for a story about which presidential candidate would get endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Pemberton was their man.
“I think [Trump’s] stance on policing is more favorable than it has been in the past,” Pemberton said in an interview clip shown to the jury Tuesday.
“Police officers want to hear that someone’s going to come in and not allow this false, divisive rhetoric that police officers are inherently racist,” he said.