Preliminary Hearing Set for July
By Joseph Kowalski and Crescenzo Vellucci
SACRAMENTO – Minutes after a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled late Friday afternoon here that the case against three anti-fascist protestors won’t be dismissed – despite what defense lawyers claim is a pile of evidence proving that the protestors are being set up – an anti-fascist spectator blurted out “heil Hitler” as she left a crowded courtroom.
Not unexpected, considering the emotions involved in this case.
Judge Michael A. Savage, in effect, acknowledged that even if law enforcement did a “shoddy job” as the defense claimed at a white nationalist rally June 26, 2016, at the State Capitol where seven anti-fascist counter-protestors were stabbed and several hospitalized, there wasn’t enough hard evidence to toss charges against three counter protestors facing felony assault charges.
That shot down a creative motion to dismiss charges against Mike Williams of Woodland, Yvette Felarca of Berkeley and Porfirio Paz of Southern California. Although it was probably doomed to failure, defense lawyers said they were very optimistic the judge would see it their way. He didn’t. A preliminary hearing is now set for July 20.
In short, the defense motion charged Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and the California Highway Patrol were guilty of “collusion with Nazis,” and engaged in a “witch hunt” targeting anti-racist protestors.
The defense said the three defendants’ rights are being violated, based on “evidence and analysis of the witch hunt targeting anti-fascist and anti-racist protesters.”
The defense further suggested that if not for Sacramento’s fascist experience, where nearly 200 visible CHP and Sacramento Police Department officers failed to respond to the armed fascist protestors, “Charlottesville and the death of a young woman would not have happened just weeks after anti-fascists were arrested in Sacramento.
“If the prosecution of Felarca, Paz, and Williams proceeds, then Donald Trump will have already achieved one of his central aims: the substitution of authoritarianism for constitutional due process rights and democratic norms…A policy of naked state discrimination and persecution of racial minorities and left-wing political activists would be a fact and reality. The rule of law would be replaced by tyranny,” the motion asserts.
Friday, defense lawyers sought to drive that point home, noting that fascists that day in Sacramento “came armed for battle, carrying knives, spears, offensive shields for battering people,” said Shanta Driver, Felarca’s lawyer. Driver said that fascists were from the Traditionalist Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads, both of which have been identified as hate groups that advocate Nazism.
“There were hundreds of police there, even many on horseback, and that they had weeks to prepare for this as they either were or should have been aware of the nature of the Nazi groups,” said Driver, criticizing police (CHP and Sacramento City Police) for “doing nothing as the event quickly descended into a brawl, where unarmed protesters fought to defend themselves against Nazis fully armed with deadly weapons.
“No such plans have been found to prepare for arresting the fascist organizers,” said Driver, asserting that Felarca was “targeted” for arrest because of her political background, and that police and the prosecution have tried to “spin it” where only the anti-fascists were responsible for violence.
She pointed out there is no evidence of “severe bodily injury” that is being claimed by the neo-Nazis, and joked that Felarca is so tiny that “she would have to be shot out of a cannon to cause the harm she’s being accused of.”
Linda Parisi, law professor and National Lawyers Guild recruited attorney for Mike Williams, said the fascists “came with agenda – hate (and) with knives, stick bayonets in direct violation of our state and federal Constitutions.”
Parisi praised the defendants because they “stood up to hate,” and asked the court to dismiss the charges because it would “go a long way to restoring the faith” of the people in the system that should reward anti-fascists for “defending themselves and others,” not prosecute them for fighting back when “attacked by Nazis who came armed with spears.”
Parisi noted anti-fascists seemed to grab whatever objects they could such as signs for self defense, whereas the Nazis are seen in photographs wielding knives and other weapons. “What makes our country great is the tradition of legal protest, and we should not be charging the people who had the strength to stand up to hate groups who want to strip us of our democratic rights,” she said.
Paz’s attorney, Mark Reichel – a prominent defense attorney brought into the case by the NLG – called it a “biased investigation,” and pointed to the prosecution’s filings which go into great detail about the anti-fascists’ political beliefs, but make almost no mention of the Nazis.
Reichel explained that it looks bad when the prosecution “seems to be making a political example out of anti-fascists but not of fascists,” adding, “In all my years of being an attorney…I’ve never heard of victims of rape, robbery, murder being questioned for their politics,” so why should the anti-fascist activists “who were being assaulted be put on trial for their political view.”
Deputy District Attorney Paris Coleman repeatedly maintained “no one from my office really cares” about the ethnic background or political affiliations of the accused, although he appeared to dodge any explanation of why photos of knife-wielding Nazis and full names and descriptions of the hate groups did not provide enough evidence for more arrests of the pro-Nazi element.
Coleman mocked the anti-fascist defendants, saying: “If these three really are freedom fighters standing up for the people, that is for a jury to decide” and noted this was not a trial about politics but merely about assault, which he claims he has solid evidence all three committed.
Judge Savage was not persuaded enough by the impassioned defense arguments to dismiss the charges.
He said all the moral issues of “whether some people had white hats and some had black, some were good and some had hate” were not at all relevant to this discussion. He said “it was perfectly possible Yvette and others were victims of violence, while, at the same time, they committed acts that subject them to prosecution.”
He said the defense needed “either direct proof or enough statistical data showing the groups they’re part of are unfairly prosecuted.” He said the evidence shows “white nationalists initiated violence and police did nothing, that the groups were known white nationalists, that weapons were found near the capitol, and that protesters were injured, but no evidence that speaks to the ultimate question of whether the prosecution unfairly targeted them and only them for their beliefs.”
Earlier, outside of court, supporters of the anti-fascists activists chanted, “Cops and Klan, hand in hand” as a handful of law enforcement officers looked on.
Outside the courtroom, Felarca – who sustained a concussion and received 24 stitches after she was attacked at the Capitol white nationalists rally – told supporters police “allow” harm to happen to activists to abuse radical political movements.
She then she reminded people to remember to vote Anne Marie Schubert out of office in June, both for the DA’s complicity in this trial and for her refusal to charge police with the murder of Stephon Clark.