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Two Defendants Plead Guilty to Actions in Violent Protests on May 30, 2020

Staff report

A car belonging to the city of Rochester was vandalized May 30, 2020, in a parking lot across from the Public Safety Building.
File photo

Two defendants pleaded guilty June 7 before U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer for their roles in violent protests in Rochester on May 30, 2020.

Shakell Sanks and Mackenzie Drechsler pleaded guilty to rioting and face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Larimer ordered Drechsler to be held in custody until sentencing, stating that she is a danger to the community based on her conduct during the violent protests.

Drechsler is scheduled to be sentenced on August 9, while Sanks is scheduled to be sentenced on August 23, both before Judge Larimer.

“These defendants, like all of us, enjoy certain rights under our Constitution, including the right to assemble and the right to speak freely,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy said in a news release announced the pleas. “Rioting, the setting of fires, and the destruction of property, however, are not constitutionally protected activities. They are crimes. The proceedings before Judge Larimer should serve as a reminder to those who commit crimes that when you do so you may ultimately forfeit your most precious constitutional right—your right to liberty.”

On May 30, 2020, Rochester Police Department officers were assigned to assist with crowd control at the Public Safety Building during protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. During the late-afternoon and early evening, those protests turned violent and resulted in vandalism, damaged property, looting and fires.

According to the U.S. Attorney, at approximately 6 p.m. on May 30, Sanks and Dreschler assisted others in attempting to light fabric on fire. The fabric was stuffed into the gas tank of a parked car belonging to the city’s Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT), and the car eventually was engulfed in flames.

Dreschler also was accused of setting fire to a vehicle owned by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Drechsler also was accused of participating in breaking glass during looting that took place.

The pleas are the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Rochester Police Department,the Gates Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Rochester Fire Department.