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Protesters arrested at ASU encampment arrive for arraignment, ASU PD fails to submit charges

The ASU Police Department failed to meet the deadline to submit charges to the courts, 71 arrested protesters could wait up to a year to see if case resumes


Tempe police officers stand while pro-Palestine protesters occupy the Alumni Lawn outside of Old Main in an encampment called the "ASU Liberated Zone" on Friday, April 26, 2024, in Tempe. 

On Tuesday, 71 of the 72 protesters arrested for the pro-Palestine encampment on April 26 and 27 faced no charges at their arraignment hearing. They may have to wait up to a full year to receive charges as the ASU Police Department failed to meet the 1:30 p.m. deadline to submit information on Tuesday. 

The single protester not present on Tuesday had their arraignment hearing at an earlier date. They were "booked on different charges," according to a Maricopa County Justice Courts spokesperson.

Even though charges were not submitted, those arrested were still required to be present in court for the hearing. At the hearing, they learned that their case would be dismissed and updated their contact information in the event that charges are filed at a later date.

According to an ASU spokesperson, the court hearing will be delayed until ASU PD can compile the information necessary to charge the arrested protesters.

"The ASU Police Department is in the process of submitting complete information regarding the arrests to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its review and charging decisions," said the ASU spokesperson in an email.

The hearing came just 4 days after ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into his actions at the encampment protest.

READ MORE: ASU Police Department chief placed on leave due to actions at pro-Palestine encampment

Pro-Palestine protestors occupying the Alumni Lawn outside of Old Main in an encampment called the "ASU Liberated Zone" on Friday, April 26, 2024, in Tempe.

According to an email from Karla Navarrete, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office director of communications, the office "has not received any submittals from ASU Police Department regarding the protest arrests from a few weeks ago." 

While ASU PD is unable to submit charges, the 71 protesters may have to wait up to 12 months from the date of the offense if the court wishes to reenter the case and law enforcement assembles enough evidence to properly charge them. 

READ MORE: ASU confirms 69 people arrested outside of Old Main in response to encampment early Saturday morning 

If this occurs, the court will issue a summons, according to a Maricopa County Justice Courts spokesperson. This would be a written notice informing those arrested that charges have been filed and they are now expected to appear in court.

Until then, each defendant will receive a "scratch form" from Judge Tyler Kissell that explains their next steps in the case as it is vacated or "scratched" from the court’s calendar, according to a Maricopa County Justice Courts spokesperson.

Of the 72 arrested protesters, 20 were students placed on interim suspension by the University. They were unable to finish the school year and some were unable to attend graduation. 

READ MORE: Arrested students seek preliminary injunction after suspension, speak on arrest treatment

According to attorney Zayed Al-Sayyed, neither ASU PD, nor the Maricopa County Attorney's Office filed formal charges. He said this could be due to a variety of reasons. 

Al-Sayyed said it's possible that neither group compiled information in time or "the county attorney's office has the information but has not made a decision" on whether or not to file charges. Al-Sayyed also said that it is possible that the "Maricopa County Attorney's Office has the information and made the decision not to charge."

Pro-Palestine protesters during "The People's Graduation" outside Mountain America Stadium on Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Tempe.

Othnelia Amegashie, a recent ASU graduate, was not one of the arrested protesters, but she was present at the "People's Graduation." This pro-Palestine protest was held on May 9 across the street from Mountain America Stadium, where the graduation ceremony for ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was taking place. This was one of many rallies held in response to the arrests that occurred at the encampment, along with other pro-Palestine protests.

"It's hard to reconcile (with) the fact that this is a place for learning and growing and having and sharing big ideas," said Amegashie. "And then when you do have and share those big ideas, and they are contrary to what the institution thinks is correct, then you're in trouble."

Students continue to rally in support of those who were arrested and were present at the arraignment hearing. Student organizations at ASU and other community organizations announced on social media that they would "pack the courts" in support of those arrested prior to the hearing on Tuesday. The Maricopa County Justice Courts advised spectators and other protesters to expect limited seating in a written statement on its website.

"We cannot stress enough that a rally at the courthouse is not an effective way to affect these cases," said the written statement from The Justice Courts of Maricopa County. "There are nearly 100 other defendants with cases at the same time in the building and we do not want anyone to be negatively impacted."

On Tuesday, around 100 people stood and carried signs near the courtroom in support of those arrested, according to Zahra Alam. Alam, a student who was arrested at the encampment, made her way to the courtroom on Tuesday. Last semester she was a first-year student studying business law. 

Prior to the hearing, the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that if charges are filed later, prosecutors can present a new case or refile the original one. Counsel for those who were arrested can also file a motion to have any new case dismissed, especially if they gather evidence that the students arrested during the protest were treated differently than students in similar circumstances.

"I'm disappointed that the judge dismissed the case without prejudice, because (it) means that the prosecutor can still bring charges back," Alam said. "They're leaving this lingering over our head and it feels intentional."

David Chami, the attorney representing the 20 student protesters, said that he feels like ASU PD is dragging out the process with the hope that it will deter anyone from protesting in the future.

Chami also said that those testifying against the protesters will likely have a difficult time doing so because he doesn't believe criminal charges will stand against the students.

"I think they're gonna have a really hard time establishing who brought camping equipment to the property," said Chami. 

He also mentioned filing an amended complaint in the near future. 

"We've had an opportunity to gain access to additional video footage. We've identified some more of the individual people who were involved, including the police chief, Michael Thompson," said Chami. "I plan to pursue the constitutional claims against a number of the defendants and additional defendants as we continue to identify them regardless of the outcome of their suspension."

Until charges are filed, if ever, the attorneys for the 71 students will continue to gather evidence and build their defense.

"We're gonna make sure that they're not found guilty," said Al-Sayyed. "We're gonna fight like hell."

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10:19 a.m. to use more precise language. This is a developing story and may be updated.

Edited by Sophia Ramirez and Alexis Heichman.

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