By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO – As reported first in the Davis Vanguard last May 1, William Scott Planer – the only white supremacist accused of a violent assault in a bloody riot at the State Capitol in June 2016 despite the hospitalization of seven anti-fascists – was sentenced and released from custody this week after spending two years in jail awaiting a second trial.
Planer pleaded no contest and was sentenced to four years – two years time-served – and released Wednesday from Sacramento County Jail where he had been jailed on $600,000 bail.
It was a rather sleepy ending to a controversial, hotly-contested court battle.
Planer never denied he assaulted an anti-fascist demonstrator at the clash between white supremacists of the Golden State Skinheads and Traditionalist Worker Party, and anti-fascist counter-protestors at the State Capitol.
Planer maintained that his actions were in self-defense. His first trial in February resulted in a hung jury, 8-4 for conviction. The District Attorney’s office said it would retry him.
Many court observers doubted a jury would find him guilty a second time around despite his controversial white supremacist views, because of not credible antifascist-nazi prosecution witnesses.
Planer, however, agreed to plead no contest April 30 to felony assault on Alice Summers, an anti-fascist that he clearly clubbed in the back of the head – the video showed the attack – as she was kneeling on the ground. Seven anti-fascists were hospitalized after knife and other blunt force injuries.
The key in his deal with prosecutors 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 for the first trial.
The deal that Planer agreed to is similar to one that was rumored to have been offered to the Sacramento native and Colorado resident during the first trial. Planer rejected it and the jury couldn’t find him guilty.
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 white supremacists, is now set for September – after numerous delays.
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.
In Planer’s first trial, the court and the prosecution 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.
Because Planer’s jury was kept largely in the dark by the court about the nature of the circumstances of that day in June of 2016, the jurors threw in the towel after five ballots.
“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’re still questions about the actions – or inactions – of law enforcement that day.
Planer’s defense alleged – and it’s suspected lawyers for the anti-fascists will make a similar claim – that several hundred law enforcement officers from the CHP and Sacramento Police Dept. didn’t do their job.
The CHP has been heavily criticized by members of the Legislature and others for not doing more to prevent or stop the fight, apparently willing to stand by and watch the two opposing groups clash, resulting in knifings and brutal attacks.