By Crescenzo Vellucci
SACRAMENTO – The long, long anticipated preliminary trial of three anti-fascists for their alleged part in a June 2016 melee at the State Capitol involving neo Nazi groups began in Sacramento County Superior Court here Thursday – but didn’t get close to finishing after more than two hours of heavy-duty legal wrangling.
Although scheduled to start and finish Thursday, the preliminary trial will be continued until Dec. 18.
Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie found herself Thursday more like a kindergarten cop, forced to rule on scores of objections – virtually all of them granted – from the defense team of Ron Cruz, Shanta Driver, Linda Parisi and Marc Reichel, representing defendants Yvette Felarca, Michael Williams and Porfirio Paz. All defendants are charged with a myriad of felonies.
Deputy District Attorney Paris Coleman was on defense – although he is the prosecutor – much of the afternoon, and on the receiving end of the seemingly never-ending objections to his attempts to enter photographs and video into evidence, and elicit testimony from California Highway Patrol officer Donovan Ayers.
Ayers was on the roof of the State Capitol building the day of the riot because, as he testified, the potential for violence between counter protestors and neo Nazi groups – officially, the “Traditional Worker Party” secured a permit, but many social justice groups were expected to counter protest.
“There were a dozen or so groups, Occupy types….(with) Communist or Socialist banners,” testified Ayers, quickly labeling the left-leaning groups, although he failed to label neo Nazi and white power groups as such throughout his testimony (one of the victims even gave the Nazi salute repeatedly in video shown to the court).
But his testimony, as well as the photos and video that DDA Coleman tried to enter as evidence, set off rounds of objections by defense lawyers – the judge upheld most of the objections, which characterized his comments as “opinion…hearsay…without foundation” because Ayers admitted he really couldn’t see much of the protest from his high Capitol perch.
The DDA attempted to enter a photograph with a caption reading “Felarca hitting” a neo Nazi – defense lawyer Parisi objected, noting that is not what was depicted in the photo. The judge agreed.
Reichel objected that one video shown “could have been edited because,” suggested Reichel, the video came from “YouTube, the Internet, social media.”
Defense also objected to another video showing protestors clashing on the Southside steps of the Capitol. After again admitting he could not see the protests from his vantage point, Ayers eventually identified the shooter of the video as a Capitol employee on break who shot the video with her cellphone. The judge overruled defense objections and allowed the video to be shown.
Driver, even before the proceedings began, told a rally outside the courtroom that the three defendants were the victims of a “conspiracy” between the Sacramento County District Attorney and CHP against “well known civil rights activists (trying) to stop the “Donald Trump dictatorial movement from steamrolling civil rights” in the U.S.
“The CHP did nothing (at the Capitol in 2016) to stop fascists armed and looking for a fight. Not one was arrested after at least eight stabbings…the CHP instead focused on anti-fascists counter-demonstrators,” said Driver.
And according to attorney Cruz, “Although the CHP identified every individual who had knives that day – all of whom were fascists – the CHP concluded no single one of them was ‘solely responsible’ for stabbing any one anti-racist protesters. Through this sleight of hand, the CHP and District Attorney are protecting the fascists.”
Driver noted that the CHP had recommended charging about 100 identified counter protestors with 576 crimes, even though she claimed “fascists” were armed and were responsible for the stabbings. Only one fascist participant has been arrested and faces trial in January.
“Nigel Walker (a self-admitted fascist) looked to create a riot and had to know that the police would do nothing to him. Even if he was caught doing something wrong, he knew he wouldn’t face charges,” she alleged.
“A comprehensive review of (CHP reports) reveals that the CHP recommended 576 criminal charges against 100 anti-fascist protesters, and recommended only 5 criminal charges against 5 fascists,” a 177-page motion to dismiss states, adding: “None of these charges prosecute the fascists for stabbing people on June 26, 2016… In contrast, the CHP has 100 Narratives regarding anti-racist protesters and makes requests that the District Attorney prosecute all 100 of them, recommending 576 criminal charges against them
“The motion presents irrefutable quantitative and comparative evidence of the California Highway Patrol and District Attorney sheltering the fascists and targeting anti-racist protesters for criminal prosecution,” said attorney Cruz.
“The arrests of Yvette Felarca, Porfirio Paz, and Michael Williams emboldened the fascists and fell weeks before Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer, and there has been a surge of white racist violence. Protesting against Donald Trump and the violent fascists who have been emboldened by him to murder innocent people is not a crime; it is a necessity. The Sacramento District Attorney’s political witch-hunt must end now,” he said.
“The CHP considered it a crime simply for being at a protest against fascists,” Cruz said. “One CHP report recommends charging a protester of ‘Riot’ for holding a banner saying, ‘Anti Fascism’ and coordinating hospital support for the people who were nearly killed by fascists.”
The preliminary hearing continues Dec. 18, 9 a.m. in Dept. 18.