31-year-old Anthony Smith is a social studies teacher in a charter school in North Philadelphia. Mr. Smith is also a prominent radical activist in Philadelphia and organizer of the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic, and Legal Justice (Philly for REAL Justice). The charter school teacher was part of a group of BLM rioters awarded $9.25 million as part of a civil rights settlement that claimed police responded to their rioting in an overly zealous manner. Smith was the lead plaintiff in the case that involved 350 activists who successfully sued the city of Philadelphia for the so-called actions of the police in May 2020.
In the civil suit that was settled earlier this year, the plaintiffs accused the police officers of using heavy-handed tactics to disperse crowds — including indiscriminate use of tear gas and rubber bullets — that trampled on their rights to free expression and freedom from excessive force.
Yesterday, Smith was charged with a felony after he admitted that he and other rioters flipped a police car over outside of the City Hall and lit it on fire while partaking in a protest over the death of the violent career criminal George Floyd whose autopsy showed he died of drugs he took before his arrest by Minneapolis police.
The Biden-appointed judge in the case, Jacqueline C. Romero, gave plea deals to all of the rioters facing arson charges who accompanied Smith at the George Floyd riots and were with him when he overturned the police vehicle.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports- Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Reinitz told the judge the government had video evidence of Smith and others rocking a white police sedan back and forth amid the protests. She said another person, whom she did not identify by name, placed a lit flare inside the car, igniting the fire that consumed it.
That distinction could have a significant effect on the punishment Smith faces at a sentencing hearing in September. The five other defendants who were initially charged with arson received sentences ranging from one to five years.
As in Smith’s case, those agreements allowed them to plead guilty to lesser charges of civil disorder — slashing the potential prison time from a seven-year mandatory minimum to a five-year maximum sentence.
Even in that context, Smith’s case stands apart. Each of the other defendants admitted, as part of the plea deal, to igniting police cars with lit road flares or Molotov cocktails.
But the portions of Smith’s plea agreement that outline the exact conduct to which he admitted Tuesday make no mention of his directly setting any fire — despite the arson charge he initially faced.