A Sacramento judge on Monday reduced activist Michael Williams’ bail to $50,000 for his alleged role in last year’s brawl between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators at the State Capitol.
Visiting Sacramento Superior Court Judge Joseph Orr dropped Williams’ bail by $450,000 after Williams’ attorney Linda Parisi argued that her client has led a “relatively crime-free life” for decades.
Williams, 56, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon and participating in a riot. Parisi disputes these charges, saying Williams was acting in self-defense as a member of the “Brown Berets,” a group that provided security for counter-demonstrators at the neo-Nazi rally on the grounds of the Capitol.
The June 2016 rally of members of the Traditionalist Workers’ Party brought out counter-protesters and anti-fascist, or Antifa, demonstrators and quickly devolved into a bloody melee that left 10 people injured, including at least five with stab wounds.
Despite abundant video footage and photos, it has taken authorities more than a year to identify and arrest four people allegedly involved in the clash, including counter-demonstrators Williams and another man who appeared in court Monday, Porfirio Paz.
“We’re concerned about the year delay (in filing criminal charges), however, we will do everything in order to find out what really happened out there,” Parisi said Monday while standing with Paz’s attorney Mark Reichel outside the courtroom. “Clearly, it appears there was a group of people out there who were bent on violence and our clients received the brunt of that.”
Williams’ bail previously had been set at $500,000. Prosecutor Paris Coleman had cited Williams’ 1987 conviction of attempted murder when asking for the bail to be set at that amount, calling the case “old, but significant.” But Parisi argued that Williams’ mostly clean record in the past 30 years should lead Orr to reduce bail in the riot case.
Orr’s decision was “without prejudice,” however, meaning prosecutors could argue again to increase bail at a later date.
Williams is accused of wielding a club at the Capitol rally. Records show he bailed out of jail on Monday.
Paz, out of custody and free on $25,000 bail, did not enter a plea during his appearance Monday and left the courtroom at Sacramento County Main Jail shielding his face from news photographers. Paz, charged with assault with a deadly weapon – a flag pole – will return Aug. 10 to Sacramento Superior Court along with Williams.
Reichel said his client was defending himself during the skirmish, adding that he plans to further examine the response by California Highway Patrol to the chaotic scene. “When you let it go like that, it’s every man for himself,” Reichel said. “I’m going to look into that.”
The CHP as well as the Sacramento Police Department have faced criticism about whether they responded too slowly to the violence.
Reichel, who after the Monday hearing promised a “very aggressive defense” of Paz, said he will wait until “later down the line” to enter a plea for his client, saying he needs more time to investigate the case.