DENVER — A jury in Denver found a driver accused of hitting a person with her SUV during a 2020 George Floyd protest not guilty of assault.
“Ms. Watson should not have been charged. We appreciate the jury’s verdict of not guilty to the assault charge,” Jennifer Watson’s attorneys at Brackley Law Office PLLC said in a statement on Facebook after Friday’s verdict.
Although the jury found Watson not guilty of the vehicular assault charge, they found her guilty of misdemeanor reckless driving, Fox News reported.
According to her defense team, Watson was fearful during the May 2020 protest in Denver, saying, “she was surrounded by people who began kicking and hitting her car and taunting and yelling at her.”
“On the evening of May 28, 2020, my client was just trying to get home, driving a route she took regularly, when she was diverted by protesters at the intersection of East Colfax and Broadway. She was alone in her car with her dog when she was surrounded by people who began kicking and hitting her car and taunting and yelling at her. While stopped, Mr. Max Bailey jumped up onto the hood of her car and her windshield was smashed in two places. She was terrified and fearful for her safety,” Watson’s lawyers said last year in a statement.
Video of the encounter showed Watson’s black SUV driving through an intersection surrounded by protesters before Bailey, 22, jumped on the hood of her car. Any reasonable person would have experienced trepidation under the circumstances.
Running over a nonviolent protester should be illegal. Law statement: ”the driver must be ’exercising due care,’ and the person in the roadway must be there to protest and be purposefully blocking the vehicles.” @COJudiciaryComm #Colorado #Coleg pic.twitter.com/LuD0blWLRb
— ᒍOSᕼᑌᗩ ᒍEᖇEᗪ (@Joshuajered) July 6, 2020
Bailey claimed he was on the vehicle out of fear of being run over.
“The reason I was in front of the car was to make sure everyone was safe and to get this lady to stop from running over protesters,” Bailey told 9NEWS last year. “The reason I got on top of the car was because she accelerated into me and I’m not going to lie down and let somebody run over me.”
Watson’s attorney said the DA’s office filed charges due to pressure created by the viral video, according to Fox.
After driving through the crowd, Watson’s vehicle made a sharp right turn maneuvering into Bailey, according to the video. It’s unclear if this movement caused the jury to find her guilty of reckless driving. A traffic expert at Law Officer speculates that is exactly what led to the reckless driving conviction. Without that movement she may have been absolved of all charges.
The DA’s office said in a statement after the verdict that it “felt comfortable taking it to a jury and we thank the jury for their service.”