DC Mayor, Police Refuse to Release Financial Records of Trump Inauguration Investigation

Washington, DC – Last month, on December 19, 2017, Unicorn Riot reporters filed a FOIA request for time cards submitted by Detective Greggory Pemberton during his work investigating people arrested at a protest against Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017. Both the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and, upon appeal, the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser, denied our FOIA request, claiming that the release of the information would ‘not comport with the “public interest”’.

Pemberton has been the central detective on the case, by his own admission working up to 60 hours a week in a desk outside Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff’s office. Unicorn Riot sought the records in order to determine the amount of hours Detective Pemberton has worked on the investigation of protesters and journalists arrested on Inauguration Day. By cross-referencing the amount of hours worked with his publicly available salary information, we would have been able to produce an estimate of the cost to taxpayers of his involvement in the case.

Detective Pemberton (far right) seen leaving DC Superior Court with Assistant US Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Qureshi. Photo: Ryan Reilly/HuffPost

Detective Greggory Pemberton continues to be one of the primary people behind the J20 prosecution, and his involvement in the case has produced an extensive amount of controversy. He admitted under oath during the first J20 trial that he had once been reprimanded for ‘conduct unbecoming of an officer’ after he turned in time sheets seeking overtime pay for time he spent in court attending his own DUI hearing after he was caught driving drunk.

As the main police detective assisting prosecutors, Pemberton has come under fire for laundering into evidence manipulated video taken by the alt-right fake news outlet Project Veritas, as well as the Media Resource Center, another discredited far-right group.

Pemberton was questioned in court at length about his Twitter account (which he made private, sanitized, and then made public again) which he used to follow various alt-right accounts such as Project Veritas, Breitbart News, and the Nazi-affiliated online entity known as /pol/ News Network. He had also sent tweets personally attacking activists, with messages such as “Black Lies Matter.”

Pemberton is also the treasurer for the DC Police Union, which did not itself endorse a candidate for President but is part of the national Fraternal Order of Police organization which endorsed Trump. Before the election, in August 2016, he gave an interview to the alt-right media outlet One America News Network in which he expressed his desire to see a Trump presidency “put a stop to” protesters who speak out against the police:

“Police officers wanna hear that someone is gonna come in and not allow this divisive, vitriolic rhetoric of this false narrative that all police officers are inherently criminal racists that are out here committing crimes against the citizens, and that they’re gonna come in and put a stop to that.” Detective Greggory Pemberton, August 24, 2016, on One America News Network

Last month, lawyers for the second trial group of J20 defendants submitted a motion arguing that the indictment against those mass-arrested during Trump’s inauguration should be thrown out, because it relies on false testimony given by Pemberton to a grand jury:

“The grand jury indicted [defendants] Ms. Young and Ms. Hill on all of the charges in the incident, without differentiating them from other participants in the march, based on the false testimony of Detective Pemberton… [Pemberton] led the grand jury to believe that anyone arrested in the kettle had participated in the entire march…He did so even though by the time his testimony was complete on April 21, 2017, he had reviewed hundreds of hours of videotape and had the ability to describe Ms. Young’s and Ms. Hill’s very limited participation in the march to the grand jury and to differentiate it from everyone who participated in the march from beginning. Instead, he provided false testimony about their participation, whereupon the grand jury indicted them on all of the counts…” – Jada Young’s and Sasha Hill’s Joint Motion To Dismiss The Indictment For Presentation of False Testimony To The Grand Jury

The second group of defendants mass arrested at a protest march during Trump’s inauguration have a status hearing in DC Superior Court on Friday, January 19, when their trial date will be set. The third group of defendants has trial scheduled in March.

Unicorn Riot will continue to closely follow the proceedings in the case and is in the process of filing more Freedom of Information Act requests with the hopes of publicly releasing more records regarding the historic mass felony prosecution of almost two hundred people based on their presence at a protest.

Below, you can read and download the denials of our FOIA request appeal from MPD and Mayor Bowser.

MPD's response
2018-63 FOIA Appeal Decision
J20 Trial Coverage & More:

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