Sac DA Fails Again in Prosecution of Political Prankster Who Pied Former Mayor

Sean Thompson with his defense team

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.

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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

    What a crock. This terrorist should have gotten the maximum sentence and be serving hard time. Instead he is free to plan is next attack. Hopefully his next victim will be as well prepared to defend themself.

    1. John Hobbs

      “You’ve just completely overblown this incident in your mind.”

      And you’ve just endorsed mob rule. Of course, in Davis you all would embrace anyone who attacked your mayor and sing “Kumbaya.”

      1. David Greenwald

        Not at all.

        You keep ignoring a lot of problems with this case.

        First, I still believe the jury acquitted him in the original trial.

        Second, I believe that what he committed was misdemeanor not felony conduct.

        Third, he pled to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

        That’s hardly as you put it, mob rule.

        1. Howard P

          If the jury “acquitted” him, why is he being tried again?  Something about ‘double jeopardy’…  or was it a ‘hung jury’?  Or are you saying a hung jury = acquittal?  Interesting legal concept… one I hope does not gain a toe-hold…

        2. Jerry Waszczuk

          What is wrong with judge if he failed to  record not -guilty record ? It sounds weird ? How the judge could fail to record jury verdict ? How  is it  possible ?

        3. Howard P

          More specifically from the previous, cited article…

          When the Vanguard interviewed Mr. Thompson’s attorney, Claire White, three weeks ago, she told the Vanguard that the jury told the court that they had reached an agreement – all 12 jurors – on the felony Penal Code section 217.1(a), assault on an official, but hung on the lesser included misdemeanor assault charge.
          “What that means is that they reached a verdict on Count 1 which is not guilty, but they were unable to communicate that to the judge,” Claire White told the Vanguard.  They kept saying they had a partial verdict.  But the judge never required them to go in and fill out the verdict form.  Instead, “He just declared a mistrial on all counts.”

          So, we have the “attorney’s word”, as told to the VG, what happened… All we have of the record is the judge officially calling it a mistrial.

          Clearly, the VG trusts Claire White over the record.

        4. Jim Hoch

          Jerry, as I recall the jury had two charges and they hung on one while the defense alleges they reached an “not guilty” on the other. The judge declared a mis-trial and the DA refiled on both. At least that is what I remembered.

        5. Jerry Waszczuk

          Jim .

          I understand what you saying . However, I don’t understand  the DG statement stating that judge failed to record the non-guilty jury verdict as non-guilty . I am trying to find out  weather judge abused his discretion or is it miscarriage of justice or something else . I will try to pull the  judge order in this matter  and read it to understand what are the bases for court ruling .

          Personally I think that DA is wasting public money trying to prosecute the guy again who got   smacked by Kevin Johnson and he  landed in hospital  for his idea to throwing a food at  famous Kevin.

  2. Tia Will

    in Davis you all would embrace anyone who attacked your mayor and sing “Kumbaya.”

    If the attack consisted of a pie in the face, I am fairly certain that our mayor’s reaction would not be to beat the assailant. Although he might consider a restorative justice approach in which they discussed homeless issues over a beer.

    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      If Kevin Johnson would be happen  a white Mayor of the  City of Sacramento and Sean Thompson would a black guy than most likely we would hear a different story and the court trial would be similar to the  Rodney King’s trial especially if Mayor would be happen a Republican . I am not saying that Sean Thompson should not be punished but Kevin Johnson also should pay the  price for beating the assailant . What wrong with this DA and the  whole picture . ? Reversed discrimination and corruption .

  3. Dave Hart

    Justice was served by “time served”.  Kevin Johnson got to eat some free whipped cream and showed his appreciation by pummeling the crap out of the guy who is half his size.  KJ is not a nice person and the assailant did not use anything like a deadly weapon.  No terrorism there.  I doubt that KJ felt terrorized except in the sense that he has a thin skin about his own behavior in and out of office.

    1. Keith O

      I don’t think the guy should’ve been prosecuted in the first place as I feel Johnson’s beat down was justice enough.  But by the same token when you hit someone in the face with a pie or some other object whatever comes your way you might have coming.

    2. John Hobbs

      ” pummeling the crap out of the guy who is half his size. ”


      Ever seen an NBA game up close? If Mayor Johnson had wanted to pummel the guy, he wouldn’t have looked so good the next day.

      Half his size? Maybe, but according to the nonsense his anarchist attorneys and the Vanguard put out he’s a veteran and construction laborer when he isn’t assaulting the Mayor or disrupting city council meetings.

      “KJ is not a nice person” And Sean Thompson is? So because Mr. Dave Hart of Davis says, :”KJ is not a nice person” this is relevant to his right not to be assaulted by a bogus do-gooder, why? Maybe he doesn’t think you’re a prince, either. You should have to eat the bitter brown biscuits when some “activist” attacks you?

      ” I doubt that KJ felt terrorized”

      Really? If a stranger walks up and pushes something in your face, you’re not going to feel at least a little terrified?  Maybe someone should test your response. I’m wiling to bet that you’ll be pretty flippin’ scared.

      “his own behavior in and out of office.”

      Is irrelevant to his right to personal safety.


      1. Ron

        John:  “Really? If a stranger walks up and pushes something in your face, you’re not going to feel at least a little terrified>?  Maybe someone should test your response. I’m wiling to bet that you’ll be pretty flippin’ scared.”

        In this situation, I think most would be (somewhat legitimately) “flippin angry”.  (That’s why the mayor gets a “pass”, in this case.)  I sincerely doubt that the mayor was “scared” by this person. (If so, the mayor might have run in the opposite direction.)

        No dog in this fight – just happened to be online.  Not sure why you have such strong feelings, in this case.

        Honestly, I think the mayor should come out and state that he over-reacted. (Unless that exposes him to some liability.)

        1. Howard P

          Ron… what Kevin did was assault… criminal assault in my view… pure and simple…

          He took the law into his own fists…

          He got a “pass” based on ‘rank’ and perhaps on…

        2. Ron

          Howard:  Yeah, I agree.  But, I’m also not terribly “upset” that the mayor is not being charged.  I wish he’d apologize, but I’m not sure he even understands or accepts his over-reaction.

          In general, it’s pretty risky to shove a pie in someone’s face. It is a form of assault, I think. In any case, I wouldn’t “recommend it”.

        3. Ron

          By the way, what did you mean by “and perhaps on . . .”  (Race/skin color?  I’m not trying to corner you or engage in some argument, but just wondering.)

          Someday, we’ll all be able to discuss such things with honesty. (Probably several thousand years from now. Maybe by then, skin color will have “meshed” into one color?) Unless there’s reincarnation, we’ll be long-dead, regardless.

      2. Howard P

        John H… cameras were running and he (his dishonor) had two ‘body-guards’ who ended up protecting the pie-guy… not saying the pie-guy wasn’t in the wrong (he was in the wrong), but there is the issue of disproportionate force…

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