In court records, Jenny Durkan, a former mayor of Seattle, is charged of manually erasing writings pertaining to the CHOP zone that was established in the city during the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.
A recent forensic investigation was done on behalf of local residents and business owners who are suing the city for its inadequate reaction to the riots. The investigation revealed that Durkan manually erased up to 200 text conversations in July 2020, around the time CHOP was developed.
Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, often known as CHAZ, was the acronym for the anti-cop zone that was established in the posh Capitol Hill district (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone).
Although advertised as a utopian haven free of police brutality, it swiftly devolved into mayhem, with one adolescent lad even being killed.
Businesses in the area watched helplessly as clients shunned them out of fear of violence, all the while Durkan openly backed the vile settlement.
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist rebellion, she responded to a tweet by Donald Trump criticizing the region, writing: “It is a nonviolent expression of our community’s collective sorrow and their determination to create a better world.” Given his track record, it’s not difficult to think that Trump will continue to be mistaken.
Over 5,000 texts from the period after she adjusted her settings to delete communications automatically after 30 days were previously discovered to have been erased by her.
The new research also found that in July 2020, one month after Black Lives Matter protesters gained control of a region close to Capitol Hill and the East Precinct and erected their own barricades, the messages of a number of other important officials were obliterated through manual phone resets.
The Capitol Hill Organized Protest, also known as The CHOP, was the name given to the region by demonstrators for many weeks. Initially, they dubbed it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).
One kid was murdered and several others were injured in three other gunshots during the violence that lasted for several weeks in June 2020.
Now, a group of locals and business owners are suing municipal authorities, claiming they deleted their texts regarding the disturbances in an effort to “designed to deprive Plaintiffs of important evidence,” but it is still unclear what was stated in those texts.
According to the Seattle Times, they are accusing City Hall of “spoliation of evidence” and seeking a federal court to hold the city accountable for the crimes done at the CHOP or by instructing a future jury to infer spoliation.
However, city authorities have requested that the court dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that some of the plaintiffs themselves deleted their own communications concerning CHOP.
They contend that, contrary to what the plaintiffs say, Durkan’s administration worked to defuse the demonstrations.
Additionally, a representative for Durkan, who was succeeded as mayor by Bruce Harrell after the CHOP riots and did not run for re-election, told the Times that she “believes firmly in the public’s right to know what their government is doing.”
But she described the complaint as “a purposefully misleading and misdirected “Hail Mary” effort to preserve a case that lacks substance,” which was filed in the Western District of Washington last week.
Whistleblowers in Durkan’s office first made the public aware that her messages were missing in early 2021, ostensibly in violation of the public records legislation that mandates the preservation of specific texts.
Anyone who knowingly destroys a public document that is required to be preserved is guilty of a crime that carries a five-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.
However, an earlier forensic investigation, ordered by City Hall in response to inquiries about how authorities handled the demonstrations in June 2020, discovered that Durkan’s phone had been configured the next month to delete messages automatically after 30 days, resulting in the loss of 5,746 texts.
It also showed that Durkan’s phone had been configured to erase cloud-stored text messages at around the same time.
Since then, she has placed the blame on the city’s information technology division, claiming that it gave her a new phone on July 9, 2020, at the time that her text-retention setting was changed to 30 days.
Her phone was scheduled to erase cloud-stored messages on July 4, 2020, according to both forensic studies, but the city department said that changing text retention settings is not something they often do.
The Seattle Times quotes Durkan as saying in a deposition that nobody else touched her phone that day.
According to the updated analysis, 191 more text messages lost between June 25 and November 16 were added to the more than 5,000 deleted before June 25, 2020.
The text messages were manually removed, it is concluded.
Durkan now claims that she dropped her phone in a tidepool on July 4 and that this caused issues with it.
According to her spokeswoman, the messages are “largely harmless and inconsequential” and “wholly consistent with her public remarks at the time,” as reported by the Times.
The city’s fire and police chiefs were among the authorities whose messages went missing at the time when police used tear gas on protestors and abandoned the East Precinct, according to an article by the Seattle Times published more than a year ago.
According to the newspaper, at the time, the city’s attorney’s office claimed that texts from Durkan, the police chief at the time Carmen Best, the fire chief Harold Scoggins, the assistant police chief Eric Greening, the police chief strategy officer Chris Fisher, the official in charge of emergency operations Kenneth Neafcy, and the official in charge of public utilities Idris Beauregard were missing.
The new report claims that in October 2020, both of their phones were reset, erasing more than 27,000 texts from Best’s phone and more than 15,000 from Fisher’s phone.
Since then, Best has acknowledged that she occasionally deleted her texts.
Because the officials were “locked out” of their phones, the city has defended its factory resets on its phones.
Although the contents of the deleted text messages are still unknown, the forensic report created by Leatha Consulting LLC states that each deletion “resulted in a loss of text messages that the city had a duty to preserve.”
The technology problems, it added, could have been fixed without resetting the phones and erasing the texts.
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