Prosecutors have dropped their case against two pro-life students arrested last year for chalking “Black Preborn Lives Matter” on the sidewalk in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in the District of Columbia.
The day before a scheduled hearing this month, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia told the students, Warner DePriest and Erica Caporaletti, that it would not pursue misdemeanor charges of defacing public property, attorney Dennis Boyle said Friday.
“I don’t think the case should have ever been filed. I don’t think this comes anywhere close to a violation of the law. I suspect someone in the attorney general’s office reviewed it and wanted to make it go away as quickly as possible,” Mr. Boyle told The Washington Times.
After the two students disputed the citations for their August 2020 arrest and refused to pay them, Mr. Boyle said, prosecutors spent the better part of the ensuing 14 months rescheduling the hearing before “quietly dismissing” the case without bringing it to court.
He said the District had no options because chalk does not constitute defacement and sidewalks do not qualify as public property under the law. Otherwise, he said, third-graders would be “arrested for defacing government property when they chalk hopscotch on the sidewalk.”
“They were chalking on the sidewalk. As a matter of law, it’s not defacing and it’s not something that can be defaced,” the attorney said.
Spokespeople for the Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
An official with the D.C. Superior Court who did not wish to be quoted confirmed that its search engine has no record of the two students, meaning evidence to bring charges was insufficient.
Mr. DePriest, of Southeast D.C., and Ms. Caporaletti of Highland, Maryland, were arrested after refusing a request from police to stop chalking the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood facility on the 1200 block of Fourth Street Northeast.
Affiliated with Students for Life of America, Mr. DePriest was a 29-year-old graduate student and Ms. Caporaletti was a 22-year-old undergraduate student at the time of the arrests.
Kristi Hamrick, the chief media strategist for the pro-life organization, said the group’s students hadn’t done anything worse than the Black Lives Matter protesters who painted “Defund the Police” on 16th Street Northwest near the White House two months earlier.
“We did not deface anything. Chalking a public sidewalk is not defacing it. Otherwise, every child in the District of Columbia would be charged,” Ms. Hamrick said Friday.
Mr. DePriest told The Washington Times that the arrest did not interrupt his Saturday visits to the clinic, where he and other activists try to dissuade women from entering to have abortions.
He said he prayed outside the clinic before and after his arrest.
“I’ve never stopped trying to share a message of hope to women, letting them know that there are people ready to help them choose life for their babies. My resolve today is the same as it was then,” Mr. DePriest said.
• Sean Salai can be reached at email@example.com.
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