January 2019 Trial, Pre-Trial Now Set for 2016 Capitol Riot Participants
By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Court Watch
SACRAMENTO – The wheels of justice continue to grind very slowly for a Nazi sympathizer and his anti-fascist counterparts – including one from Yolo County – arrested more than a year and a half ago for their alleged parts in a bloody June 2016 riot at the State Capitol.
Their trial and preliminary trial, respectively, will begin no earlier than January of 2019 and perhaps much later as a result of legal wrangling, and illness.
William Planer, the only neo Nazi arrested after 10 people were injured – seven of them counter protestors, several of whom were stabbed and hospitalized – has been in jail on $600,000 bail since mid-2017. He was set for trial earlier in 2018 on felony assault charges, but that was postponed as was his early December trial. Planer is not set for trial Jan. 7, 2019.
On the other side, the preliminary trial of three anti-fascists for their alleged part in the June 2016 melee has yet to be completed. It began Dec. 6 but ran so long that it was continued until Dec. 18. But that was postponed after one of the defense lawyers fell ill. It’s been scheduled for Jan. 22.
Meaning, if all goes well, Planer’s trial will begin in just a few weeks and in the same courthouse that the prelim for anti-fascists Yvette Felarca, Michael Williams and Porfirio Paz is set. Those three are charged with felony assault, and are out of custody, unlike Planer who still sits in the downtown County jail.
If the first part of that anti-fascist preliminary hearing is any measure, the affair set for Jan. 22 should prove interesting – Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie in the first go-round was 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.
Reichel, in a comment this week after the anti-fascist preliminary trial was moved to January, said “This case should never, ever go to trial.”
In early December, in the first part of the pretrial, Reichel and the other defense lawyers racked up big points.
In fact, Deputy District Attorney Paris Coleman found it very difficult to get video and photographic evidence into the record – largely because witness California Highway Patrol officer Donovan Ayers could not see from his Capitol rooftop perch much of what the DA wanted to enter into evidence.
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.
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.
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 – Planer – has been arrested and faces trial in January.
“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…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.”