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Federal Government Drops May 30 Riot Charges Against 2 Erie, Pa. Men

The federal government dropped charges against two Pennsylvania men they originally said traveled to Cleveland on May 30 to participate in a riot.

When the U.S. Attorney’s office charged Brandon Althof-Long and Devon Bryce Poland with transporting a firearm or explosive in furtherance of civil disorder, conspiracy to use an explosive to commit a felony and participating in a riot, Cleveland’s mayor, police chief and federal law enforcement all appeared at a press conference to publicize the arrests.

“The work is just starting,” said Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams in June. “There’s still a lot of folks out there that came here with the intent to tear down our city. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Nine months later, the charges against Althof-Long and Poland have been dropped.

Problems with the case emerged in November, when the court threw out physical evidence – knives, a gun, fire starter and spray paint – from a vehicle search on the night of the protests.

“The state must prove that defendants acted recklessly in failing to obey a lawful order of a police officer,” wrote U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patricia Gaughan. “Here, however, there is no evidence that either defendant failed to comply with a lawful order or direction ‘of any policeofficer.’”

The court said the two men’s presence in Downtown Cleveland when the area was under a curfew issued by Mayor Frank Jackson was not sufficient reason to conduct a search. Jackson instituted the curfew the evening of May 30, after protests against police brutality turned violent in Downtown Cleveland.

The U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed the case against Althof-Long and Poland on Tuesday.

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