Special to Davis Vanguard
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office threw all of its might and money in a heavy-handed prosecution of a young, once homeless military veteran who put a coconut cream pie in the face of former Sacramento mayor and NBA star Kevin Johnson a year ago in an act of political theatre protesting the lack of will to seriously end homelessness.
Inexplicably, the DA lost the trial and sought to retry the activist artist who publically scorned Johnson for not doing more for the homeless – many of them veterans.
Thursday, in Sacramento Superior Court, a new trial against Sean Thompson was set to begin after he was found not guilty of a felony assault charge in the first trial last May. The DA was not giving up.
But, something went wrong again with the plans of the politically powerful in the state’s capital city. And by mid-morning Thursday, Thompson walked away free for the second time in four months, pleading no contest to “disorderly conduct.” No fines, no probation and credit for the two days in jail he originally served after he pied Johnson at a September 2016 fundraiser for Johnson’s charter school.
“The DA agreed (to this), and said ‘go away;’ good naturedly, of course,” said Claire White, who defended Thompson pro bono with Jeff Mendelman, both of the Vallejo law firm of Morton & Russo. “In the end the DA did the right thing, although Mr. Thompson made this offer at the very beginning,” said White.
A recent UC Davis law school graduate and like Thompson, an Air Force veteran, White noted that her client was “engaging in civil disobedience….political theatre. Not illegal assault and battery. He took responsibility for what he did, not for enhanced, overcharging.”
In fact, Thompson’s defense team seemed to have the DA’s office in a corner, and that’s why it made the deal.
First, the defense had juror affidavits and jurors ready to testify that they had acquitted Thompson in the first trial of the more serious felony charge. Therefore, the DA could not – as the DA had intended until Thursday – try him again of the same charge.
“We have protections under the law against double jeopardy. You can’t be tried for same charge twice once you’ve been acquitted. We were prepared to prove in open court that Mr. Thompson could not be held to those assault charges again,” explained White.
Second, the defense had successfully served Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee. Both would have had to testify in open court. They had ducked the subpoenas in the first trial. If there was a new trial, Johnson could have been quizzed about a mysterious 23-page police report and accusations in it that he assaulted underage women.
Now, with the Thompson deal, it all goes away.
The DA won’t be “wasting resources,” said White, noting that the DA office had been “evolving…we had had faith they would do the right thing….they contacted us….good for us and people of Sacramento, now we can focus on issues that are critical to the governance of the city and the well being of all of its citizens.”
White noted that Thompson was “brutally beaten with stitches in his face” by Johnson, who according to witnesses, didn’t repeatedly punch a much smaller Thompson to defend himself, but beat Thompson – after taking time to clean off his glasses – in an act of revenge.
Thompson, for his part, suggested Johnson was still trying to not publically face his alleged misdeeds, in and out of office, noting that the former mayor and wife “lawyered up” and tried to avoid testifying.
“Now that I am free of these charges I will be able to move on with my life. I’m happy with that….I’ll continue to show up at different protests,” said Thompson, who is an accomplished artist when he’s not making social justice statements.
“We are pleased with the outcome. This was a prank, a political case and the DA’s decision today (the DA previously refused to accept the offer) to not go forward serves justice,” said White Thursday. “Mr. Thompson can now go on with his life and activism to help those less fortunate than many of us.”
At the first trial, White told the jury “the wrong man is on trial for the one crime,” suggesting it was Johnson who should be on trial for savagely beating and sending Thompson to the hospital.
Even prosecution witnesses said Thompson was beaten bloody by Johnson who didn’t stop punching even though Thompson didn’t fight back. Johnson only stopped punching Thompson when his own security pulled him off, witnesses said.