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More cases dismissed in Round Rock

Following up on this story of students arrested in Round Rock for breaking a daytiem curfew law during a protest about immigration, a municipal court judge has dismissed more charges for lack of evidence.

Like two cases dismissed earlier this month, the recent actions were based on insufficient evidence to prove the students weren’t exercising their First Amendment rights when they skipped school.

A city ordinance that required the students to be in school provides an exception for exercising free speech rights, but prosecutors said they wanted to judge each case individually because they thought some students had skipped school for the fun of it.

Prosecutors are going ahead with one of the first six cases, but City Attorney Steve Sheets wouldn’t discuss details. The trial is scheduled for July 7, he said.

About half of the 204 students cited for breaking curfew in the Austin suburb pleaded not guilty and requested jury trials. The citations are a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is representing 82 students, said last week that the dismissals show the students shouldn’t have been cited in the first place.

Harrington questions why prosecutors don’t just dismiss the remaining cases. He said any students who skipped school to goof off probably already have pleaded guilty and accepted a fine or community service.

“I think it makes the other kids hopeful,” Harrington said of the dismissals. “But you know, this incremental thing kind of keeps people on edge until they get to the point where their case is dismissed. There’s no reason to keep the rest of these kids in suspense.”

Harrington’s group is awaiting a hearing Thursday on a motion to dismiss all the cases based on the free-speech exception.

“The more they dismiss, the more they’re recognizing this is the right thing to do,” Harrington said.

The DA is determined to drag this out to the end. I suppose it’s possible that some actual miscreants have not pled out yet and are now hoping to see their charges dismissed along with all of the First Amendment exercisers, but that seems like a small prize for the prosecution to be expending all these resources on. We’ll see what happens at the trial on July 7.

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