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Man sentenced to 40 months in prison for burning Seattle police vehicles during protests

Man sentenced to 40 months in prison for burning Seattle police vehicles during protests
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A Washington state man was sentenced to 40 months in prison for throwing Molotov cocktails during protests in Seattle last summer to protest the death of George Floyd, the Justice Department announced Monday. 

The U.S. District Court in Seattle officially issued the prison sentence to Kelly Thomas Jackson, 21, on Monday, along with three years of supervised release.

Jackson was arrested in September and pleaded guilty in January to two counts of possession of a destructive device. Jackson is accused of throwing two Molotov cocktails that hit and burned two Seattle Police vehicles during the protests. 

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Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said Monday that Jackson’s actions during a May demonstration showed an “intent on dangerous destruction,” according to a Justice Department press release. 

"Unlike the vast majority of demonstrators who came to downtown Seattle to protest peacefully against systemic racism, this defendant came armed with Molotov Cocktails,” Gorman said in a statement. "The danger to others is captured in pictures from the scene: flames from the burning cars and burning gasoline spread across the sidewalk, pollutant-filled smoke billowing into the crowd.”

“This isn't free speech - it is criminal conduct deserving of a federal prison sentence,” Gorman argued. 

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said during the sentencing hearing, “The public’s right to peacefully protest has been repeatedly violated by people doing criminal things.”

According to federal court documents, law enforcement following a May 30 demonstration in Seattle uncovered “various videos of a white male suspect in distinctive clothing using glass containers with a flammable material and a wick to burn or attempt to burn two police vehicles.”

Jackson was later identified as the man captured in the videos through an anonymous tip to law enforcement, according to Monday’s press release. 

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Additional evidence tied Jackson to the scene of the demonstration, and other videos showed the man “throwing one Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle, then hiding himself in the crowd and jumping up and down with excitement after his crime.” 

Other footage then showed him throwing a second Molotov cocktail at another police vehicle, after which it bounced off and exploded outside a Nordstrom store. 

A police probe into Jackson’s internet search history showed that leading up to the incident, he researched how to make Molotov cocktails, the Justice Department said. 

The Seattle protests were just some of the large demonstrations that were held throughout the country following the police killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man. 

His death fueled months of civil unrest that at times turned violent, prompting calls from former President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE and others to mobilize the National Guard and local police forces to quell the protests. 

Derek Chauvin, the officer captured in viral video kneeling down on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, is in the first week of his trial in connection with Floyd’s death. Chauvin faces three criminal counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.