Pie ‘Attack’ on Former Mayor Kevin Johnson Trial to Resume Monday for Military Vet
Special to the Vanguard
Witnesses for the prosecution unexpectedly – under gentle, but intense cross examination – described in a Sacramento Superior Court trial here not a violent attack on former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson by a political prankster, but a savage beat-down of a non-violent and much smaller protestor by the former NBA all-star.
Sean Thompson, the military veteran who allegedly tossed the pie into the face of Johnson at a fundraiser last year, faces years in jail on several charges, including felony assault on a public official.
Including parts of four days of jury selection, the trial enters its fifth day Monday, May 8, when it resumes in Dept. 25 here. There was no court Friday.
Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz has repeatedly suggested it’s a “simple” case, not “the trial of the century,” and chose not to call the victim of the pie-in-face, Johnson; he instead is calling people who either worked or attended a fundraiser for the well-to-do at Johnson’s St. Hope Academy (formerly Sacramento High School) late last year.
But the first two witnesses almost appeared to be testifying for the defense.
Bobbin Mulvaney, whose firm catered the affair, said it was attended by more than 100 “community leaders and corporates” who paid $125 a head, and admitted on the stand she was not, in fact, a witness to Thompson or anyone else throwing a pie. She said she watched what happened afterward, though, and described in detail Johnson throwing repeated punches that landed on Thompson, who didn’t fight back.
“I did not see the pie until after it hit the mayor,” Mulvaney said, and then described Johnson’s attack, and suggested she felt sorry for Thompson – who is on trial for assaulting the former mayor, but who sounded more like the victim of a vicious attack from Mulvaney’s description.
Paul Rind, a waiter at the affair, said he did see Thompson “put a pie in the mayor’s face in a forceful” manner. But then he described in detail the beating, which sounded much more violent.
“I saw the mayor hit him (Thompson) seven times. I didn’t see (the defendant) swing back and he curled up in a defensive position, like a fetal position,” said Rind. He then testified that the mayor continued to “punch” Thompson three to four times, even though the alleged pie-thrower was on the ground. Rind said, “I don’t recall any injuries to the mayor,” despite obvious injuries to Thompson, who was hospitalized. Rind also said the mayor tried to “play it off” and make light of the event afterward, as if it wasn’t that serious.
Before witnesses were called by the prosecution, Ortiz, in brief opening arguments, displayed a transcript from part of a Thompson jailhouse interview where Thompson reportedly admitted he hit the mayor with a pie as a political statement because the mayor failed to help the homeless and the “have nots” in Sacramento, and that the children of citizens in Sacramento today would “pay” for the arena and other failures of Johnson in his eight years as mayor.
Claire White, one of two lawyers – the other is Jeff Mendelman – of the Vallejo law firm Morton & Russo which is representing pro bono accused pie-thrower Sean Thompson, called Thompson’s pie attack “not an assault” but an “act of political theatre, a stunt” and an “act of theatre with risk.” She emphasized that her client had “no intention of hurting anyone” with a coconut cream pie. “This is a case of the wrong man (on trial) for the wrong crime,” she said.
The trial should have started weeks ago, but several judges were recused in the case because of conflicts of interest, and jury selection was unusually long because potential jurors either had seen too much about the case in the news, or raised money for the mayor’s campaign or had some other conflicts.
One juror, at the end of Thursday’s testimony, asked in open court if Thompson really faced a felony charge. The judge admonished him that it wasn’t important to know that right now. In fact, Thompson does face a felony, even though DDA Ortiz told the jury it “isn’t the trial of the century.”
White said her team still wants to call Johnson to testify but that the former mayor “has been hiding out for more than a month…no one can find him.” She added that Thompson has a constitutional right to face his accuser, but the DDA and Johnson are “denying Mr. Thompson that right.”