By David M. Greenwald
San Luis Obispo, CA – It is a case that goes all the way back to July 2020, when protests in San Luis Obispo in response to the death of George Floyd, led protesters to block traffic on major freeways, the arrest of Tianna Arata who was charged by the DA’s office with 13 misdemeanor counts including false imprisonment, obstruction of a thoroughfare and unlawful assembly.
Attorneys for Arata filed a motion to disqualify the DA’s office which was granted by a Superior Court Judge. San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s office is fighting to be able to prosecute Arata long after the George Floyd movement has petered out and any threat posed by the protesters is gone.
In a statement to the Vanguard, Curtis Briggs who is representing Arrata told the Vanguard, “Dan Dow’s refusal to accept responsibility for his transgressions against the community in which he is supposed to serve is ironic.”
He explained that Dow “was a trusted servant. He violated that trust when he tried to monetarily profit off prosecuting social Justice advocates, thereby exploiting both progressives by arresting them and conservatives by soliciting their hard earned dollars. When he was caught and removed from the case, he wasted taxpayers resources and continues to gas light a divided community that needs to heal and move forward.”
Following the recusal by San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero, the DA and Attorney General’s office appealed the order, but on August 31, 2022, the “the Court of Appeal held that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to disqualify and that the court was not required to formally authenticate the exhibits.”
As DA Dan Dow notes in a brief filed to the Supreme Court, “The central question, therefore, is can a prosecutor, a political figure, holding public office, prosecute a defendant who may hold beliefs contrary to those held by that prosecutor if there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they have committed crimes in the course of protest activities?
As they point out, ultimately it is the evidence introduced at trial that answers the question of guilt.
But as Dow argues, “the evidence also informs the public and the court as to whether a prosecutor Document received by the CA Supreme Court has properly engaged in their duty in keeping with the public trust.”
Dow argues, “The Court of Appeal opinion stands for the proposition that a prosecutor can be recused based upon what other people have said by virtue of the district attorney’s associations with them, no matter how tenuous the association.”
He believes he was recused because of the opinions and writings of others, not himself.
As they argue, “There is no evidence that Mr. Dow ever made a public statement about the Black Lives Matter movement, nor was there any evidence that the movement was discussed during his interview on Washington Watch.”
A big piece of the recusal was a campaign fundraising request sent out on September 4, 2020 from Dan Dow’s wife. The email sought financial campaign contributions and stated, “Dan needs to know more than ever that you support him, and he really needs your financial support so he can keep leading the fight in SLO County against the wacky defund the police movement and anarchist groups that are trying to undermine the rule of law and public safety in our community.”
The trial court in its written ruling found that the campaign fundraising email by Wendy Dow “established a clear conflict of interest” because “Mr. Dow sought political and professional benefit and campaign contributions in conjunction with the prosecution” the cases.
Dow responds, “However, at the time the email was sent no charges had been filed against any of the other respondents. Further, Ms. Dow’s email never mentions Respondent Arata Wentworth’s case or the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Dow argues, “Ultimately, the Court of Appeal’s published opinion in this case is a momentous departure from established precedent. District attorneys are elected officials. They are elected precisely for their positions and views with regard to criminal justice, punishment, and public safety.”
They add, “the Court of Appeal’s published opinion allows a trial judge to grant a disqualification motion based only on their subjective opinion of what may appear improper or unseemly to the community, rather than an objective factual analysis based on competent evidence of whether the district attorney is unable to prosecute a defendant fairly.”
Meanwhile Briggs was just as pointed calling Dow, “a psychological abuser who was elected on a platform of prosecuting abusers. Just like the people he prosecutes, until he acknowledged his wrongs, the community is unsafe.”