D.C. Attorney General declines to charge Jane Fonda for Friday protests

We are in week seven of Jane Fonda’s adventure into climate change protesting in Washington, D.C. This week brought some good news for the celebrity – the D.C. Attorney General’s office is declining to charge Fonda for her previous four arrests she has racked up in past weeks.

Fonda will escape being charged for her arrests during the first four Fire Drill Friday protests. The fourth arrest brought an overnight stay behind bars. Future arrests will bring longer jail time – up to a month for the next arrest so now she leaves the protest as the police show up to break it up. She scurries off and lets her friends get arrested instead of her. She’s committed, you see, just not committed enough to accept the consequences of her actions.

This week Fonda was joined by actresses Diane Lane and Piper Perabo, actor Manny Jacinto (The Good Place) and model Amber Valletta. Lane, Perabo, and Valletta were arrested. Each week’s protest has a theme. This week’s theme was clean water and blaming Big Oil for the woes of the environment.

Jane Fonda invites celebrities and public figures to join in the Friday fun in order to garner as much attention as possible to the cause. Don’t expect to see Dolly Parton, though. She told the ladies on The View that she isn’t going to be showing up, but she does support her friend.

“I wouldn’t get out in the streets but I kinda contribute in my own way,” she explained. “I’m an entertainer and I do it a little different. Everyone’s got their own way of making their points. I try to do it my own and they do it theirs.”

This week’s protest was similiar to last week’s protest. Jane Fonda was in full-panic mode about the climate.

The protest began with a rally on the Capitol lawn, where the Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock performed. After that, about 100 demonstrators blocked a street near the Library of Congress.

“We should be scared we should be panicked, because this is really serious,” Fonda said. “I think of all the aspects of climate change and how that impacts everything on the planet and in our lives, water may be the most serious. Water is life.”

Fonda instead called on protesters to support the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2019, a bill introduced by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) to fund improvements in water infrastructure.

The bill has 81 cosponsors in the House. Its companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The same measure was introduced in the previous Congress by former Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). The bill did not advance out of committee.

Eva Malecki, the communications director for the Capitol Police, said 38 people were arrested in connection with the protests.

Is Jane Fonda receiving special treatment from the D.C. Attorney General’s office? No, as it turns out, she isn’t. The D.C. office is described as “progressive” and has discretion to decide to drop the charges.

Our Verify researchers spoke with David Benowitz, a criminal defense lawyer, and John Copacino and Abbe Smith, both criminal law experts at Georgetown University.

They all agree, Fonda’s not getting any special treatment, this is typical for minor misdemeanors.

Here’s how Abbe Smith, director of Georgetown University’s Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic described it:

“This is a charge prosecuted by the D.C. Attorney General’s office, Karl Racine. They are a more progressive prosecutorial agency than the U.S. Attorney’s Office and like all prosecutors have the discretion to pursue or drop a charge. Police officers make the original charging decision and whether to take an arrested person into custody or give them a citation to appear in court.

It’s a minor charge not always resulting in custody. These kinds of charges are often ‘no-papered’ (not prosecuted) at the first appearance in court.”

Copacino, who heads of Georgetown University’s Criminal Justice Clinic says lots of minor misdemeanor cases are ‘no-papered.’

“For those types of cases they have what they call a ‘post and forfeit,’ which means that you post collateral, forfeit the collateral and the charge goes away and doesn’t even count as a conviction,” Copacino said.

Generally speaking the D.C. Attorney General’s office doesn’t prosecute for protesting. There aren’t outstanding warrants on Fonda so she wasn’t held longer than it took to process her – the longest time being overnight on her fourth arrest. She paid $50 fines after her arrests. I expect her to continue to listen to her legal team and avoid future arrests. Limosine liberals like Fonda find ways to make a splash without risking too much personal sacrifice for their big causes. And, with the Fire Drill Friday protests, she just steps aside and lets her friends get arrested for her.