COLORADO SPRINGS — On Wednesday, May 12, Judge Stephen Sletta ruled a case is unconstitutional regarding a Black Lives Matter protester who helped block northbound I-25 on June 30, 2020. Over a dozen people were charged as a result of the incident.
Molly Avion said she attended many George Floyd protests during the summer of 2020. On June 30, she said she grew concerned about the safety of protesters heading to the interstate, and was one of the cars parked sideways on the highway to block traffic. "Cops did watch overhead on the bridge, but then never approached us or told us to disperse... If it was a public safety issue, they would have approached us and gotten us off the road as soon as possible," said Avion.
According to court records, Avion was cited for her actions on the highway on July 17, over two weeks after the road was blocked. She was charged with a violation of Obstructing a Highway, which is a Class 3 Misdemeanor.
Avion said she was set to start her trial this July, when her public defender called her and told her the case had been dismissed. "He [Judge Sletta] said that statute is unconstitutional as it is too vague," said Avion.
Judge Sletta wrote in his reasoning for the ruling that the statute failed to "provide fair notice to what conduct is prohibited or permitted." He continued to say the statute could be used for discriminatory or arbitrary enforcement.
Howard Black of the 4th Judicial District said the office is in the review phase of Judge Sletta's decision. He cited a statute, saying they have a responsibility to appeal the decision. "It has nothing to do with whether we agree or disagree. We're in a position based on requirements from the state to move that case into a mandatory appeal," said Black.
If the case is appealed, it would go to district court next.
Retired District Judge Dennis Maes said Judge Sletta's ruling could impact the remaining related cases, which are still pending. "If they are arguing the same facts as the one that's presently on appeal, in all likelihood, it will probably persuade them not to continue with the charges," said Maes.
News5 also spoke with another protester's attorney, Alison Blackwell. She said her client has the same misdemeanor charge as Avion, and called Judge Sletta's ruling a persuasive point that can be used when making her case.