New criminal charges proposed to combat rioting, looting in Ohio

New criminal charges proposed to combat rioting, looting in Ohio
A protestor jumps through a broken window at the Hamilton County Justice Center in Cincinnati on Friday night. The protest started in response to the death of George Floyd. (Source: Albert Cesare/The Enquirer)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A bill aimed at creating new criminal charges to combat rioting, looting, and violence in Ohio has been introduced by State Representatives Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) and Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison).

A person who participates in an aggravated riot and causes physical harm would be charged with a fifth-degree felony under House Bill 784, according to a release from the Ohio House of Representatives.

The riot assault charge would be a fourth-degree felony if the assault is against a peace officer, the release reads.

It would be charged as a third-degree felony if the peace officer suffers serious physical harm, HB 784 states.

Peace officers would also be able to file civil suits against those responsible, the Ohio House of Representatives' bill says.

Additionally, vandalism to public or private property and obstructing roadways during a disorderly assembly would have increased penalties under the bill.

“When businesses are boarded up and shut down as a result of the actions of a few agitators, law-abiding Ohioans lose, small businesses lose, and jobs are lost,” Carruthers said. “This is a common-sense bill that supports the right to peacefully assemble while holding accountable those who break the law.”

Carruthers said these types of reckless and irresponsible actions are usually from a handful of agitators and takeaway from the overall message of law-abiding demonstrators.

HB 784 now awaits referral to a House committee.

Cincinnati was one of many cities in the country that saw protests calling for change after the death of George Floyd.

The protests of late May and early June were largely peaceful but at points devolved into vandalism throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

In June, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said 513 people were arrested for curfew violations.

At least one person was arrested for looting during the protests.

Justin Crum, 35, was seen by Saks Fifth Avenue security on video camera breaking a window and, with 6-8 others, stealing $60,000 in merchandise from inside the store while it was closed “during unrest in downtown Cincinnati,” court records state.

In October, a lawyer representing a Downtown Cincinnati real-estate company filed lawsuits against 90 people it says are responsible for damage to businesses during the summer protests.

The suit seeks to represent the class of businesses “looted, vandalized, broken into, damaged, defaced or destroyed” in the West End, Clifton Heights, University Heights and Fairview as well as Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.

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