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Trenton man pleads guilty in firebombing of police cars that followed peaceful protests in capital city more than a year ago

A Trenton man pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to interfere with law enforcement officers when he set fire to a police vehicle during a riot in Trenton that followed a day of peaceful protests against police brutality.

Earlja Dudley, 28, of Trenton, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti to a charge of one count of attempting to obstruct, impede, or interfere with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder.

On May 31 of 2020, several thousand people attended a peaceful protest in Trenton in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. After the protest was over and most people had gone home, violence erupted on East State Street in Trenton. People smashed store fronts, looted shops, and attacked Trenton Police vehicles, lighting one on fire.

A City of Trenton street camera and other video footage taken by someone on the street captured Dudley and an unidentified male open the hood of a police vehicle. Dudley was then joined by another unidentified male who ignited an object that Dudley was holding. Dudley then placed the flaming object into the engine well of the police vehicle, attempting to set the police vehicle on fire. Law enforcement later identified Dockery through an analysis of street cameras and other video footage. He was arrested on Aug. 5.

On May 19, Dudley pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to obstruct, impede, or interfere with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder affecting commerce. The charge of attempting to interfere with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder that Dudley has now pleaded guilty to carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Dudley is the fourth of four men charged in connection with the May 31, 2020 riot to have entered a guilty plea. Defendant Killian Melecio was sentenced in June to a term of 28 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendants Kadeem Dockery and Justin Spry and are scheduled to be sentenced in September and October.

Written by
Krystal Knapp

Krystal has been a journalist in the Trenton area since 1999. A graduate of Smith College and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is from Detroit. She likes baseball, cats, jazz, ukulele, typewriters, chai, and good coffee. Follow her @planettrenton.

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Written by Krystal Knapp