Earlja J. Dudley, 27, of Trenton, was arrested by special agents of the FBI and is charged by complaint with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance, and one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle used in and affecting interstate commerc

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Trenton Man Arrested for Attempting to Ignite Police Vehicle During Trenton Protests

TRENTON, N.J. – A Trenton man was charged today with attempting to ignite a marked police vehicle during the recent violent outburst in Trenton following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Earlja J. Dudley, 27, of Trenton, was arrested by special agents of the FBI and is charged by complaint with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance, and one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle used in and affecting interstate commerce. Dudley will make his initial appearance this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On May 31, 2020, large-scale protests were held throughout the United States, including in Trenton, in response to the death of George Floyd, who died on May 25, 2020, while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Floyd’s death, and the ensuing protests, have drawn national media attention. Although the May 31 protest in Trenton was peaceful earlier in the day, violence erupted later. A group of individuals proceeded down East State Street in downtown Trenton and began to riot, smashing store fronts, looting stores, and attacking multiple marked Trenton Police Department vehicles parked on the 100 Block of East State Street. Dudley is the second defendant to be charged with federal arson offenses from those protests.

A bystander video that was posted publicly to a social media platform captured an individual, later identified as Dudley, wearing a tank top and baseball cap with the Roman numerals “XIV” in red lettering, along with distinctive green, black, and white sneakers. The video recorded Dudley and another individual standing in front of a marked Trenton Police Department vehicle and opening its hood. The video then recorded another individual joining Dudley and lighting an object that Dudley was holding over the exposed engine well of the police vehicle. Dudley placed the burning object into the engine well of the vehicle and moved away from it. Shortly thereafter, flames are visible on the video rising from the engine well of the vehicle. Law enforcement obtained photographs of Dudley posted on social media wearing, on other occasions, a tank top and baseball cap with Roman numerals “XIV” in red lettering, and distinctive green, black, and white sneakers, all of which matched the articles of clothing that Dudley was wearing in the video.

Both counts charged in the criminal complaint carry a statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. He also thanked officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley; and troopers of the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, under the direction of Jared M. Maples, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander E. Ramey and Michelle Gasparian of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.