In an apparent attempt to crack down on the handful of people who show up to sweeps to try to stop the City from trashing the possessions of homeless people, this week Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison’s office spent three days–and more than a few taxpayer dollars–prosecuting 26-year-old Aidan Carroll, a Stop the Sweeps protestor who allegedly ignored police orders when he tried to buy some time for a woman to repair and move her RV before the cops impounded it. After deliberating for more than seven hours, the jury ultimately could not reach a verdict, with four out of six finding Carroll not guilty.

In the wake of the mistrial, prosecutors scheduled the case for pretrial Monday, and CAO spokesperson Tim Robinson said the City still needed to discuss the way forward. 

Retrying the case after most of the jurors opposed the prosecution would signal that Davison is more interested in bullying her political enemies than stewarding taxpayer dollars efficiently, calling into question her priorities as head of an agency still struggling under the weight of a 1,000-case strong backlog. Plus, if she believes this tactic will deter others from standing up for homeless people in the face of police, then she seems misguided. Members of ‘Stop the Sweeps’ have continued to show up and protest homeless encampment tear-downs in the aftermath of Carroll’s arrest. 

The case against Carroll began during an RV sweep in April, when officers with the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Parking Enforcement told a woman they planned to tow away her RV. In response, she said she could repair her vehicle and move it herself, but she needed a little time and a spare tire, according to Carroll’s public defense team. After parking enforcement agreed to wait, two of her family members left to pick up a tire. 

Then along came Officer Nicholas Boys, who told the woman she needed to remove what items she could from the vehicle and leave. She tried to explain the situation and “pleaded” for more time, but cops threatened to arrest her if she stayed in her RV, so she grabbed what she could from inside and left. However, Carroll and other activists remained on the scene to frustrate police efforts to impound the vehicle until the tire could arrive. 

After hearing that the woman and her tire were only two minutes away, and with cops insisting he and another activist move so they could tow the RV, Carroll scrambled up a ladder attached to the back of the vehicle. Body camera footage played at trial showed Carroll climbing about halfway up the ladder before cops grabbed his legs and ordered him to climb down. Carroll stayed up there for about 12 minutes, according to the police report. Carroll only climbed down after the tire arrived and SPD made it clear they wouldn’t allow the woman to install it. Boys then arrested Carroll for obstructing a public officer. 

A key part of proving Carroll committed that crime required Assistant City Attorney Joshua Shea to show that Carroll endangered himself and others by ignoring police orders to climb down. 

First, Shea argued that the RV was unstable. Carroll testified that he never felt the RV shift under him, and body cam evidence showed that at least one cop also climbed onto the RV after Carroll, which seems like a risky move if you believed it could tip at any time. Shea also mentioned that some telephone or electrical wires above the RV posed some risk to Carroll, though Shea never really elaborated on that risk. Finally, he argued that officers on the scene expressed deep concern about Carroll falling off the RV and potentially hitting his head. However, the footage kind of undercut Shea’s argument, as it showed that at one point a bike helmet Carroll wore fell off and the cops just confiscated it, seemingly not at all concerned about protecting Carroll from a head injury. 

In her closing statement, Public Defender Jaclyn Tani argued the prosecution failed to prove that the RV was unstable, that the wires above the RV dangled close enough to hurt Carroll, and that Carroll was close to falling off the ladder and hitting his head. 

But the real meat of her closer came when she argued that this case had nothing to do with whether Carroll created a public safety risk and everything to do with his enthusiastic participation in Stop the Sweeps. The case exemplifies, she said, how the City prefers to punish the unhoused and the people who support them rather than help them. Prosecutors spent nine months on this case, ultimately leading to a trial that for three days required a court staff, seven jurors, and three witnesses–not to mention the public defense team–all because “the officers didn’t want to wait a few more minutes for a tire to be put on an RV.”

While Davison and SPD claim the City needs more resources and tools to keep people safe, this case offers an example of the way the department’s ideology leads to mismanagement. Here, Davison is throwing the book at a 26-year-old activist for trying to force cops to behave with a modicum of respect and consideration for the enormous financial and mental toll that impounding that woman’s RV would have on her life. 

And it’s not just antifa who finds that decision a little silly. Two of the jurors were surprised that Davison brought such a small case to trial, and they were further shocked when they found out it would be retried. 

“Why?” said Chelsea Anderson. “...Let it go.”