By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO – In a completely unexpected turn – only a few weeks from a second trial on felony assault with a deadly weapon at a bloody 2016 clash between white supremacists and anti-fascists at the State Capitol– William Scott Planer took a plea deal Tuesday morning here in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Planer, who was part of the Traditionalist Workers Party-sponsored rally at the Capitol on June 26, 2016, temporarily beat the felony charges when a February trial ended with the jury hung 8-4 for conviction. The District Attorney office quickly announced it would re-try the self-professed white supremacist starting May 15.
Many court observers doubted a jury would find him guilty a second time around despite his controversial white supremacist views because of not credible DA witnesses.
However, Tuesday, Planer agreed to plead no contest to felony assault on Alice Summers, an anti-fascist that he clearly clubbed in the back of head – video showed the attack – as she was kneeling on the ground. Seven anti-fascists were hospitalized after knife and other blunt force injuries.
Planer, who has been jailed on $600,000 bail since July 3 of 2017, will remain in custody until July 3 of this year, completing two years of a four-year sentence. He’ll then be released with good time credits with three years probation.
Key in his plea is that the crime will not carry a strike. Planer already has a strike from a robbery in Placer County in 2001.
“We felt the evidence supported our self-defense claim in the first trial, and believed it would again this time,” said Jem Martin, Planer’s attorney this time around and who was on the legal team with Michelle Spaulding and Matt Martinez the first time around.
The deal that Planer agreed to Tuesday is similar to one that was rumored to have been offered to the Sacramento native and Colorado resident during the first trial, before the DA failed to get a conviction.
It’s the first prosecution stemming from the violent incident at State Capitol nearly three years ago. A trial of three anti-fascists, accused of riot and assault of the white supremacist group, is now set for July 15.
Mike Williams of Woodland, Porfirio Paz from Southern California and Bay Area school teacher Yvette Felarca face assault-related charges. Felarca and Williams are charged with felonies; Paz’ charges have been reduced to misdemeanors.
The jury was kept in the dark by the court about the nature of the circumstances of that day in June of 2016. After five ballots, the jurors gave up.
“No amount of deliberation would have made a difference. The ballots were the same every time,” said one juror, noting that victim Summers, the anti-fascist protestor hit in the head with a pole wielded by Planer, had “no credibility” on the stand and that Planer, who testified on his own behalf, was more credible.
“It came down to whether we believed that the defendant was impaired by the bear mace that was just sprayed in his face, or not,” said another juror. “Some of us believed it did” (and excused his knockout swing on Summers) “and some of us did not.”
There’s still questions about the actions – or inactions – of law enforcement that day.
Planer’s defense alleged “The cops created the situation, whether they meant to do so or not. Officers sent them (Planer and the TWP) in without protection,” telling jurors that an officer told the TWP to enter from the South Side of the Capitol where there were no officers to protect them.
Although on the North Side where TWP was heading there were more than 100 officers, mounted police and bicycles from the California Highway Patrol and City police.
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,” said Planer’s defense.
The CHP has been criticized by members of the Legislature and others for not doing more to prevent or stop the fight.
The court and the prosecution, however, limited what the jury was being told about the brawl. Jurors didn’t know anti-fascists had been hospitalized by weapon-wielding TWP members. Not allowing the “totality” of what happened, as the defense described it, to go to the jurors was a major source of frustration for the defense.
Planer can clearly be seen using a wooden stick to club 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.