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Battle over charges connected to protests

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 17:50:27-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A federal arson charge in connection to protests at Niagara Square late last month is being called federal politics.

Assembylman Sean Ryan (D) Buffalo is calling out the U.S. Attorney's Office for its federal arson charge against Courtland Renford. Renford was charged on the state and federal level in connection to a fire at Buffalo City Hall.

“The only reason the federal government is coming in is to grandstand and make a political point,” Ryan said.

Ryan believes federal prosecutors only became involved because the alleged crime happened during the protests at Niagara Square late last month.

“William Barr said I talked to the president and I’m telling my U.S. Attorney’s to crackdown in anyway possible against protesters.”

Samuel P. Davis, Renford's attorney, said the state charges are what's standard for the accusations.

“The federal charge, I’ve never seen it used before, I’ve never had a case like that before," Davis said.

The U.S. Attorney's justification for the federal charge is that Buffalo City Hall is used in interstate commerce. In a statement to 7 Eyewitness News James P. Kennedy Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, said he's upholding the rule of law.

“Mr. Renford is being prosecuted federally because a federal grand jury found probable cause to believe that a federal crime, as defined by Congress, was committed," Kennedy said. "Seeking to enforce the laws enacted by Congress is neither political nor excessive; rather, it is called upholding the rule of law.”

There are several examples of federal arson charges stemming from protests in other cities, according to federal law enforcement. Examples include:

  • Nashville- City Hall and courthouse
  • Las Vegas- Las Vegas Police vehicles
  • Baton Rouge- Auto parts/tire shops

Davis said Renford is now in federal custody, after being released to home confinement.