6 in South Carolina face federal charges related to May protests

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – United States Attorney Peter McCoy, Jr. announced Tuesday that six people are facing federal charges for participating in arson, inciting riots, and other civil disorder in Columbia and Charleston on May 30 and 31.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25, protestors in Columbia and Charleston joined to peacefully demonstrate against racism and the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

McCoy says the majority protested peacefully, but some got violent and threatened public safety by assaulting citizens and officers, vandalizing and destroying property.

“On May 30, 2020, violent agitators disrupted and distracted from peaceful protests in Columbia and Charleston and committed violent acts against citizens and law enforcement officers, vandalizing businesses and destroying public property,” McCoy said. “This is unacceptable and crosses a line, and this office will always stand up for law and order. We worked diligently with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify, arrest, and prosecute the individuals whose violence, vandalism, and destruction violated federal law. By escalating and inciting violence, these individuals interfered with the legitimate forms of expression and Constitutionally protected activity.”

In the last week, federal law enforcement in the District of South Carolina charged six people for crimes committed during demonstrations. Some defendants have agreed to plead guilty.

According to court documents, the following people have been charged or agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes:

  • Abraham Jenkins, 26, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to civil disorders related to the violence and destruction
  • Kelsey Jackson, 28, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to arson of a Charleston Police Department patrol car
  • Tearra Guthrie, 23, of Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to civil disorders related to the violence and destruction
  • Orlando King, 31, of North Charleston, has agreed to plead guilty to a violation of the Anti-Riot Act related to the violence and destruction, and to being a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from an unrelated incident on April 25, 2020.
  • Karlos Gibson-Brown, 24, of Columbia, has agreed to plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition for a riot-related incident
  • Marcello Woods, 28, of Columbia, has been charged with destroying a Columbia Police Department vehicle by means of fire for riot-related conduct

Woods was arraigned in federal court Thursday, and court dates for the remaining defendants have not been scheduled.

Several of the charges carry significant maximum prison sentences. For example, arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Civil disorder and inciting a riot both carry a maximum possible penalty of five years imprisonment.

These cases are being investigated by the FBI, ATF, Charleston Police Department, Columbia Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Numerous other local police departments and Solicitors’ Offices across the state have assisted in these investigations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina continues to evaluate other cases for potential federal prosecution. 

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