There is a plea in the case of a Black Lives Matter protester, Jeremy Trapp, 24, who tried to cut the brake line of a New York Police Department van last year because he wanted to hurt police. What is most interesting is that the vehicle crime was handed in the federal and not the state system. Moreover, the case may indicate a move away from the more severe charges used under the Trump Justice Department in such cases.
According to new sources, Trapp attended a BLM protest but decided that he wanted to harm officers. In his complaint, FBI Special Agent David J. Williams stated that Trapp reached out to the wrong person about his lethal desire. It turned out the person was an confidential informant and Trapp told the CI “that the police were racist, that he wanted to harm police officers and their supporters, and that he had previously been involved in destroying property and burning a police car.” He also allegedly reported made threats to attack the Verrazzanno Bridge
Trapp was photographed going under the van and trying to cut the brake lining. Given the premeditated and documented action, Trapp could have been charged with a more serious charge but was allowed to plead guilty to simply damaging a vehicle. He does not appear to have succeeded in cutting the brake lining entirely but this was clearly an attempt to seriously injure or kill NYPD officers.
We previously discussed how state prosecutors have quietly handed over protest cases to federal prosecutors. The shifting of such cases ordinarily will produce longer sentences and, in some cases, insulates local leaders from backlash over prosecuting protesters.
Despite threats to attack bridges and officers, the Biden Administration did not pursue attempted murder charges or terrorism charges (which were a focus of the Trump Administration). For example, the Trump Administration charged two women who tried to put “shunts” on railroad tracks with terrorism. Even one case of teenagers reportedly breaking windows was charged as terrorism. I was critical of the use of terrorism charges in many of those cases as well as the move to treat Antifa as a terrorism organization.
It is not clear which criminal provision is being used as the basis for the plea. One possible provision is 18 U.S.C. 33, but this provision is ordinarily applied to vehicles used for “commercial purposes.” United States v. Lowe, 65 F.3d 1137 (4th Cir. 1995). Moreover, the Justice Department acknowledges that “the normal penalty for a violation of § 33 is a fine under Title 18.” However, the offense allows for a much higher penalty.
Instead, he may face a longer sentence for defrauding the government. He pleaded to a single count of wire fraud in connection with the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) program. The Justice Department states that Trapp applied for relief under the CARES Act. He claimed that he owned a car wash that employed 10 people and had pulled in $150,000 in the 12 months prior to the rise of the pandemic, federal authorities said. Based on that application, the Small Business Administration approved a $42,500 loan and a $10,000 grant.
The fraud claim is clearly a basis for federal jurisdiction in the case, though it is unrelated to the damager done to the NYPD vehicle.
It turned out that the address of the alleged car wash was his own apartment building.