Pie-Throwing Case in Sacramento Takes Felony Turn

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What Used to be a Political Prank Now Deadly Serious for Military Vet Accused of Hitting Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson with a Pie  

Special to the Vanguard

More than 60 jurors were “burned” – dismissed – over the past few days here in Dept. 25 of Sacramento Superior Court, as the jury is at last expected to be finalized early Thursday in the case of the accused thrower of a pie into the face of former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson late last year.

The trial begins in earnest later Thursday after parts of three days were used for jury selection, which turned out to be a chore for the court, defense and prosecutor – potential jurors either saw too many news stories on television or read too much about the case, or they knew the former NBA all-star Johnson or worked for his political campaigns. In one case, one potential juror was his physician.

Opening arguments are expected to be heard Thursday in the trial of Air Force veteran Sean Thompson, who is charged with two felony counts – assaulting a public official and assault and battery. The social justice activist is accused of throwing a pie at Johnson as a political prank.

Although the case was charged as a felony, several jurors voiced doubts that it rose to that level, and Judge Robert Twiss even quipped that Thompson may have only been charged with a felony because of Johnson’s NBA notoriety and status as mayor of Sacramento.

Claire White of the Vallejo law firm Morton & Russo, representing Thompson pro per, is also a young Air Force veteran like Thompson. She maintains that Johnson has avoided being served with a subpoena to testify, and that violates Thompson’s and every accused’s right of confronting their accuser.

Defense counsel is still trying to serve the mayor and his wife with subpoenas to testify, but investigators have been unable to find them after more than a month of searching.

Ms. White noted the DA, in what she said was an “unprecedented move,” refused to call the alleged victim (Johnson) to testify at the trial, possibly because the DA “knows KJ’s testimony under oath will be bad for the prosecution’s case. The constitution gives Sean the right to face his accuser. The DA and former Mayor are both working to deny Sean that right by planning to prosecute Sean without the Mayor’s presence,” said Ms. White.

In fact, at least one juror said it would be difficult to find Mr. Thompson guilty if Kevin Johnson did not testify.

Still, more than a dozen police officers could testify. The defense subpoenaed them and then, when they didn’t show in court last week, convinced another judge to put temporary warrants out for the officers’ arrests.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. John Hobbs

    This guy isn’t bright enough to do a “mea culpa” so give him the works. A couple of years in a minimum security setting might help this “activist” see the benefits of a real job and productive life, instead of playing Che. White comes off as arrogant as her client and to my mind is doing his cause more harm than good, but that’s what you get when you play guerilla theater.

      1. Keith O

        I agree with David.  A waste of taxpayer money and a waste of court time.

        I guess the moral is one doesn’t dare throwing a pie at a Democrat in a Democrat run city.

      2. John Hobbs

        “gets his a– kicked by the mayor.”

        Not hardly. the mayor, not knowing who was behind him or what might follow, defended himself up the the point that the assailant was no longer a threat. Thompson had a shiner and a couple of tiny nicks, not much of an a** kicking from a former NBA starter.

  2. Steve Tracy

    A felony charge?  For a pie?  Years ago during the Whole Earth Festival there was also a counter-culture speaker series held in the Rec Hall.  No surprise, Timothy Leary was the keynote speaker.

    Just as Dr. Leary stepped up to the podium, a guy that was probably a UCDavis student leapt off his front row chair and scored a direct hit with a cream pie.  As always gleefully accepting whatever life (literally) threw his way, nearly choking on whipped cream, Leary took off his sooo ’70s powder blue blazer and used it to wipe the smeared cream off his head.  With bits of cream still stuck here and there, he stepped back up to the podium, dropped the jacket to the floor, gave a last laugh, and started talking.

    I’m not invested in state or local politics in Sacramento at all, but I find it discouraging that the Mayor of our Capitol city can’t find the good humor in himself to take a prank in stride and shrug it off.  Dr. Leary’s dignity showed in the fact that he could take a pie in the face, laugh, and shrug it off.  I think Mayor Johnson diminishes his own dignity by persuing this as a felony.

  3. John Hobbs

    “A felony charge?  For a pie?”

    Nope, for hubris.

    ” I find it discouraging that the Mayor of our Capitol city can’t find the good humor in himself to take a prank in stride and shrug it off.”

    I find it bemusing that so many don’t make the distinction between “the Mayor” and the person who occupies that office.

    Aside from the special codified recognition of threats and attacks to public officials, I wonder if you, assaulted from behind, having no clue what the intention of the assailant might be and of course not having the luxury of time to process that the weapon was a pie, would just laugh it off? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

  4. Tia Will

    Felony punishment for a pie in the face. The absurdity of incarcerating someone at taxpayer expense for this granted childish act astounds me. To say nothing of the time and money spent on prosecution and defense. Do we not have significant crimes to investigate, charge and try ?

  5. John Hobbs

    “Felony punishment for a pie in the face.”

    No, dear doctor, for not accepting responsibility for his actions and apologizing, but rather glorifying himself and his actions with no remorse at all and nothing but contempt for his victim.

    Time for him to grow up.

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