Defense Alleges CHP May Have Helped Start Bloody Clash
By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO – The first prosecution stemming from a bloody protest at State Capitol nearly three years ago that sent seven people to the hospital went to the jury Wednesday, but an unlikely party – and it isn’t the accused – is taking some heat for the June 26, 2016 riot.
One of the lawyers for Scott Planer, a white supremacist accused of clubbing an anti-fascist protestor, criticized the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies who were charged with keeping the peace that day.
In short, he alleged they didn’t keep the peace, and may have helped start the riot in the first place.
The CHP, Sacramento City Police, Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept and others have been criticized by lawmakers and other observers for not doing enough to stop the carnage. In fact, when fights broke out at the Capitol, despite more than 100 officers of all agencies, not one officer – on foot, bike or horseback – was to be seen near the battles.
Wednesday, Matt Martinez, noted at the end of his closing argument to the jury that, that law enforcement “for whatever reason” led Planer and the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP) into a trap when 100-150 protestors charged the 20 TWP members, engaging them with sticks, stones, rocks and pepper spray.
“The cops got there early and saw people (anti-fascists) gathering weapons, and practicing fighting,” said Martinez. He said officers should have taken the weapons away from the parties, or at least cordoned off the areas to separate them.
“The cops created the situation, whether they meant to do so or not. Officers sent them (Planer and the TWP) in without protection,” said Martin, noting that an officer told the TWP to enter from the South Side of the Capitol where there were no officers – on the North Side where TWP was heading there were more than 100 officers, mounted police and bicycles.
“They are supposed to create a barrier with horses and bikes. Did they set up metal barriers between the permitted group (TWP) and protesting group? Nope. If the TWP would have come up the other side they would have had a chance. But by diverting them (the police) it is like putting black and red ants in an ant farm. You get mayhem,” said Martinez.
Before Martinez spoke to the jury, Deputy District Attorney summarized the case for the 12 jurors, admitting that it is an “unusual case,” and that “it’s not often you have evidence that is recorded. There is no fighting about what happened. We all know what he (Planer) did…we can see it on video. The question is whether the law excuses the crime? Did Mr. Planer use self-defense? Does the law excuse (the assault)?”
Planer, who’s charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, can clearly be seen using a wooden stick to club Alice Summers from behind as she struggled to get up off the ground seconds after the TWP and anti-fascists clashed on the South Side lawn and sidewalk.
DDA Sinclair then gave the jury a crash law school course on the elements of the crime, explaining that Planer knew what he was doing, and while he believed he was in danger, he couldn’t use this self-defense or defense of others argument.
“When he hit Ms. Summers in head he must reasonably believe he was in imminent danger…but there is zero evidence” that she was a threat. She was getting up off the ground, on her knees and had no weapon,” said Sinclair, noting that Planer “ran around other people” to get behind her and then “takes a backswing and hit her directly in the head. He is not being attacked by anyone.”
“He used more force than necessary, and he initiated the fight…the initial aggressor can’t claim self-defense,” Sinclair asserted to the jury.
“Mr. Planer was not truthful in his testimony. He said he did not see Ms. Summers. We know some caustic chemical was applied (but) he could see (and) made distinct body movements because he could see them. You (the jury) are being (told) he was blind, but he draws his weapon and hits her exactly in the head.
“It wasn’t a blind person striking out; he took advantage of vulnerable person. He saw her. She’s not a threat to him, never was. It’s not the first time he lied. (Planer) knows he wasn’t acting in self-defense. He knew exactly what he was doing. The law will not protect what he did to Ms. Summers,” said Sinclair.
“He acted out of vengeance….(but) who knows why? He took advantage of someone…he could see what he was doing and made conscious decisions,” finished Sinclair.
Martinez, part of a three-person defense team, suggested the prosecution “wants you to think that Alice Summers was there for a picnic. But she went there for a fight. No mistake. She caused a fight. They want you to ignore that. You have to look at it in totality (and) all the factors that Mr. Planer was dealing with at the time. Put yourself in his position,” said Martinez.
“His beliefs are not relevant. Any reasonable person would feel threatened, hearing people scream ‘Die Nazi Scum,’ and ‘Death to Fascists,’” said Martinez, pointing out that “Why did the prosecution not play sound with video? That’s misleading.”
“Alice Summers didn’t tell the truth. Her goal was to stop them (TWP) from speaking. She had an agenda. She’s not some baby in the woods; she’s an active member in a riot…Mr. Planer didn’t bring a stick to the event, he didn’t kick someone….no, that was Ms. Summers,” said Martinez, driving home the point that Planer only struck someone involved in assaulting him and his friends.
“What would a reasonable person do. You’re outnumbered, being hit with sticks and rocks, sprayed with (mace) and people screaming death threats. It’s misleading (of the prosecution) to show this in its totality. It’s real easy for the prosecutor, or any one us, to say in a safe courtroom, but put yourself in Mr. Planer’s place.
“Being closed in by 100 people. Where’s he going to run? Fence and trees behind him, can’t run for the hills. Prosecution says he can see…but (CHP officer) Ayers says the pepper spray is like fishhooks and glass in your eye. Mr. Planer had a limited view. Guess he could have laid down to die. But reasonable people defend themselves and others. That is what Mr. Planer did,” said Martinez, urging jurors again to “Think about what you would have done in his situation.”