COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — After pleading guilty Thursday to resisting arrest at a Taste of Chicago protest last summer, activist Ja'Mal Green insisted he's innocent of felony charges that were dropped in a plea deal.
"I know I'm fully innocent and I did not commit those crimes," Green said in a phone interview Friday. "I never tried to hit a police officer. I never tried to grab a gun. All of those charges are made up."
Green, 21, was indicted on nine felony charges in August amid allegations he hit one Chicago Police officer and tried to disarm another following a July 9 "die-in" protest against police brutality at the Taste of Chicago festival in Grant Park.
In a plea deal Thursday, prosecutors agreed to drop felony charges if Green pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of resisting police, court records show.
"This was the final deal that was given to me by the new state's attorney's office," Green said, referencing Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, who was sworn in Dec. 1.
"I had to make a decision," Green continued. "Was I just going to take this [deal] and go on with my life, or would I go to trial and wait another year [for the case to be resolved]?"
Green saw two options: Plead guilty to a misdemeanor now or risk a felony conviction later.
Green took the plea, court records show, and Cook County Judge Charles Burns sentenced the activist to two years of probation and three days of community service. Green will also have to pay $399 in fines.
"The criminal justice system is so messed up that I just pleaded that way [guilty] to take the stress away, to know I wasn't looking at any jail time," Green said.
After his arrest in July, Green spent three days in Cook County Jail before his supporters and an anonymous donor raised the $35,000 needed to post bond on his $350,000 bail. While free on bond, Green said he was subject to drug testing.
"It's been a frustrating nine months," Green said. "Having to keep going to court takes a lot of time. I had to beg to go out of town, and when I traveled, [the judge] kept making me pee in a cup even though I never smoked. You're just treated like a criminal."
Green said he now hopes to focus on the youth center he's trying to establish in Auburn Gresham. Green and his supporters bought a 12,500-square-foot building at 7919 S. Ashland Ave. last week.
Green, who has protested violence and police brutality, has spent months raising money for the Majostee Allstars Youth Center. He hopes the center can become a spot where local residents learn about opening businesses, drop their kids off for day care or express themselves at concerts and open mic nights.
The center also plans to offer mental health services and mentoring opportunities.
"That's what Majostee Allstars is all about, is telling our young people in these communities, you may have ... a lack of investment in your community, but no matter where you're from, you can still be something and you can still have hope," Green said.